Providing full-service financial planning means offering more than investment and retirement advice to clients.
Debt and cash-flow management should also be major planning components for the following reasons:
- They have a significant impact on clients' finances
- Debt and spending habits are neglected in the planning process
- Advisors don't receive effective and efficient education on the subject
When it really comes down to it, my advising process is all about creating a lifestyle plan for my clients. One of the reasons other advisors don't do this is they get caught on the word debt.
The main problem is each person has a different opinion on how to deal with it and on how much is acceptable. Many advisors are also unsure of how to start the conversation about reducing debt levels.
So, I'm going to change my language. Rather than use the terms debt and cash flow management—clients' personal definitions can also clash with yours—I want advisors to think about how they can adopt and explain a lifestyle planning approach.
The process involves:
- Creating a list of actions for each client that's behaviorally compatible with who they are, as well as with the life they want now and in the future.
- Using simple formulas to determine how much to allocate to their future major purchases like a new car, renovation, or cottage.
- Incorporating clients' current financial realities into their plans to ensure they work now. Clients need to be able to achieve short-term goals while also serving their long-term goals through automated actions like making regular investments and covering insurance premiums.
- Helping them track their purchasing decisions day-to-day, so their spending habits don't wreak havoc on their plans.
- Writing out their plans and goals to give them direction, while still being flexible.
- Establishing a planning method you can market to attract your ideal clients.
Also consider that debt and cash flow are only two of the building blocks you need to create a lifestyle plan.
If you've been reading my debt pieces and thinking, "That's not for me because my clients don't have debt," think again. If your clients have described lifestyles they'd like to maintain or achieve, they need lifestyle plans.