Ask your client, would they rather avoid a market crash like 1929, have all their financial documents and strategies well thought through and executed, or live with their family the most flourishing and fulfilled of lives? Of course they’ll say they want all three! But if they could only choose one? Not one in a hundred would choose less than a great and fulfilling life. That’s what financial advice is meant to deliver. That’s what Life Planning delivers.
So what is Life Planning?
Advisers think of Life Planning in one of two ways. They can think of it as the front end of advice, the client relationship process that best draws out of the client “the fulfilled life” that they most aspire to. Without great clarity here regarding the passions and aspirations and emotional concerns of a client, a financial plan is impossible. These concerns only superficially show up in financial questionnaires and data gatherers.
Or they think of Life Planning as the whole process of financial planning that is integrated with Life Planning. One Registered Life Planner defined it simply as “financial planning done right.”
No matter how you define it, it is an inspiring and profoundly personal process for both client and adviser. It can only be accomplished with a skilled and emotionally sensitive adviser in the context of a financial relationship that has eliminated conflicts of interest. It can only occur where the financial adviser is dedicated to the client’s best interest, where the trust level between them is off the charts positive, rather than (as surveys show) down in the basement with politicians and used car salesmen.
A word of “advice” to the FCA, the Treasury and FAMR as they work to define financial advice. Financial advice is not about goals and products. It’s not about transparency of fees and eliminating conflicts of interest, as critical as each of those things may be. Financial advice is about delivering great and fulfilling lives. If the advice given is more on the side of the “financial” and less on the side of “life” it isn’t right. It isn’t fiduciary. It doesn’t put the client’s interest first. (It doesn’t even know what the client’s interest is!) And it’s not advice. It’s sales.
As long as industry power is on the sell side, so that regulations are adjusted and language is corrupted keeping “advice” and “education” and “counseling” as terms that can be used by product companies and their sales people, a fiduciary standard will not hold, trust will not be restored to financial services, and the consumer will continue to be rightfully outraged and wrongfully abused.
• George Kinder, CFP®, RLP®, is the founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning and designer of trainings that are recognized world-wide as the standard for client-adviser relationship skills. He recently launched the robo-adviser, LifePlanningforYou.com.