Financial Advisors or Life Coaches? Why Not Both?

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As financial planners, some of the most important conversations we have with clients are not about money – at least, not exactly. Oh, sure, we spend a lot of time in discussions with our clients about money and finances that typically center on helping them answer the “how” questions: “How am I going to pay for college for my kids?” “How am I going to be able to retire comfortably?” “How am I going to keep from paying too much in taxes?” And so on.

But in my practice, I’ve found that it’s more important to ask the “why” questions: “Why is retirement important to you?” “Why does a college education for your kids matter?” “Why is this particular cause or organization of consequence to you, and what do you want to do about it?” “Why should you invest your money in a particular way?”

A phrase I use often when talking with clients is, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can give you choices.” The fact is that money, though it is necessary for most of the things we care about in life, isn’t what our clients care about. They care about security, helping those they love, and having meaningful experiences. None of those are monetary, strictly speaking, but money is certainly involved.

As we talk with and counsel our clients, they need to have the right emotional attitude about money and investing. And most of those attitudes center on concepts that are central to both investing and life in general: uncertainty, planning, flexibility, and compounding. These may seem to be obvious ideas, but I’m continually surprised by how often, amid the daily rush of meeting preparation, account reviews, responding to emails and client requests, and all the other urgent tasks that take up space in my days, I forget to step back and take stock of the “why” behind all the activity. And if I forget, doesn’t it seem likely that my clients might lose sight of the bigger picture from time to time? Periodically, I re-center by thinking about these foundational concepts – and help my clients to do the same.