We must never lose sight of the fact that behind each story of the accumulation and dispersal of wealth are experiences that have shaped our clients’ thinking about money.
Years ago, after the “Great Recession” of 2008, I asked philosopher and theologian Jacob Needleman, author of “Money and the Meaning of Life,” what people needed most at a time like that. His answer was stunning to me. “They need to know they have been heard.”
The irony was that many of their advisors were avoiding conversation because they didn’t have a good explanation for the losses at their client’s doorstep. Just when their clients needed to be heard the most they were being neglected. We designed a question from that conversation, “How have recent events impacted you on a personal level?” We had advisors test the question and the results were profound. Clients were waiting for the opportunity to ‘air out’ their frustrations and stories and were most grateful for the opportunity to do so. Many ended their stories with the summary, “A lot has changed on paper but my life is still the same…so I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.” The ROL Advisor understands the need to know the emotional “moral of the story” of their clients’ experiences with both gain and loss.
Toward the end of that conversation with Dr. Needleman, I asked, “Why do you think they so badly need to be heard?” And he told me, “Because financial losses, whether of your doing or not, leave you feeling ‘gullible,’ like, ‘Why didn’t I see this coming? How could I be so stupid?’ etc. It doesn’t matter how smart the person is, they will feel this sense of vulnerability and gullibility.”
An advisor who is honest with herself or himself will admit that they too are no stranger to this emotional state. None of us gets through this journey without feeling stripped down and exposed for our lack of foresight or insight. Rather than pretending to be a prognosticator or have an explanation for everything that happens, the ROL Advisor understands that clients, after a rough ride, simply need “to be heard.”