When it comes to politically charged discussions, financial advisors generally try to stay neutral and focus on providing clients with objective financial advice. Yet, while they seek to remain apolitical in their financial advice, the shifting political environment has made it increasingly common for more clients to express their political concerns and feelings with their financial advisors. While many advisors want to remain neutral, the recurring conversations about politics can be stressful, especially when the client and advisor have opposing political viewpoints. This can make it increasingly difficult for the advisor to work with these clients.
In our 96th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards discuss how to approach politically charged clients who may be difficult to work with, how to determine if a client’s fixation on their particular views interferes with the planning process, and, if needed, how to smoothly separate from clients and help them find a financial advisor that may be better suited for them.
As a starting point, it’s important to understand that for many clients who bring up politics, their concerns are often fleeting. If a client expresses serious concerns about politics and the potential effects it can have on their financial plan, the advisor may find it helpful to ask the client whether the subject can be put off until a later time so that the meeting can focus on the agenda at hand. If a client is adamant about their concerns, it may be a good idea for the advisor to perform a check-in to determine where their feelings are coming from. Some clients may be internalizing fears arising from what they see and hear in the media. These clients may just need someone to talk to, and the advisor can help by providing reassurance on the status of their financial plan.
However, there are other clients who may have a harder time letting go of their concerns, which can interfere with the work that needs to be done during the client-advisor meeting. If the advisor finds that working with these clients becomes increasingly difficult or stressful, it may be a good idea for the advisor to check in with their own emotional stress to understand whether the impact of the relationship is creating a strain on the advisor’s own mental health, and whether the strain is enough to warrant ending the engagement with the client. Importantly, if an advisor does determine that a client is not a good fit because of conflicting views, they can still approach the separation with compassion and empathy and part on good terms with the client by offering to find an advisor that is truly a better fit for them.
Ultimately, the key point is that not all clients may be a good fit for the advisor, and by understanding how to assess when they should terminate a client relationship, advisors can focus on giving all of their clients the best service possible – whether that means strengthening relationships with current clients or terminating relationships with unviable clients and guiding them to other resources that will support them. Because in the end, maintaining positive relationships is key to the financial advisor’s own success and mental health!