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Everyone has them but not everyone achieves them, which is where you, the financial advisor, can make a world of difference.

Starting a conversation with a client about goals and desires can be difficult, especially as it requires them to trust you completely. It’s one thing for them to share their bank statements and tax returns, but it’s another thing for them to share what drives them and what they feel is most important.

Here are some common questions to get the ball rolling:

  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What would you do if money was no object?
  • If you won the lottery tomorrow would you keep working?
  • What would you do if you were told you have 5 years to live? One year? One month?

While these are a good place to start, an effective financial plan will require much more insight and a much deeper dive into your clients’ lives than these “softballs.”


Along with offering some thought-provoking open-ended questions like the ones above to break the ice, it’s important to provide your clients with some guidelines. These can help them shape their goals into achievable things that can be worked into their overall financial plan. Help relieve some of the pressure by also focusing on some concrete factors that need to be considered:

  • Time horizon
  • Financial resources
  • Financial obligations
  • Relatives, heirs, and other stakeholders
  • Overall financial wellness

By talking about the interaction and interdependence of key components of every financial plan, you can put things into perspective for your client, which will help them assess their current financial situation. This conversation will provide the necessary groundwork clients need to incorporate their goals into their plan in a way that’s realistic and effective.


Now it’s time to highlight your value add and to show the client what they can do to make the most out of life and achieve their goals. Show the client that you’re listening and respecting their desires but don’t be afraid to ask for a compromise:

  • Incorporate their goals into the current plan. Show them that despite being a fun toy now, the $2 million yacht will most likely make retirement a lot less fun.
  • Offer some alternative scenarios that might be more realistic and better planned to help them achieve their goals and also successfully make it through retirement.

While planning tools might vary from one advisor to the next, the planning process will be similar to show clients their:

  • Cash flow projection
  • Plan’s probability of success (taking into account market volatility, most likely through some sort of Monte Carlo simulation)
  • Their estate.

Lastly, put things into motion. Based on their plan, provide smaller, actionable steps that will help you help them achieve their goals. You may not be able to give your clients everything they want, but with the proper planning, you can certainly come close!

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