Why 97% of Your Clients Don’t Have Financial Goals and What to Do About It


There’s a myth about the success of setting goals.

The myth says that back in 1953, Harvard University conducted a study on the graduating class. They discovered that only 3% of the graduating seniors had definite predetermined objectives.

Twenty years later they did another survey of those same people, and of the 3% that had set those goals and committed them to paper and had made a commitment, they had accomplished more in their lives than the 97% who had not written it down.

However, there seems to be evidence that this myth isn’t true.

Now, you can call me pigheaded, but I strongly believe that this myth most certainly is true. Here’s why:

  • In my career as a financial planner there hasn’t been one single client who has come to me and said: “Ronald, you’ve got to help me with my financial goals”
  • When asking clients about what their financial goal is, the most heard reaction is: “What do you mean Ronald?”
  • When asking what clients would write down if they had to put their financial goals on paper, the most heard reaction is: “Can you help me, Ronald?”

Do you recognize this? If you do, please read further.

Now, I believe in goals. Although setting goals is almost a guarantee for more success, 97% of the American people have never set any (financial) goals in a proper way.

When you think of successful people from all over the world, they have one thing in common: THEY HAVE GOALS

– Martin Luther King wanted peace for both whites and blacks

– Steve Jobs wanted people to challenge the status quo

– Michael Jackson wanted to bring joy and happiness through his music

– Sam Walton wanted people to save money to help them live better

– John F. Kennedy wanted to send an American to the moon

And the list goes on and on.

“A man or woman without a goal is like a ship without a rudder. Each will drift and not drive. Each will end up on the beaches of despair, defeat, and despondency”

Still, 97% of all people don’t set (financial) goals. Why is that?

Why 97% Of Your Clients Don’t Have Financial Goals

There are 3 basic reasons that your clients don’t have goals:

1. Your clients have never been sold on goals. Told, yes. Sold, no

Suppose you were to receive a phone call tomorrow from an old and respected friend who says: “Friend, I have got good news for you. You can take a three-day trip to Hawaii with our group and it won’t cost you anything. We leave tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. and we have room for two more people. We go there with a private jet and we will stay at a villa at the beach”.

You tell your friend you don’t know if you can make it. But the minute you hang up you and your wife start thinking and planning. Out comes pen and paper and you commit to writing all the things you must get done. Next, you list them in order of importance. Finally, you delegate some of the responsibilities to others.

Then, you call your friend back and say:”Hey, I’ve been checking my schedule, and we can make it to the trip”.

Do you notice that with a destination in mind you would do more in 24 hours than you normally do in days or even weeks?

Why? Because you love the goal. Your friend has sold you the goal and you went for it.

2. Your clients don’t know how to set goals

Do you have those clients who think they have a goal? They focus on ‘the number’.

The number is a meaningless moving target.

Can you imagine when your client tells you that his ‘number’ is $2.000.000. And when he gets there, he’ll say: “Oh, I guess that number doesn’t really make me feel like I’m there. I think it’s really $5.000.000 that would have me feeling okay”.

The feeling of security or knowing that we’ll be okay isn’t typically related to the number. But rather our beliefs about what ‘okay’ is.

3. Your client fears he won’t reach his goal

Why does a ship sail? It’s safer in the harbor, right? Why does a plane fly? It’s safer on the ground, right?

Why does your client set goals? It’s safer not to, right?

Something bad might happen. The ship might sink, the plane might crush and your client might have to admit to himself he was wrong. Wrong about himself.

If your client doesn’t make it, he will have the built-in explanation that he didn’t really fail because he never set those goals.

But: if the ship does not sail, it would become unseaworthy even faster in the harbor. The plane would rust much faster on the ground.

Yes, there is danger in setting financial goals but the risk is infinitely greater when your client doesn’t set goals. The reason is simple. Just as ships are meant to sail, planes are meant to fly, people are meant to matter.

Your client has a purpose. Your client wants meaning in his life. It’s your job to make your client’s life meaningful.

What To Do About It

There are 3 things that you can do to let your clients make their goals and believe in their goals.

1. Do not sell financial goals

Almost every (potential) client you service or are going to service does not have a financial goal. Then why are you selling financial goals?

Almost every financial planner puts on his website, advertises in brochures or says in meetings with his clients something like this: “We help you to achieve your financial goals”

But do you think this resonates with your client, knowing that 97% of all people don’t even have a financial goal?

Of course, the real thing is, that when you do your job well as a financial planner, your client most certainly will have a financial goal. To help your client at best, you must get his goal very clear.

But remember: your client NEVER uses the term ‘financial goal’.

If you do use this term, you’ll leave your client behind with question marks. That’s why you don’t want ‘to sell financial goals’.

2. Sell a story

Sell what your clients want. What does your client want? What you’re selling is great when it makes your client think or say: “I love this”. Remember the trip to Hawaii.

But what does your client really love?

Your client loves himself. Your client loves the memory of how it makes him feel.

When that old respected friend calls you for the trip to Hawaii, you immediatly see yourself lying on the beach, with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. With your favorite drink in one hand and the book you always wanted to read in the other hand.

So what you should do is to give your client a story that taps into his emotional right hemisphere. And which makes him feel great.

Now that’s a goal your client will remember.

“When you know where you’re going, you’re half way there”

3. Ask the right questions

Don’t ask: What’s your goal?

Ask: What’s important to you?

Don’t ask: What do you want to do with your money?

Ask: How do you want to feel about your money?

Don’t ask: How do you want to invest your money?

Ask: How are you making sure that you’ll get that feeling?

Don’t say: With this product you’ll reach your goals.

Ask: What can I do to get you there?

I’m truly happy that I found my goal. My goal is To Make Financial Planning Matter.

I’m very curious what your goal is. Wouldn’t it be inspiring if we could all share our goals and motivate each other? So that maybe we’ll get a better perspective and gain insights? So would you be so kind to answer the following question?

What is or are your goal(s)?

Please, leave your answer here below in the comment field. Thank you very much.

Let’s make financial planning matter.

To your success,

Ronald Sier


Leave a Reply 16 comments

Bill Mullen Reply

I just posted a blog that told a story about a couple who reached their RMD ages here in the state and were facing a a big income tax problem

Mindvalley Academy Reply

Thanks for sharing this information. It is a useful information. This is a nice and good blog.

James Valente Reply

Super helpful!!!! Thanks for the advice.

Karen Reply

I am using your article to help my children (new college grads) increase their personal financial knowledge. Thanks!!

how to invest in gold stocks Reply

We are a bunch of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
Your web site offered us with helpful information to work on.
You\’ve done a formidable job and our entire community will likely be thankful
to you.

Brian Reply

A Good book to read on Goals and Desires is \” Surprised by Serenity\” by Randy Marshall and Zack Miller. My \”Desire\” is to Travel in my truck/trailer combo with my motorcycle in the back and spend a couple of months at a time in areas I want to ride around the country. Chase the sun so to speak. My Goals are the things I can control that will help make my Desires come true.
Believe me. I am not trying to point fault here, or act like someone with training in these fields. You mentioned gaining perspective and in sight and it helps me understand more about what is in my control when it comes to Goals and Desires.

financial planner Reply

Pretty! This was a really wonderful article. Many thanks for supplying this information.

Heidi Reply

Thank you for your insight Ronald. This is the direction I would like to take with my client\’s as it seems the best way to build and maintain a long term relationship and emphasise the benefits of Financial Planning rather than people coming to us when they have a specific requirement.

Bhupendra Kr Srivastava Reply

Thanx Ronald for a nice article. Your tips are really applicable to prospects

Sukhvinder Sidhu Reply

Thanks Ronald for the excellent thoughts!

These convey, I feel, a different, nicer and easier route to reach the psyche of people to make them own financial planning in life.

I am presently striving in this direction, and I feel these will help me greatly in correcting my strategy to better reach out to people.

bal sachin gupta Reply

Excellent article

    Angela Romano Reply

    Thank you Ronald, this article is awesome.

Rutvij Reply

Dear Mr. Ronald. I am in India, where actual financial planning practice is very limited.
Financial literacy level in India is improving but still it\’s at nascent stage – specially middle income group (HNIs and U-HNIs understands important of financial planning).
The biggest problem we face here in India is trust and long term relationship, where financial planning literacy is very less. How to make people aware about the importance of financial planning – especially in India where people are close minded regarding money matters?

    Ronald Sier Reply

    Dear Rutvij, thank you very much for your comment. In general I believe that financial planners are selling their service in a way that is mostly not attractive to clients. When I ask people: \”Do you know what financial planning is?\”, I get a different answer every time. When you say that people in India are close minded regarding money, you don\’t want to \’sell\’ money matters. You sell what clients want. As I wrote earlier I believe that people are searching more and more for meaning in their lives. People don\’t want to be a \’Wandering Generality\’. They want to be a \’Meaningful Specific\’. When you help people to give their money \’a reason\’ you\’ll see that they become unexpectedly enthousiastic about you. You see, there\’s almost no one who tries to sell them meaning. Which makes you not only unique but also highly referrable. Hope this helps a bit Rutvij. If not, please do not hesitate to specify your problem more specific. Have a nice weekend.

      Eduardo S. Tenorlas, CLU Reply

      My education and experience are people are responsive when you navigate a plan on how to become financially well, The salesman code is A.I.D.A.

Dave Rae Reply

Great post Ronald!

I start my conversations not with \”what are your goals?\” but what\’s important to you?\”. This blog post I wrote has been helpful for other adviser\’s to start looking at it this way too:


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