Financial Advisor or "Marriage Counselor"?

Paul Morrone |

Each day at the office is a reminder to me of how much I enjoy what I do for a profession. Working with people energizes me. Our team is so talented and passionate about what we do in that we attempt to deliver an experience to our clients, not just provide a service. Granted, each relationship is unique in the perception of what we do for our clients. From our perspective, knowing everything about our clients creates the initial foundation for our relationship that we build on over the years as changes occur in their lives and in ours. Ironically, as we “dig deep” to learn about our clients’ goals, passions and objectives, we have to ask some probing questions. Occasionally, it may appear that we are not acting in a fiduciary capacity as a financial advisor but acting as a marriage counselor. I am kidding of course.

That being said, conversations in our conference room come alive as the answers to probing questions come out on the table. More times than not, a couple will look at each other and say “I didn’t know you felt that way” or some other comment that made it very obvious that they never discussed the topic before or avoided the topic because it was uncomfortable for them to talk about. I have many recollections of sitting back and listening as the clients discuss the issue and work out the answer right then and there. Also we have heard many times, “we need to talk about this more and we will get back to you”. Both of these scenarios are fine as long as they understand that we eventually need some clarification if they disagree on a material item that could impact the financial planning process.

Some common areas of disconnect seen are:

Buying a vacation home or downsizing existing home or both;

How much of an inheritance to leave as a legacy; and

Traveling abroad or wherever while healthy

Understand that this is a very short and by no means all-inclusive list but does demonstrate that these areas for discussion are material. This is where the marriage counselor hat comes in handy. This is in no way meant to criticize those that have not discussed material items, but does demonstrate how our roll in a client relationship is not purely based on financial data. More often than not, the non-financial data is where we spend the most time discussing. Communication between all parties on both sides of the conference room table is what makes for dynamic conversations. No two of these conversations are the same and all add to the client experience.

So next time you and your significant other cannot agree on something and need some advice give us a call. We may not have the answer immediately but we will certainly listen to both sides. One of the key components in the skill set to being a successful financial advisor (and marriage counselor) is the ability to listen. At the end of the day after listening to both sides, I usually recommend the pasta dish.

Until the next Tom’s Take…