October 22 2019 – As Published in FA Magazine
By Frank and Frankie Corrado
We feel that the most successful client relationships are based on prudent portfolio allocation, sound tax strategy and deep market expertise—and that advisors who can efficiently shepherd investors through financial life cycles have the most potential to excel.
Or do we?
Financial planning as we know it is defined by traditional rules of conduct and uniform intake processes, from know your client (“KYC”) formalities to requisite family small talk, all designed to build a rapport and achieve standard outcomes for clients. Financial acumen and operational know-how are and will continue to be critical to the planning process.
But, what if our standard industry practices on how to access a client’s true objectives—and learn what really motivates them—were not enough? What if what we thought constituted the deepest bond with our clients was only merely scratching the surface?
This is where our concept of “Financial Life Guidance”—or helping people navigate the intersection of their life and their money—becomes essential.
As a father and son team who have worked intensely in recent years to embrace this concept, we understand the importance of keeping our desires and our money in equilibrium. This balance can have a profound impact on our sense of well-being and that of everyone around us.
With technical experience, we can help people make wise decisions and gear them toward achieving their stated financial objectives. Amassing wealth for our clients, however, doesn’t inherently mean we are enriching their lives. More money often means more complex cash management, more complex tax strategy, more debt and more exposure. We can become consumed by feeding the market machinery—nurturing the financial plan at the expense of the life plan.
Financial Life Guidance embraces the situations investors face, explore the range of options at their disposal, and teach them how to make informed decisions in all aspects of their lives. We coach clients on how to move forward with their lives, how to set and achieve goals, and how to overcome obstacles that may be blocking them from reaching their full potential.
We advise on the best course of action based on an understanding of goals and priorities, taking a broader and deeper perspective of wealth that includes legacy, family, relationships and well-being. That often means promoting thoughtful conversation across a wide range of situations which could have an impact on finances—but doesn’t directly involve them.
Our vision is inspired by the client, not a questionnaire. In many cases, we as advisors have handed clients the template, unwittingly dictating goals through standardized questions on ideal retirement ages and second home purchases, while obscuring the real dreams that may have lurked beneath surface. Empathic listening is critical to this process. We need to set aside pre-conceived notions on what financial objectives should look like and truly hear what a client is trying to tell us. Sometimes, being a guide means just sitting in silence and not interacting at all.
By embracing this concept of Financial Life Guidance, clients can more freely identify and pursue their goals, whether those goals are owning a beach house or repairing relationships with family members. We can help them visualize their true priorities and provide a roadmap to determine whether they’re remaining on track, serving as a guide and a collaborator. Our collaboration is based on an understanding of shared accountability for execution—we keep the torch lit as we help clients reach the “top of their mountain.”
As financial planners, we don’t always have to have the answer. Sometimes, the biggest challenge is learning to say nothing at all and accept that the answer lies somewhere within the client. Until that vision comes, we remain ready to guide them, side-by-side, and learn more on the journey as we go.
Frank Corrado, CPA, CFP® and his son, Frankie Corrado, CFP® serve as Managing Directors and Principals at Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC (“Robertson Stephens”), an independent SEC-registered investment advisor with offices in San Francisco, New York, Sun Valley, and New Jersey. Frank and Frankie have recently joined Robertson Stephens to make their vision of life planning available to larger group of potential clients.