When “Touchy-Feely” In Finance Is A Good Thing

When “Touchy-Feely” In Finance Is A Good Thing 01 27 2015Ever hear the words “touchy feely” to describe a financial planner?

It tends to tick me off since it often comes attached to an “ick factor” that implies something inappropriate or at least completely uncomfortable.

Here’s the thing: many financial planners have erected for themselves a secure platform above the fray, from where they can espouse financial wisdom and guidance.

The problem is, the right answers are not in some detached corner of the conference room. The answers are in the grief, frustration, pain and doubt in their clients’ lives, memories and psyches. While those “above the fray” planners sit in their white shirts and dark suits in sterile rooms, their clients’ lives are messy, contradictory and steeped in misinformation and perhaps some pretty horrendous experiences. 

Financial Life Planning (referred to by the old school as “touchy feely”) is a visit into the real world, where clients are helped to better understand their financial decision-making. Where tears flow, death, divorce, sickness, unemployment and broken money mindsets reside. It requires a real willingness to get “down and dirty” and witness the bad stuff that resides in life, while offering a lifeline to clients without the advisor’s knowledge and experience.

Getting down to the bone means understanding where your Money Mindset comes from. What impacts your beliefs around money? Do you avoid financial issues or overspend on your credit card? There are reasons for these behaviors—and while it is important for your planner to understand, it is equally important for you to do so.

But don’t think that Financial Life Planning is only about tears flowing. It is also about joyfully sharing in life’s successes and achieving a place of security and peace. Talking about and crafting a future worth celebrating is just the flip side of the tough stuff. Planners who insulate themselves in the numbers miss the good stuff, the real stuff and the important stuff. Working with the numbers alone is like going on WebMD for your diagnosis or to a BuzzFeed Quiz to tell you about your perfect mate.

Quant-based and robo advisors who wrap themselves in numbers—keeping solutions neat, tidy and clean—are mostly useless. Our lives are a market basket of challenges, conflicting messages and the impact of life’s travails. Your financial planner’s job is to embrace it all and help you live the life you are willing to work towards.

The fact is, we don’t change because it says so on the bottom of a report. We change when our motivation is engaged AND we have the tools to help us. We make changes when we see the need to, not because the numbers say so, but because it touches a harmonious place in our emotions and brain that lead us to the conclusion that the status quo is no longer acceptable.

Yes, financial planning is incredibly important. But when practiced by those who cannot—or will not—see beyond the numbers, it is nearly useless. When building (or rebuilding) your financial life, make sure your planner has in ADDITION to a keen understanding of technical issues—compassion, empathy and the ability and willingness to hear you. After all, we are more than our numbers.

Think “Patch” Adams with a CFP(TM).