Should Advisors Be Therapists and Life Coaches?

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

I have read many of the things you and others have written about advisors needing to dig more deeply into client’s lives including their values and their reasons for everything they do. Conceptually, I understand this helps us to make better financial decisions because most everything in life ties back to what people want and what they most care about.

But I find it difficult to act as a social worker. I’ve no background in psychology. I’ve no skills to help warring couples find their bliss and agree on a center point when they have differing opinions. I have no interest in whether a client wants to leave their money to their kids or whether they want to finance an expensive lifestyle during their life – outside of the fact in one scenario I hopefully keep the assets and the AUM fee and in the other I am helping myself lose money.

I do not mean to sound callous, but I don’t care. I’m a finance guy. I have a master’s in finance, I’m a CFA® and spent years working toward my CPA. I value my education and I am not trained to get people to open up and to get clients to talk about their values in a manner that correlates to good investment decisions.

Isn’t there a place for good, old-fashioned investment advice and creating portfolios to meet target rates to ensure clients have enough money for retirement and beyond? We use a simple formula that takes current expenses, adds in other activities or goals the client might have, changes up the appropriate expenses to fit a retirement lifestyle and figures out what target percentage we need to achieve each year to get there based on the client’s desired retirement age. It’s not complex, but it works. We have 50+ clients who have now entered retirement after working with us to plan and every single one of them thinks we are the best decision they’ve ever made.

I get the “dig deeper” idea. But having a blanket approach saying we all need to do things this way diminishes the education we’ve earned and the work we’ve done. I’m not going to play psychologist when I’m not a psychologist and I don’t think that is highest and best value for my clients either.