Many clients may fear their advisors would pass judgment if they knew how they handle their cash. And that has them holding back when it comes to sharing the facts.

So, when attempting to gather accurate data on both cash flow and debt, you must take the fear of judgment off the table. Otherwise, you’ll usually find you’re working with less-than-complete information.

Read: Know clients better to build your book

Think clients aren’t holding back? Well, if you use a fact finder or ask questions like this example below, you might be getting far less precise data than you realized.

An advisor question that implies potential judgment:

“Now I’m sure debt isn’t an issue for you, but just in case you’ve got problems with debt or can’t manage your cash flow we should probably discuss them. Do you have a mortgage?”

Read: Save an endangered client relationship

Now, consider this judgment-free advisor question:

“59% of Canadians are retiring in debt and I want to help my clients ensure the assets they’ve worked hard to accumulate aren’t at risk from debt that lingers in retirement. What year are you on track to be completely debt-free?”

Listen to the way you talk about debt and spending habits. If your clients hear you say what people ought to do with their hard-earned cash, would they be sheepish if they didn’t measure up?

I’ve found people aren’t as emotionally attached to the decisions they make in their portfolios, so they often feel comfortable being open. It’s a far more vulnerable act when they expose what they really do day-to-day with spending and borrowing.

Read: Canadian advisors can do better

So, just for a moment, pretend your clients feel they won’t live up to your expectations if they reveal their full financial picture. And then, think of how much more effective your advice will be when you know the whole truth.

Continue on to letter K.


Stephanie Holmes-Winton is a Halifax based financial services educator/speaker who helps advisors find the money to help their clients fund their financial plans. She is the author of Defusing The Debt Bomb & $pent. Stephanie is also the founder and board chair of the Certified Cash Flow Specialist™ designation program. You can reach Stephanie at or
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