For far too long, the operative view of financial planning has focused on providing immediate “solutions” to financial problems. In many instances, investors don’t know the real problem they are seeking to solve. Lack of clarity, confusion, and erroneous assumptions all come into play. Discovering the actual, sometimes hidden, problem is the more important (and often more difficult) pursuit.

Emotion Driven Product “Solutions”

The majority of media advertising by financial services firms, of course, focuses on solving some particular problem. Maybe it is concern about providing for your family (life insurance), perhaps “needing” higher investment returns (best funds/managers from last year), or even desiring less risk and “guarantees” (annuities). Some of these may indeed have application to specific individual circumstances but mostly they are emotion driven “problems” searching for an emotion-driven product “solution.”

Uncovering the Root of the Problem

Recently, a colleague mentioned that one of his clients called him an “unbiased partner.” I like that description as the word “partner” implies long term, and of course, “unbiased” indicates someone who can take a client-centered perspective. That’s certainly what we try to do here.

It is easy for a financial planner to simply answer client questions. That is, however, not the place where we can add the most value. Where we really can make progress, however, is by engaging clients in sorting through all the information overload and finding out what really is their most important problem. Much like a physician, diagnosing the primary problem is key.

It is not at all unusual to see clients trying to solve one problem, while the more substantive issue remains. Our task is to identify the real source of trouble and change the trajectory of resources and focus towards solving that problem. By rendering insight into the real problem, we can dramatically improve the likelihood of success.

What keeps you awake at night? Ready for a real conversation?

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