Are you really doing lifestyle financial planning?

There has been quite a significant movement over the last few years of financial brokers or advisers repositioning (or simply renaming) themselves as financial planners. This makes a huge amount of sense, because of the value that lifestyle financial planning brings to people’s lives. But it only makes sense when lifestyle financial planning is what is actually being delivered.


Why is Lifestyle Financial Planning so important for you, the planner?

There are two answers to this question. The first and most important reason is because of the impact it has on the lives of clients. It’s not about investing money, it’s about helping clients to achieve their lifetime goals and dreams, and to lead more fulfilled lives through making behavioural changes. Good financial planning simply improves the lives of clients.

The second is a defensive reason. I still haven’t heard a reasonable defence of how traditional financial advisers will be able to defend themselves if or when a proposition similar to Vanguard’s lands on our shores. As it will one day. For those of you who are unaware, Vanguard rolled out a new proposition in the UK this year, offering their passive funds directly to investors with an administration charge of 0.15% of assets. And the charge is capped at asset levels of £250,000. On top of this, they are hiring 3,000 CFPs who will give advice over the phone to clients for 0.30%. If all you do is help clients make investment choices, how will you compete with that?


What is lifestyle financial planning?

It consists of four main phases, and it’s not lifestyle financial planning if any of these phases are skipped over. The four phases are

1. Discovery

This is the phase that gets skipped over the most, which is a shame as this is the most important of all of the stages. This is the phase where the planner finds out the lifetime goals and ambitions of their client, where the client can visualise the outcomes in their own terms – the life that they will lead, the possessions that they will own, the impact they will be able to have on the lives of others, what they will do and achieve in their lives.

Until you know the answer to these questions, what are you planning for? Just building a pot of money with no idea of what it will allow your client to do?

This phase is carried out by careful and well thought out questioning by the planner. And then listening intensely. It is not “airy fairy”, instead it is the most important conversation that you will have with your client.

2. Planning

This is where the planner then uses his/her expertise to develop the roadmap for the client to get from where they are today, to achieving the life they visualised in the discovery phase. This is an area of comfort for planners, where you can utilise all of your experience and technical skills to develop a plan for your clients. As a result though of the comfort at this stage, some planners rush to it without properly completing the discovery phase – when that happens, you are no longer carrying out lifestyle financial planning.

Central also to this phase is the use of future cashflow planning. Again without it, it’s not lifestyle financial planning. Using this process you can demonstrate to clients if they are on track to lead the life they visualised and if not, what they need to do to get on track. You can show them the impact of unforeseen events and how to plan for them, the impact of changing goals and of course the actions they need to carry out, or products they need to put in place to achieve the plan.

3. Implementation

The most straightforward of all of the phases. This is where the planner assists the clients in carrying out the required activities (e.g. budgeting, bank accounts, wills, power of attorney) or putting the required financial products in place that will play a role in achieving the goals of the plan.

4. The ongoing journey

This is again a really important stage that sometimes doesn’t get enough attention. Regular contact and scheduled meetings sit at the heart of lifestyle financial planning. The ongoing interactions turn the plan into a real journey towards the client achieving their lifetime ambitions. They are the opportunity to review and restate / change goals, review the progress and performance of the actions and products that were implemented and keep the client on track in terms of their behaviours with their money and their investments.

Without these meetings happening as scheduled, it is akin to pushing a boat away from the harbour wall to sail the stormy seas alone… You need to be beside your client at every turn, helping them to navigate their way towards their dreams.


If you are carrying out these four phases of work consistently and expertly with your clients, you can change their lives and help them achieve their desired goals and dreams.

How do you connect with today’s prospects?

Prospects will approach you with a wide variety of requirements in mind. This applies both to the type of advice or potential products they are seeking, and also at various stages of their “buying cycle.

We’ve previously covered the buying cycle of clients in more detail in a previous article here, however as a very brief reminder we set out the concept of AIDA. This is an acronym that is usually used in relation to advertising to describe a buying cycle, but can also be applied to the services offered by a financial planner or broker.

AIDA in this context stands for

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Each of these steps is part of the mental journey that a client will embark upon, before he or she decides to use the services of a financial planner. However when they come to you initially, they can pretty much be at any of the four stages – they may have moved through some of them before contacting you. It is important for you to remain alert and capable of delivering on each of the steps, to meet the needs of each specific prospect.

Our previous article covered the key steps that you need to take with prospects at each of the four stages of their buying journey. The focus of this piece is on some of the conditions you need to consider to connect with a modern consumer throughout the buying cycle.


The importance of relationships

Of course building strong, trusted relationships sits at the core of the proposition of virtually every single financial planner. However not all planners seek for this relationship to extend to the partner of the prospect that reached out to you. Some financial planners still happily meet clients, without seeking the prospect’s spouse or partner to also attend.

Decisions about household finances are often not made on the spot by clients, instead they are made back in the comfort of their homes with the input of their life partner. Not having attended the meeting with you can result in the partner missing some of the nuances behind your advice, and also results in the partner not having the opportunity to ask questions that are bothering them. And the outcome is that action can stall… or issues can arise down the road. Where possible, always meet the client and their partner.


Research sources are far more accessible for prospects today

Prospects approach you far more loaded (with information) than before. Often when they speak to you for the first time, they know a lot about you, in fact significantly more at this stage than you know about them! If they have initiated the contact, this probably means that they were sufficiently impressed with what they read / saw / heard to still press ahead and make contact.

But are there prospects out there who hear about you, carry out some research and then not make contact? It’s critically important that you can tick the following boxes to connect with today’s consumer.

  • Your website must look very professional, be very engaging and must demonstrate your particular proposition and points of difference.
  • Today more than 60% of Google searches are carried out on mobile devices. Having a website that is not responsive to mobile devices is simply a business death wish.
  • Your social media presence is so important too. Just Google your own name and see how prominent your LinkedIn profile is in the search results. Your LinkedIn profile must impress.
  • All of the above require a constant, consistent stream of fresh content. Digital assets that are clearly not maintained say a lot of (not good) things to consumers…


Your “seller journey” must lead to a face-to-face meeting

Advisers today all have a common goal – to get the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with prospects who they have qualified as suitable clients going forwards. Then you get the opportunity to properly set out your proposition and how you can positively influence their lives. To achieve this, it is so important that wherever the prospect is on their own buyer journey, they must be gently encouraged towards this goal of meeting you. The benefit and value for them of actually sitting down with you must be positioned carefully within your messaging at every opportunity, so that the client also shares that goal of actually meeting you.

Simply asking to meet the client with no context or positioning can feel like a sales push to the client. Your chances of building a lasting relationship are far higher where you have carefully set out the value for them of meeting you.

Good financial planners today can transform the lives of their clients by bringing strategy, structure and sense to their financial affairs. However prospects need help to discover this value that you add. Help them do it!