5 Levels of Financial Planning – What’s Your Level?

level complete

5 Levels of Financial Planning – What’s Your Level?

“Am I getting better?”

It may be the most important question you can ask yourself as a financial planner. If you’ve never thought to ask it before, go ahead and do it now. And be honest.

Are you a better financial planner than you were three months ago? A year ago? Three years ago?

If the answer is “No” (or even “Yes, but not much”) then you might face a serious problem.

But there’s some good news too….

Because “not getting any better” doesn’t mean you’re a slow learner. It just means you’re not engineering enough opportunities to improve.

If you’re reading this blog, you likely have intentions of becoming a better, more successful, and meaningful financial planner. But how often do your intentions turn into action?

Intentions, unfortunately, are as weak as a lazy summer breeze. They are too easily overcome by the seemingly urgent demands of everyday life. The best way to improve, is to commit to something that will force you to raise your game.

Want to improve your knowledge? Sign up for a tax-training-course 

Want to improve your presentation skills? Announce you’re giving a free presentation for your clients next month

Want to have more clients? Enter an online training course on making your financial planning service irresistible to your ideal prospects

But first, ask yourself this question: do you really, really believe you need to get better? (Or do you believe you’re already good enough?)

Let’s check it out.

5 Levels of Financial Planning

This is not about designations. This is about your potential for future success. And judging from feedback from my readers, many planners are stuck at level 1…

Level 1: The Technical Planner

The Technical Planner is a financial planner who works orking for a large company. When there’s a job offered, and you have proof you’re good at technical work (because you have a FP-designation), you’re set. When you have the job, the client mostly doesn’t care about you, as a person.

People think: If the company is good, the financial planner is probably good as well. If they think otherwise, you’re in trouble.

The good news about being a Technical Planner, is that you never have to worry about any marketing, you never have to worry about how to get your next client. Prospects show up, not because of you. But because you work for the company.

The bad news is, you are generic. You are a cog in the system that is run by somebody else.

There are LOTS of financial planners who don’t want to be at level 1, but don’t know how to make the leap to level 5 (because that’s the best leap. Trust me, you’ll see).

The Technical Planner’s message is: “I’m a professional, can I work for you?”

Level 2: The Local Planner

The Local Planner has a business because he’s “around”. Right around the corner, the “easiest one”, the one to grab. There’s an advantage to being a Local Planner, if there are lots of people around you who need your service.

That’s why most Local Planners are product-selling-financial-planners.

Because most people believe they don’t need financial planning. Instead, they do need a mortgage or life-insurance. Oh, and maybe some (commission-based) financial planning to go along with it.

The Local Planner’s message is: “If you need financial advice, come to me (because I’m nearby)”.

But you can do better than that.

Level 3: The Expert Planner

The Expert Planner is a financial planner who has invested lots and lots of time and energy in becoming the most knowledgeable planner that ever existed. The Expert Planner is almost by definition “better” than the competition.

People notice him because of his designation-arsenal, experience and extensive knowledge. He (hopes to) get(s) picked.

The truth is, he doesn’t get picked often enough (although he’s truly the best). You see, most people won’t bother noticing, because they aren’t looking. They don’t have time to seek out if you’re better than the competition. Because there’s just too much to look at nowadays, and not enough time to take it all in.

The Expert Planner’s message is: “If you want the best financial planner, come to me”.

That doesn’t bring the results you deserve, unless you take it to the next level.

Level 4: The Niche Planner

These planners are “the one and only”. They best serve their target audience. Audiences like airline pilots, medical specialist, or teachers. They focus on “who they do it for”.

And that’s why those planners do get noticed. People recognize themselves in who the planners say they serve best.

The Niche Planner’s message is: “If you want to be served by someone who really knows you, come to me”

Still, they get noticed, but do clients engage with you? Do they refer you?

Do they buy your service?

Aren’t you forgetting something?

Level 5: The Irresistible Planner

This is the connector.

This is the planner who does work people MUST talk about. This is the planner who stands out, because the financial planning service, the experience, the engagement is worth talking about. It’s not better by definition, but it’s so engaging, you cannot help but talk about it.

People want to belong to this planner’s community.

Irresistible planners understand they need to find a different community, with a different worldview that wants to hear a different story. They understand they need to invent an entirely new story that is framed around the worldview of an underserved community.

And there is a huge amount of people who are underserved by the financial services industry …

People WANT to buy financial planning from this type of financial planner, because he makes them feel how they want to feel.

The Irresistible Planner’s message is: “If you want to feel ……. then come to me (because I’m like you)”

Level 5: What’s the First Step to becoming an Irresistible Planner?

It’s all about your Hook.

Your hook is your remarkable promise about your financial planning service, but in its raw idea form.

But watch out!

You can’t tell a selfish story from your point of view. You also can’t invent an inauthentic story.

The only hooks that work are the ‘WOW, is this for real – hooks’

The problem is that most planners keep on making the same mistakes when creating their hook (I’ll tell you how to create your hook in a minute).

Mistake in math on chalkboard

3 Big Mistakes When Crafting Your Hook

Mistake #1: Your story, website and content is haphazard 

Most planners think of every potential topic that might be applicable to their audience, and then shower them with content from every angle. They say, “I was told to deliver value, and I did!”

For example: lots of planners tweet about any financial topic that comes along.

While planners who make this mistake have the best intentions, they ultimately end up confusing and overwhelming their prospects. And after they hear your story, they’re no closer to solving their problem than they were before, because it’s all over the place.

In reality, what’s happening is this — When most of us sit down to create a valuable message for our customers, we don’t know what to talk about, so we talk about as much as possible. Wealth management. Debt management. Retirement planning. Estate planning. Superannuation. Salary packaging. Getting divorced. Getting married. Seeking financial freedom.

We don’t want to leave anything out. So, we’re just throwing it at our audience, like, “Here! Read this! Hire me for this!” And we cross our fingers, hoping people will call us.

They won’t.

A haphazard message will scare a bunch of potential customers away — those who don’t quite know and trust you yet or aren’t quite sure if they want your service.

Mistake #2: Your story, website and content doesn’t establish you as someone people can trust

This is a big one. Believe it or not, many planners talk about financial planning as if they are saying, “I have no idea what I’m talking about.” And it has nothing to do with whether they actually do know or don’t.

They’re just not including the right information in their message. They think, “Because I’m talking about financial planning, I don’t need to show them why I’m qualified. They obviously know this already.”

But remember, most people don’t understand the value of financial planning. They’re not sure about the big benefit of financial planning. The effect is you haven’t quite convinced them. They might have a mild interest in what you have to say, but that doesn’t mean they know you or know why you’re qualified.

You need to ensure people know who you are and why you’re qualified to help them. They need to know you’re an authority.

Mistake #3: Your story, website and content doesn’t establish you as someone people can like

Trust is important, but when you’re selling your service, being liked is just as important. Most planners think, “What the heck? I’m not trying to win a popularity contest. I’m just trying to help people.”

But when people don’t like you, you’re creating a barrier between you and engaging people to buy your service that doesn’t need to exist. Now, this doesn’t mean you become some slimy salesman that tries to be liked by everyone. That’s never going to work and people will be on to your trickery.

Instead, what you need to do, is to not be scared to show the real you (as long as the real you relates to the worldview of your audience and your financial planning service).

Sure, it will turn some people off, but it will also turn the right people on. The idea of making people like you isn’t a new idea, either. Psychologist Robert Cialdini actually named Liking as one of his six weapons of influence in his persuasion manual, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition

That’s how strong being liked plays a role in someone ending up choosing your service. Either way, it’s important that your hook builds trust and likability.

Now that we’ve got those big mistakes out of the way, you’re almost ready to begin brainstorming ideas for your hook.


What’s Your Hook About?

Your hook is about positioning your financial planning service and what makes it unique from the rest of the market.

Let me explain why you need it. And why it’s vital that you don’t skip it. This is so important, so I want to be sure you really get it.

Okay, so first, remember this:

Your Hook Is Why People Will Want To Listen To You (Not The Other Guy)

Your hook is what helps you stand out from the competition. When you present your hook, you immediately contrast what you believe versus what other people believe. And this makes you stand out immediately. Even if your service isn’t that unique, it’s not nearly as important as showing people that — “Yes, even though I say this, there are other people who say that. And they’re wrong.”

(You don’t have to be as aggressive as I’m suggesting. But you do have to create that contrast and take a solid stance.)

Here’s an Example

Let’s say that you’re a financial planner for retired entrepreneurs, and your hook is:

“Most retired entrepreneurs base their decisions on analyzing what worked in the past. They rarely realize that it’s far better to base their decisions by looking at what works in the future.”

The retired entrepreneurs decision process looks like this:

1. Retired entrepreneur: “The stock markets are doing well and I don’t want to leave money on the table, but I’m not sure about the future implications.”

2. Retired entrepreneur: “I want to talk to someone who can help me with some advice”

Here’s when you introduce your hook.

3. “Most advisors tell you to base your decisions on past returns, investing-experience and your risk profile. I’m telling you that you don’t want to do that. It’s much better to base your decisions by first asking yourself what’s important to YOU – now and in the future – so that your current decisions won’t jeopardize your future welfare in any way.”

This immediately sets you apart from most other advisers out there. And, if you do it right, your audience will be sold on this idea. Then, throughout the rest of their journey, you’ll keep reinforcing this idea to show your prospects the benefits of this approach.

And that’s the power of your hook. Because when customers believe your hook, then buying your financial planning service becomes a no-brainer.

But you might think: this is difficult!

Don’t stress about it.

You should come up with one hook, and if it’s not perfect — that’s okay!

This can be your draft hook.

Start building something today, and then improve upon it as you get more and more clear with the idea that you want to share with your audience.

Again, let me emphasize — Your hook is merely the comparing and contrasting of what other people believe, and what you believe.

Here’s The Next Step

So, why don’t you try to create your hook?

There are several options. You might want to experiment with your concept-hook on your prospects. That approach is probably the best way to test it. However, it takes (lots of) time …

But if you don’t want to do the hard work yourself, but instead save lots of time, you might want to use The Ultimate Worksheet To Create Your Hook (and Stand Out From the Crowd). The only thing you have to do is to answer the following question:

What’s the biggest “mistaken belief” your prospects have about reaching their biggest (financial) desire?

Please, answer this question by leaving your comment – here below – and you’ll receive The Ultimate Worksheet to Create Your Hook (and Stand Out from the Crowd). Oh, and by the way, it’s a FREE pdf with real examples from real financial planners.

Thank you for your comment.

Let’s make financial planning matter.

Ronald Sier


Leave a Reply 74 comments

Ellison Williams @Financial Planner New Hampshire Reply

I appreciate the author taking the time to write this blog on levels of financial planning because it contains useful information. I’ve read other blogs about money, but this one was the best. When I wanted to learn more about planning my money, I found this blog. Thank you for writing it!

Victoria Addington Reply

I agreed when you stated that a local planner is very effective when the service offered is needed by people around your area. My friend should know this since he’s planning to hire a local financial planner. I think he should go for it since he wants to better manage his finances.

Kristofer Van Wagner Reply

I am grateful that this post shared with us the various levels to financial planning. I do agree it is important for us to ensure the financial planner we hire is experienced and qualified. I will definitely be more mindful.

Kristofer Van Wagner Reply

I am grateful that this post underlined that it is important for us to plan for retirement. It makes sense for us to hire a financial planner to is knowledgeable. In fact, I will look into ensuring they are certified before hiring the planner.

David Williamson Reply

The article has a valuable content, which has helped me a lot in understanding 5 levels of financial planning – what’s your level?. I think if anyone wants to become expert in financial planning , then he needs to read your content consistently. I think you have covered all the major points in this article, I will share this with my network as well. Thanks for sharing this useful article.

Alicia Byrne Reply

I really liked your mention of a level 5 financial planner as the irresistible planner who everyone wants to work with. I would imagine that it will definitely help us improve our financial status so much. My husband is thinking of hiring a financial planner to plan out our finances before we retired. I will remind him to find someone that is great like the level 5 planner that you mentioned.

Dave Reply

planning with you – not for you.

Maven Business Plan Reply

Hi Ronald, i read this article this is very informative. please keep it up. You share a brief detail about smart financial planner. this is very informative topic for me . You chose a great topic.

Laurel Larsen Reply

It was interesting to learn that expert financial planners don’t get picked as often as other kinds of planners. My uncle has recently come into a good amount of money and he’s not sure what he wants to do with it. I’ll let him know to look for an expert financial planner in order to help him grow the most.

Harry White Reply

This is very interesting to know about the different type of financial planner and who is the right people to look forward to meeting that is right for your needs.

Ron Booker Reply

It’s great that you elaborated on the 5 levels of financial planning such as technical, local, expert, niche and irresistible. I think everyone wants to be debt-free at some point but not all are good at planning stuff. I’m going to consider educating my wife so that she can help me help her understand the importance of financial planning for a better life.

simon Reply

Thanks for sharing this post,
is very helpful article.

Larry Weaver Reply

Thanks for the tip to find a financial planner that is better than the competition if you want to get the best service. My dad is looking to start a small business, and he has had always had trouble keeping track of his finances. Because my dad gets confused with handling money so easily, I’ll be sure to help him find a financial planner that has invested a lot of time in their craft.

Kate Welling Reply

It was interesting to read the 5 levels of financial planning. You mentioned that we don’t want to leave anything out when financial planning. This is so true! I am going to look into finding a financial planner for me. It would be nice to know what I should expect in a couple of years down the road money-wise. I’ll start looking for a financial planner to walk me through this process.

Gillian Babcock Reply

My sister wants to foolproof her future and put her money in several baskets. It was explained here that it will be best to have professionals who are expert technical planners. Moreover, it’s recommended to hire professionals when considering financial planning.

Sarah Smith Reply

It’s really interesting that there are actually different types of financial planners, ranging from the technical planner who is part of a larger financial planning company, to the niche planner who only works with one subgroup of business and is the best at what they do. From what your article, it sounds like a technical planner is the most common financial planner that businesses tend to hire. That makes me wonder if businesses with technical planners have a planner who works on only one company or if the company is split among several different financial planners.

Ellie Davis Reply

Thank you for pointing out that there are different levels of financial planners. My husband and I are wanting to find the right financial planner to help get our finances in check. I’ll have to do some research and find the best person for us.

Michael Lee Reply

I think it is interesting that as the target audience gets smaller, the specialization gets higher. I’ve been thinking about getting financial advisor services. If I did, I would want a planner that does make me feel special and like I have their full attention.

Gillian Babcock Reply

My sister wanted to make sure that her finances are well planned. It was explained here that there different levels of financial planning like a technical and local planner. Moreover, it’s recommended to talk to experts for quality financial planning.

Myra Goulet Reply

Financial planning is all about how well you plan the future. That’s why it’s best to ask the advice of experts. I were to ask an expert, I’d choose a financial planner that would try to understand my goals and how I would like to achieve them.

Ivanna Flint Reply

Thank you for mentioning that the expert planner is the type of planner that has invested a lot of time and energy in becoming someone who knows a lot about the process. In my case, I think I need an expert planner considering that I have zero idea what financial planning is. I need someone extremely skilled and knowledgeable to point out my flaws and help me change for the better.

Hazel Owens Reply

That’s interesting that the expert planner isn’t picked a lot even though they do the best because people don’t bother to look. I’ve been wanting to have a financial planner help me get everything situated to see if I can do a trip next summer with my family. I’ll have to look at the different services to see who is the best.

Prerna Borah Reply

Thank you for sharing the best posts and information to us. I’ve just been searching for info about this topic for a long time and yours is the greatest I’ve found out so far. Good piece of information really enjoyed reading it.

Taylor Bishop Reply

I just wanted to thank you for helping me learn more about financial planning. I’m glad you explained that a really good planner is someone who had good experience and engagement that is worth talking about. Not only does this seem like a good way to ensure good service, but also good advertising through word of mouth.

Mon Casas Reply

That they don’t need a financial plan, but rather only positive thinking, to achieve their goals in life.

Johann Maree Reply

We want maximum returns for the least possible fee and if the advice is free so much the better!

Simon Reply

I don\’t earn enough to reach my goals

TT Reply

I don\’t need to hire a financial planner until I\’m ready to retire.

Mike Reply

Working with so many who have amassed so much in high concentrations of corp stock or successful closely and now have a mistaken view that a well diversified portfolio is \”too\” risky or that it should return the same as their big bet.

David Reply

That their business is their retirement plan, and that saving money for their future isn\’t important (or important enough to establish a retirement plan).

Shayne Reply

Clients are net savers and still believe that they will outlive their money

Martin Reply

only known risk is possible

Don Reply

People take on more risk than they need.

Joan Birdsell Reply

I don\’t think I\’ve saved enough (or can save enough) money but it will all work out somehow.

Anita Muecke Reply

That only the \”lucky ones\” reach their financial goals – failure to realise that it\’s the ones that put the planning, focus & discipline in.

Johan Suhadi Reply

– The return of my investments will cover my financial need in the future.
– Financial Planning is hard and confusing

Carien Reply

In looking at the comments from around the world. I perceive they are from planners as well as potential clients. It is sad to see that a few people think it is too much work and it all revolves around the money. I have been a Life Planner focused CFP since 1987 and let me tell you it is not about the transactions you complete that makes the relationship positive with your clients. Referrals come and lots of them if you are truly a back office partner with a family and work on helping them achieve the goals they want in life. With good reports that show their progress over time you will be a winner every time.

Marin Reply

I don’t earn enough to make it happen.

Beau Reply

\”That\’s ok. I\’ve got a pension with the state.\”


I\’m starting too late, I can\’t afford what needs to be done.

Fabien Reply

That\’s only and always about making more money

Krystal Reply

That preserving their capital while making little interest is always better than experiencing volatility in the market.

Neill Roynon Reply

Great gems of advice..thank you. I use different terms : I talk to my older client base about Lifestyle Planning rather than retirement Planning. Whilst people know they getting older they don\’t have to be reminded of it constantly. People often go on working passed the so called retirement date and remain active members of the working world, so I plan their lifestyles with them ( not for them) when your audience perceives or sees that you are adding value to their lives rather than trying to make a quick sale, you have a much greater chance of being the one they select.

Chandan Singh Padiyar Reply

The biggest mistaken belief is that they will not be effected by the inflation.

Scott Wellens Reply

I don\’t trust people in the financial industry

Ben Reply

That their goals are more their dreams, and unobtainable in their life and with their current circumstances.

Grant Reply

I want growth in capital but do not want to take any risks.

dan Reply

not keeping to plan

Bill Reply

Timing the markets and emotional mistakes

Boris Reply

They have to beat the market and waste their time, following the financial news.

Great post!

Ben Reply

That paying low fees are the best option.

Ben Silberman Reply

Letting the daily investment noise distract you from the long term result

John Reply

I don\’t earn enough to make it happen.

Ryan Reply

(1) Too much weight placed on investment returns and daily market movements
(2) Not believing that financial planning is a dynamic ongoing process

Richard Reply

That costs are the most important factor

Robert Reply

That its all about the money.

Michel Reply

Once I made a financial plan, I am ready for the future.

Ian Reply

Not understanding the impact of inflation and longevity

YC Reply

Investing overseas is too risky.

James Reply

That they can get high returns with little risk if they can just get some good advice.

Abbasali Mava Reply

It\’s irksome and too complicated to achieve.

LadyG Reply

I want some kind of certainty that I will be ok in my retirement

Joseph van Tonder Reply

That it is too difficult and can\’t be achieved.

Andreas Reply

That they don\’t write down the most important financial goals.

Nasrat Edoo Sirkissoon Reply

I like this simplified structure that makes on rethink your client value proposition.

Francis Klonowski Reply

That investing is too risky – especially if they have had bad experiences previously

christian beltrame Reply

that you need the best share tip to get there

Scott Reply

That they won\’t live as long as statistics say they probably will.

Kim Reply

That it is too; hard, time consuming and complicated

Steve Jones Reply

That\’s only achievable in ideal world and is not realistic to my situation

Goldie Reply

That investment returns are more important than all other factors.

marc Reply

That investment returns are the end-all-be-all.

Justin King Reply

That it is unobtainable , out of reach.

    Gunasegaran Reply

    If we work together and plan for the objective we can close the Gap of your Financial Objectives. I will plan the details of the plan and hope you could stick to the game plan so that we could see the progress of our actions. As we move forward we will continue to do adjustments to bring you closer to your life goals.

Leave a Reply: