This Rarely Used Tool Helps EVERY Financial Planner Outsmart ANY Digital Competitor

What are you afraid of?

Are you afraid of the digital revolution? Are you afraid of the ongoing innovations in our financial planning business? Are you afraid you can’t keep up? Are you afraid your client doesn’t recognize the value you deliver? Are you afraid you will not have a reason to exist?

There’s no need to.

Let’s face it.

The financial planning business is changing. Rapidly. There are so many new developments every day, it sometimes feels that we’re sitting still while the whole world is moving. Not knowing what’s going to happen next.

And while the world is changing, you’re doing the same stuff that worked yesterday, 5 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago.

You’re doing “the usual”.

And sometimes it feels like most of the time you’re stumbling around in the dark. Because you don’t know if the work you are doing now, will also work tomorrow.

It feels like a never-ending guessing game.

And it gets even worse.

Because there are new players who DO seem to know. Here are some examples:

Nutmeg. In 10 minutes you can have an online portfolio. Professional, fast, cheap and flexible.

Etoro. A social investment network. Just copy the investment of highly successful traders and use the wisdom of crowds. Pretty brilliant.

Betterment. A goal-based investment tool without the hassle. Fast, cheap, and accessible.

Mint. Also fast and cheap. Puts all your financial accounts into one place.

Now, this can be pretty overwhelming.

And there are lots of reasons why people move towards these new players:

It’s fast, it’s cheap, it’s new, it’s online, it’s do-it-yourself, it’s design, it’s wow, it’s two swipes away.

But does this really ‘move’ people?

The new age of free left-brain digital innovations doesn’t decrease your client’s need to feel special. Or to flee into safety in the face of things that scare him.

It doesn’t diminish his need to feel important or to feel acknowledged. That’s why it’s the right-brain emotional experience that ‘moves’ your client.

Still, the question remains: “What exactly does move people towards you and your financial planning service?”

(and what doesn’t move them in the direction of the online revolutionaries?)

Here are some answers:

It’s the feeling of importanceit’s the feeling of acknowledgment, it’s the feeling of peace of mindit’s the feeling of hopeit’s the feeling of recognitionit’s the feeling of trust, etc.

“I’m not sure there’s any number of Facebook likes that can replace a hug” ~ Seth Godin

And I hear you think … feeling … ok …., but what should I do next? What’s the secret sauce, the magic ingredient, the proverbial golden elixir that ignites that feeling?

(cue drumroll)



Well, not if you read this:

The Most Disastrous Assumption Anyone Can Make about Financial Planning

Empathy isn’t always held in high regard amongst financial planners. It’s often considered a soft-hearted nicety in an industry that demands hard-headed detachment. Most of us believe we:

  • Need to think rationally and logically.
  • Need to strategize, not empathize.
  • Need to prize emotional distance and cool reason.

And it’s not our fault. We are trained to have the ability to step back, assess the situation, and give solid advice, unimpeded by emotion.

And because of this training, we fall victim to the most disastrous assumption anyone can make about financial planning. It’s an assumption made by all left-brain-planners who want to matter to their clients by helping them with their knowledge.

The fatal assumption is: if you understand the left-brain part of financial planning, you understand what matters most to your clients.

The reason that this is fatal, is that it just isn’t true. In fact, I believe it’s the reason why some financial planners are struggling these days.

If you are still under the fatal assumption that you engage your clients just because of your knowledge, experience or your financial plan, you are just wrong.

Because if you understand the left-brain part of your financial planning service, you understand how the technical part of financial planning is done.

That’s the part computers and software can do better than you.

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What Developing Empathy Can Do for Your Financial Planning Service

Empathy isn’t new in our profession.

It’s as old as mankind. But because empathy deals with the right-brain-part of our profession where emotions and “soft skills” are leading, it tends to be shoved into a corner and pulled out only when needed.

Just think about our financial planning education programs and how much of our CFP program contains the behavioral part of financial planning.

Need I say more?

It’s almost as if they say: “It’s not important”.

But here’s the thing: empathy is an everyday-ritual. Because if you listen, you’ll notice our daily language is filled with references to feeling what other people are feeling. References like:

  • Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.
  • See the world through my eyes.
  • Now you know what it feels like.
  • Welcome to my world.

Simply put:

Empathy is the ability to ride in another person’s skin.

Which is something robots, computers, and your digital competitors CAN NOT do.


What Empathy is NOT

Take three minutes and watch this video on the difference between empathy and sympathy by Brené Brown, an American scholar, author and public speaker who is currently a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

It should be clear that empathy isn’t sympathy. Empathy isn’t about “I” or “me”.

You might think that when you talk vividly about financial planning, people automatically feel what you feel about your beautiful profession. That people actually care about financial planning.

That’s YOU thinking.

But any other living creature?

I’m sorry, they don’t care. In fact, they couldn’t care less.

That’s why, before you can even talk about financial planning, you need people’s permission. You see, people are naturally cautious about opening their minds – the most precious thing they own –  to anyone in the financial services industry. You need to find a way to overcome that caution.

And the way you do that is to make visible the human being cowering inside you.

And that’s your #1 advantage over any other digital competitor:

Clicking a website is often a transfer of information. Meeting a financial planner face to face is often a transfer of emotion.

It’s not just the words you say. Not at all.

It’s the person delivering the words.

To make an impact, there has to be a human connection. You can give the most brilliant pitch, with crystal-clear financial explanations and laser-sharp logic, but if you don’t first connect with your audience, it just won’t land.

The Simplest Way to Empathize with Anyone about Financial Planning 

It’s not about how smart you are. It’s not about the professionalism of your financial planning service. And it’s not even about giving clients financial tips about earning more money or saving taxes.

Empathy is the way you make your clients feel.

This doesn’t mean you want them to cry. Or to make them laugh out loud.

The easiest way to empathize with your clients is to let them think about themselves.


Because thinking about themselves makes them feel alive.

You’ve probably felt it, right? You’ve had a conversation with a friend, about something important to you, and your friend asks: “Why is that important to you?”

It gets you to think about your WHY, your inner drive, your reason for doing things. And thinking about what’s important to you makes you feel a little bit different. It makes you feel a little bit ‘special’. It makes you feel a little bit more awake.

Well, great financial planning does that too. It gets people to think about the most important thing in life:


Do you realize how incredibly precious that is?

Because it means you’re not just here to inform. It means you’re not just here to analyze. It means you’re not just here to persuade.

It means that you’re making an impact. Because those conversations with real people can change somebody’s life.

After creating a financial plan for one of my clients, he gave me one of the best ways to define the value of financial planning. This is what he said to me:

I already knew how many assets I have, but now I know how much it’s worth.

The beauty?

I started the financial planning experience by asking him one simple question. I asked him:

What’s important about your assets to you, besides return, risk and costs?

And do you know what happened?

I got him to think. I got him to think about something he never thought of before.

And honestly, I feel better about this type of conversation than any analytical solution I present. I set out to make my client think about their own future, and he did, maybe in the biggest way possible.

The point?

It’s Time to Start Taking Empathy in Your Financial Planning Service Seriously

When you talk with people about their finances, don’t give them just another tip. Don’t tell them just another cute story.

Get them to think about themselves.

Ask questions they’ve never been asked before. Ask questions that get them thinking, even at night.

The effect?

You’ll bring them back to life. Maybe not forever, maybe not even for a day, but for an hour or two. Give them something to think about so that they feel ALIVE.

Do that, and they won’t just move on to another website, an online wealth manager, an online financial planning service.

They’ll go to YOU. They’ll happily pay YOU for your service. They’ll even share YOUR phone number with their friends.

And when they come to you, you’ll show them what you’re capable of by providing your financial planning service in a way no other online service can do. You’ll ask real, meaningful questions again and again and again until they find their spark for good.

From then on, you’ll be their hero. They’ll think about YOU when they think about money and finance. You’ll be, quite literally, their friend in finances.

But the best part?

You’ll Know You Made a Difference

I don’t know about you, but when I pass into the great beyond, I won’t be thinking about the number of financial plans, the assets under management or the money I earned.

I’ll be thinking about people I had great conversations with. People who said nice things about me. People I consider as friends.

Those are the things that matter. Those are the things we are working for. Those are the things we need to build our entire businesses around.

That’s why we’re here. That’s why we matter.

So get to work.

People are waiting for you.

Let’s make financial planning matter,


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If you want to make your financial planning service matter, you might want to sign up for this free email course.

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Leave a Reply 1 comment

Bob Dawson Reply

Hi Ron, great article and a timely reminder to all. Here in Australian we continue to be hammered by Politicians, regulators, you know the things I\’m talking about but the one thing they don\’t get is the fact that we have empathy with our clients and yes Robo advice is not the problem, we just need to be reminded that we are actually quite good with people

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