Introduction: financial planning is far more than finance

As the profession continues to evolve, the title of financial advisor is due for a rewrite. Increasingly, counselor, life planner or life whisperer may be more apt.

Investment guidance is fast becoming mere table stakes for the advisor role. As clients live longer, healthier lives, advisory firms must bring to bear a broader array of expertise to provide the comprehensive, holistic planning that families demand. Health care costs and physical well-being are becoming common conversation points. Advisors also discuss life goals, emotional well-being and education with clients more frequently.

As the range of conversations broadens, so, too, are the family members involved in those discussions. Many advisors are making a concerted effort to ensure both spouses participate in planning conversations. Others are engaging with clients’ children to ensure wealth management extends to the next generation.

But being holistic isn’t just about broadening the conversation; it’s about making the conversation deeper. As financial advice evolves, advisors and their clients are opening up and leaning into a host of difficult conversations, from living with dementia, to downsizing in retirement and even end-of-life plans.

To many seasoned advisors, these issues are nothing new. The most successful professionals understand that a rewarding, long-term client relationship must extend far beyond a client’s finances. Even so, advisors recognize there is more work to be done. In a new study, InvestmentNews Research and Equitable surveyed advisors to find the changes their clients are asking for and how professionals are making advice more comprehensive. Among other issues, the research explored.

  • The holistic planning topics advisors discuss most and the issues they expect to talk more about in the future;
  • Changes in client needs and the topics that resonate most with male and female clients;
  • The different rates at which male and female advisors broach these life-planning discussions;
  • The avenues advisors are taking to open dialogue with both spouses or a client’s children.

Advisors can use this study to see where the industry is headed and what their clients are likely to expect in the future. We hope these findings get more advisors to embrace the difficult conversations they need to have, and that it will help professionals strengthen their client relationships and, ultimately, their practices.

Many advisors are making a concerted effort to ensure both spouses participate in planning conversations. Others are engaging with clients’ children to ensure wealth management extends to the next generation.