Lately, I have been having more and more financial planning conversations with the complete family unit, both partners are entering into the arena and the results have been amazing. We are getting into the more meaningful part of what each of their wants and desires are and how they currently are not being addressed, purposely or not. This never bothered me in the past, as in the world of transactional financial advising, you dont need both partners present to sell a product. It wasn’t necessary for both partners to talk to you about their concerns. The person I was meeting with felt they knew the areas that the household wanted to address and that one thinks they control the household anyway, (funny how they arent quite sure which one it is when we meet jointly).
I am having the same conversations as before but now I am just having the conversations with both parties involved. I always assumed both partners couldn’t be present as a result of them both working or looking after the children, come to think of it, I assumed this because that is what I was told. I was told that the other partner isn’t really interested in this stuff anyway or they are to busy to attend the meeting and I was quite happy to leave it there, after all I didn’t want to step on anybody toes. I was just there to provide a transactional service and called it financial advising. A lot has changed since those days and whilst I still see alot of my exisiting clients individually (as this is the relationship we have established) the penny has dropped, that to really add value in my clients life, we need to be meeting with everyone involved.
I could never figure out why the one didn’t want the other present. After all, this meeting is about ensuring the family is taken care of, the life long goals of the family are being outlined and planned for and the risk needs are being addressed. Surely these are all things you would be able to share with your partner, or at least feel proud of having addressed them and taken responsibility for sorting them out. I did a little self introspection and it turns out that I am also guilty of the above. I have ensured that if I am not around my wife Nicole and son Luke are in the same lifestyle position as they currently are in. I assume they will be happy with this, but I dont know, I havent actually asked them. I have told them, but not asked, (I’m working on this). As mentioned above I think its because it’s easier to come home and say, “Honey, I met with the financial planner and dont worry everything is covered, you and Luke will be fine.” And while that makes me feel comfortable as it addresses my need for taking responsibility, it doesn’t neccessarily make them feel comfortable. It does avoid the need to expose my vulnerabilities to my wife and to potentially put her in a positon to expose her vulnerabilites to me (weird, I know, we are married and have been for 5 years already).
Dealing with these types of emotions and issues is really what lifestyle financial planning is about. Getting both partners in the room and discussing their familys future together, getting both of there views on how much is enough, what does the end game look like to each of them, what does success look like indivdualy and jointly, what do the next 5, 10, 15 years look like and how do we tie it all together so that both partners are happy? It does involve a lot of compromise and a lot of understanding the others point of view and sometimes it does get a little uncomfortable, but what in life that’s worth anything is achieved without any effort?
These meetings usually start out quite serious. After all, we are here to talk about money, death and who is going to look after the kids if we aren’t here. WRONG, we are here to talk about LIFESTYLE, FREEDOM and SECURITY. Once we get that notion off the table people to tend to relax, the shoulders drop, the arms unfold and we just talk openly. We tend to start with what the end looks like, people like to visualize the perfect end game. This is good as it then sets the tone for what they need to do today to make sure that end game is realised. These joint meetings bring two people together who only have each others best interests at heart into a room and gets them talking. It gets them understanding each other in ways that they probably haven’t before. It gets them working together as a team to build their future together (I must admit, this is starting to sound like marriage counseling and its scaring me too). Basically, it just gets them on the same page and that’s all we want initially, to get an understanding of each others freedoms and to set the direction for achieving this.
I have noticed that when both parties feel like they are being heard and addressed that the plan they put in place is one that lasts. It’s not MY plan to try and sell them something, it’s THEIR plan for their FUTURE together and with all we are dealing with in life, if I can help my clients tick the “I have a plan” box, then I have added value and they can get on with what makes them happy NOW.