Every client I have is a different relationship. I work hard to understand my clients as individuals and to learn what is different about what each of them needs and how they like to work. The best clients understand that there are things they can do to contribute to a productive relationship with their advisor. Here are some of the ways to be a great client to your financial planner:
Talk About Concerns
Money is often a very difficult thing to talk about. There is a lot of stress wrapped up in money, and a lot of potential for feeling vulnerable. Unfortunately, what that means is that it is even more important that every concern, every fear is really addressed. A good financial advisor is understanding of the fears and concerns regarding finances. A great client will have trust in their advisor to provide great information without being rude. This goes for concerns about fees, about the future of your money, about the decisions being made by your advisor, and about anything else you can think of. Voicing concerns early and often avoids future rework and strengthens the relationship you have with your financial advisor. It actually helps me do my job better!
Be Aware of Fees
My clients know that I am clear and upfront about all of my fees. I have even written here about fee structures for financial advisors. However, the best clients make a point to understand these fees also, in order to avoid misunderstandings later in the game. Great clients are not the ones that would overpay; they simply do not want me to work for free.
Be Present in Meetings
Sometimes this means taking notes during our meetings, sometimes this means just turning off phones. I always make myself available to my clients in case questions arise the day after a meeting, and even the most present clients will have these questions on occasion. Great clients know, though, that we are in this together.
Engaging is about dialogue, more than just talking about concerns. It means voicing hopes as well as concerns, explaining what you're hearing, and asking for clarification when you need it. Sometimes things don't make sense! Some of the best learning experiences I have as an advisor center around clients who haven't understood what we are talking about. When my clients tell me they don't understand, I learn to do better. The "ah-ha" moments teach me the most. A client will rephrase what I've been saying and teach me a new way of communicating the idea to future clients.
Let's enjoy the process!
Finances are not always fun. They can be frustrating; they can be the source of worry and shame. That doesn't mean that my relationship with my clients needs to be similarly frustrating! Great clients know that we are in this together to make the best improvements we can. We learn together and are grateful for that process. I am so grateful for my clients and it is amazing when they feel the same!