Prospective clients often approach a financial advisor because they have a problem. Perhaps they are approaching retirement and do not know whether their current path is financially sustainable, or maybe they have a complicated equity compensation problem to sort through. But after this initial problem is solved, long-term goals are discussed, and a financial plan is implemented, what comes next? Sometimes the advisor and their client can fall into a complacent routine, with annual check-ins that confirm that the client is on track to meet their long-term goals. However, advisors can add further value by helping them explore new goals to help them not just survive, but also thrive!
One method for getting clients out of their comfort zone to think about goals they might find exciting but were unsure about being realistic is for the advisor to ask the question, “What’s possible now?”. This question can have several benefits, from spurring clients to think about options they might not have previously considered, to energizing the client and giving them ideas for new goals to chase. For example, in conjunction with their advisor, a client might have created a long-term retirement goal but might not have thought much about potential near-term goals such as a sabbatical from work or a major vacation. Furthermore, framing the conversation as an exploration of potential outcomes that are meaningful to the client can be a good way for advisors to strengthen the bond they have with clients; not only does it let the advisor serve as a problem solver, but it also positions them as a confidant who the client can trust with sharing their big (and even not-so-big) dreams!
In terms of implementation, an advisor can choose to ask their client, “What’s possible now?” either by giving the client advance notice or by spontaneously bringing the discussion up during a meeting. One way the advisor can naturally introduce the question is to note how far the client has come since they started working with the advisor and, now that their financial plan is in order and they are on track with what has been put in place, how they now have the flexibility to consider new possibilities. And while additional goals or plans might come easily to some clients, others might respond that everything is going well and they have no other ideas; at this point, the advisor can ask follow-up questions (e.g., What have you not done, but have always wanted to do?) to help them explore new options and keep the conversation moving forward.
Ultimately, the key point is that financial planning is not just about solving problems but also about exploring new opportunities that are meaningful to clients. And given that many clients might not regularly think about new experiences they might want to pursue or goals they want to achieve, financial advisors can add value and reinforce their bond with their clients by helping them explore what’s possible!