Conclusion: key research findings and takeaways

Holistic planning is not going away. People are living longer, and family decision-making is becoming more inclusive, introducing a range of new topics – and people – into the financial planning process. Advisors should embrace these changes as opportunities to deepen their client relationships. The most successful advisors are already providing holistic advice, but for many professionals, planning could be more comprehensive. For those striving to make their practices more holistic, the following key research findings and takeaways can help.

KEY FINDING: Our survey revealed that for 42% of advisors, only a quarter or less of their conversations cover nonfinancial issues. On the other end of the spectrum, more than 20% of advisors said broader life topics make up at least half of their client conversations.
THE TAKEAWAY: The wide variation in the frequency of these conversations suggests that having more discussions about broad life issues could be a competitive differentiator. As such, advisors should make a point of engaging clients on holistic topics and determining how often the client wants to cover such issues.

KEY FINDING: Even though advisors see the benefit in holistic planning, only 58% of those surveyed said they feel very or extremely knowledgeable about their clients’ nonfinancial goals.
THE TAKEAWAY: Advisors need to equip themselves with the right tools and team to make sure holistic life planning conversations take place. If conversations don’t occur naturally with clients, advisors should consider using a checklist or discussion guide to make sure they do. Advisors can also benefit from documenting their clients’ personal interests and life goals.

Advisors will also need to educate themselves in areas where they have knowledge gaps. But that doesn’t mean they have to become an expert in everything. Advisors can partner with other centers of influence (i.e., accountants, specialty attorneys, estate planners, doctors and therapists) and play the role of quarterback to connect clients with the holistic support they need.

KEY FINDING: Our survey found that although discussions about nonfinancial topics are up among all clients, they are up significantly more among female clients, suggesting women may place more importance on these issues.
THE TAKEAWAY: Holistic life-planning conversations can go a long way toward deepening relationships with female clients. As women continue to outlive men, it is essential that advisors establish connections with both partners in a relationship. Increased discussion of holistic issues – particularly health care costs, emotional or physical well-being, and life goals – could go a long way
toward extending trust.

KEY FINDING: Female advisors in our survey were much more likely than male advisors to note having increased conversations with female clients about issues such as emotional/mental well-being, life goals and physical well-being. The research did not find a similar link between male advisors and male clients.
THE TAKEAWAY: Male advisors need to be more attentive to holistic life planning with female clients.

KEY FINDING: Conversations about health care expenses and long-term care expenses are the two areas advisors said they expect to increase the most over the next five years.
THE TAKEAWAY: Advisors looking to make their practices more holistic should start by devoting more resources toward health care and long-term care planning. There are several ways advisors can position themselves as experts on these issues. They include:

  • Showing clients an estimate of their health care and/or long-term care costs later in life and explaining how they arrived at those estimates;
  • Establishing relationships with long-term care facilities in a local community so the advisor can make recommendations when needed;
  • Hosting client events that feature wellness experts;
  • Providing internal thought leadership around health care planning and leading healthier lifestyles.

KEY FINDING: Only a quarter of surveyed advisors said they feel confident about continuing to manage a family’s wealth when it passes to the next generation. This is likely because most advisors are late to engage the next generation. Only 4% of advisors said they engage that next generation during their childhood years, and only 19% said they communicate with the next generation during their teenage years. Those who do engage the next generation as children express much higher confidence in retaining those children as future clients.
THE TAKEAWAY: Advisors must start engaging clients’ children at an earlier age. Holding on-site financial education classes for young children and working directly with high schoolers to help plan for college costs provide avenues for an advisor to get to know their clients’ children earlier.

START THE TOUGH CONVERSATIONS EARLY

In conclusion, clients are looking to advisors to prepare them for the toughest situations in life. Embrace that responsibility and engage clients early about long-term care planning and end-of-life issues instead of waiting for those tragedies to occur. Such conversations are typically easier and more productive before a life-changing event occurs.

"I spend much less time preparing technical information. Instead, I spend much more time learning their family background and goals in life.”

"We do more for clients than in the past, when most time was devoted to money management. We are more involved with life management.”

"We have implemented a client survey to get to know our clients better. A survey that we can look back to, to utilize ‘surprise and delight’ tactics.”