Here’s A Remarkable Secret About How Financial Planners Move People To Think Long-Term And Decrease “The Instant-Gratification-Problem”


Imagine yourself buying something from the internet. How long do you want to wait before enjoying your purchase?

A day, an hour, a minute, a second?

Now, imagine your client buying your financial planning service. How long does your client want to wait before enjoying the benefits of reaching his goals?

Half a century, 25 years, a decade?

In today’s instant-gratification-world, it takes a behavioral shift to move your clients to think about their future.

So, how do you do that?

Around the world, but especially in the United States, the number of individuals who haven’t made adequate preparations for their golden years, stands somewhere between grim and alarming. About half of U.S. households are financially unprepared for their breadwinners to retire at age sixty-five.

It’s not entirely our fault. Partly because our brains evolve at a time when the future itself was perilous, we human beings are notoriously bad at wrapping our minds around far-off events.

Our biases point us toward the present.

A Not So Adequate Solution

So when given a choice between an immediate reward (say, $1.000 right now) and a reward we have to wait for ($1.150 in two years), we’ll often take the former. Even when it’s in our own interest to choose the latter.

Policy makers and social scientists have devised a few left-brain methods to help us overcome our weakness. Such as automatically deducting a set of amount from every paycheck and funnel it into our retirement account. Or to make our choices and consequences more concrete. For example, by reminding ourselves that the $1.150 we’ll get in two years could be a down payment on a new car to replace our current one, which probably won’t last much beyond twenty-four months.

The Road To The Solution

As Dan Pink points out in his latest bestseller To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others (a must-read), the barrier to moving people to save for retirement might be something else altogether. Pink describes a series of studies to test a different hypothesis. In one experiment, participants wore a virtual headset. Half of the participants saw a digital representation of themselves – an avatar – for about a minute and then had a brief conversation with a digital representation of a researcher.

The other half also saw an avatar of themselves through the headset. But for this group, researchers used a computer software package that ages faces to create an avatar that showed what the participant would like at age seventy. This group gazed at the seventy-year-old version of themselves for about a minute and then had the same brief conversation with the researcher’s avatar.

Afterward, the experimenters gave both groups a money allocation task. Imagine, they told the participants, that you’ve just received an unexpected $1.000. How would you allocate the money among the following four options?

  • Use it to buy something nice for someone special
  • Invest it in a retirement fund
  • Plan a fun and extravagant occasion
  • Put it in a checking account

Those who saw images of their current selves directed an average of $80 into the retirement account.

Those who saw images of their future selves allocated more than twice that amount – $172.

To determine more precisely what was driving the discrepancy in response – whether it was the sight of their own aging face or the reminder of aging in general –  the researchers tried a similar experiment with a different set of participants. This time, half the participants saw an age-morphed image of themselves and half saw an age-morphed image of someone else.

The results weren’t even close.

Those who saw the image of themselves at age seventy saved more than those who’d simply seen a picture of a seventy-year-old.

The Remarkable Solution

The problem we have saving for retirement, these studies showed, isn’t only our meager ability to weigh present rewards against future ones. It is also the connection – or rather, the disconnection – between our present and future selves.

Envisioning ourselves far into the future is extremely difficult – so difficult, in fact, that we often think of that future self as an entirely different person.

To people estranged from their future selves, saving is like a choice between spending money today and giving it to a stranger years from now

What financial planners can learn from this, is that trying to solve an existing problem – getting people to better balance short-term and long-term rewards – is insufficient, because it isn’t the problem that most needs solving.

The researchers identified a new problem: people think of themselves today and themselves in the future as different people.

The solution to this turned out to be quite remarkable: show people an image of themselves getting old. 

The effect of this remarkable solution – and actually a funny experience – is, that it encourages people to save more money for retirement. Bank of America is using this technique in a brilliant way. I advise you to check this.

It’s cool, funny, and it’s moving people.

Although the web has some other amazing options to make yourself or your client look old, it can be quite difficult to make it a part of your financial planning process.

That’s why you’d might consider another approach, which is described by Susie Munro from Sixpence Media in this great article. Susie explains that images that represent goals

  • … forces people to become very clear about what they really want to achieve
  • … paints a picture of a better reality
  • … will emotionally involve people with their goals

This conceptual shift means a new approach to matter, and to move your clients. It’s the capacity to appeal to your clients with a more visual and right-brain approach. It helps your clients to see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways.

Which makes your service far more valuable and unique.

I have a gift for you which helps you to matter and to move your clients. It’s a free PDF about How To Move People With Two Simple Questions

If you want to receive this highly relevant technique – which you’ll most certainly use (really, it’s powerful stuff) in your financial planning practice – all you need to do is to answer this simple question:

What is the biggest problem your clients have with your financial planning service?

Please, leave your answer – below – in the comment field.

You’ll receive the free PDF which shows you How To Move People With Two Simple Questions

To Your Success,


If you don’t want to miss the next tip to Make Your Financial Planning Business Matter, then please fill in the boxes below and click.


Leave a Reply 81 comments

Rutvij Reply

Sharing Financial Information.

Marion Reply

convince them more effectively

Louise Reply

Loved the Merrill Edge link – how do we help our clients look forward

Craig Grover Reply

There is too much of a connection between fees and investment results. I need to develop a client experience that removes that focus

Martin Reply

I think it\’s very difficult to understand that long time is friend.

David Reply

Differentiating value from cost, and having the confidence to have a niche target market.

Scott Reply

getting prospects to see into the future enough to want to plan for the future.

Mark Reply

The client doesn\’t understand the value of advice and doesn\’t place enough importance on their financial future.

Taiya Reply

They want to get to the investment management real quick while I want them to slow down and plan first.

greg Reply

talking too much and listening too little

Jamie Reply

Having prospects commit to making changes now, which will help them in the future.

Ben Reply

Sometimes too technical

Mark Reply

Understanding the importance of planning for the future and understanding the value of financial planning.

Rob Reply

How do you make people that don\’t feel anything is important to become enthused about it?
I work with a largely older client base….

Frank Reply

Taking an holistic view and being willing to spend the requisite time and money to sort their hopes, dreams and affairs. People tend to want a quick fix at low cost.

Rajendra Reply

The biggest challenge to make people get hoing for financial b planning is to make them viaualise and realise tomorrows impending challenges and keeping the same grilled in.

Aaron Reply

Hung up on the cost and how long it will take to go through the process.

Mike Reply

Lack of focus. I present a plan and a year later they have done only some of the necessary steps they agreed to take to achieve their goals. I obviously need to approach things more like you suggest.

Gen Reply

They are tooo busy

Sandra Reply

Commitment to focus on the future and plan ahead, as they are too busy and focussed on the now of life and money.

By not focussing on the future, they don\’t see the value in our service

Terry May Reply

We don\’t do traditional planning, we don\’t teach accumulation strategies, we teach velocity of Money strategies, ways to create a multiplier effect with money like the banking industry does, actually using the same products they do. The traditional thought process has been so ingrained into peoples mind that it is hard to overcome, all they hear every minute of every day is max out your 401k, start and IRA, pay off your house and other accumulation strategies, all of which shift control to financial entities and transfers the clients wealth to others and out of their control. The institutions make more money than the consumer, then the government steps in to finish them off with taxes! What a great plan! Our primary job is to convince them that economics is the level playing field for them, they can do what the financial institutions can do and do it better with more control over they money and their lives. That is what is difficult….changing their paradigm!

Marc Reply

Add visuals

lilibeth viaplana Reply

length of time

Andrea Jenkins Reply

Keeping clients looking at the long term and not focusing on short term fluctuations, in their job, in the market, in everything.

bill Reply

My clients don\’t have a problem however converting prospects to clients the is a gap…prospects that have been difficult for me are typically disorganized, when we do our fact finding and data gathering they are a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information we request., which can slow or halt the process completely.

mark Reply

Letting their pre-conceptions cloud their judgement/understanding and being too afraid to ask when they don\’t understand….and instead pretending/lying to themselves/lying to the adviser that they do understand.

Derek Reply

Hectic schedules. Current priorities always trump future planning.

Scott Reply

Understanding the value associated with planning now for the future. Today\’s instant gratification, instant communication and the higher standard of living often required to keep up with the Joneses means clients are maxing out the present and assuming they can live off capital gains, increased incomes or whatever the future they perceive holds for them. Hoping, rather than planning.

BeauI Reply

Prospects choose not to find the time to have a deep conversation about creating a plan. I haven\’t found a method that convinces them, in less than 30 seconds, to at least sit for the conversation.

Andrew Reply

For my potential clients to become aware of me

Stephen Carpenter Reply

To act now, when the need is so far in the distance i.e. procrastination

Paul Birch Reply

Price normally, and also them wanting to do it themselves.

Jeff Lido Reply

Great info, thank you!

The biggest challenge is getting people to realize that they need a plan today in order to reach their tomorrow. That and knowing what their financial goals are and how to reach them.

Joan Birdsell Reply

My biggest problem is getting clients to put more than the standard IRA $5K into their retirement planning. Somehow they think saving just $5K a year is all they need to do and things will be fine. Most are shocked when I talk about 10-15% of their current income.

Ray F Reply

Having my clients realize the value I provide.

David Engle Reply

I feel that my clients are able to see the value in my services, however it is a big commitment for someone to make to work through a full financial plan. I have broken it up into multiple meetings to make the process easier, however it can feel like pulling teeth to get someone to finish the process. Maybe someone has ideas of how I can help to fix this.

Ben Reply

The biggest challenge is convincing clients of the value of seeking advice now when the upside for them is in the future (as your article describes) – most accept that they should be doing something but there is poor correlation between that and actually taking action.

Robert Wander Reply

The biggest challenge is getting clients to follow through on my recommendations, even if they have the best of intentions

Monica Reply

To see the value in the relationship when little financial planning is needed.

David Reply

The cost, and making it a priority to get a comprehensive plan completed in a timely manner.

Sarah Reply

Having created an Estate Plan which they are entirely happy with but then inertia to actually take the recommended steps

Dougal Reply

I think clients have trouble quantifying the value they get from the advice process, so tend to balk at the cost.

I also think clients are not educated enough in terms of passive income generation. That is, they were raised and educated to be workers (remunerated for time and effort) and property investors – for example, hands up who were told \”do your school work well, so you can get a good job\” and then \”get a good job and save to buy a house\”. How many of you were told \”invest wisely, so you are less reliant on your job for financial security\”?

Tim Reply

1) People percieve CFP\’s as a more expensive stock broker, insurance agent or investment advisor at the bank. Why should they pay an additional fee for a comprehensive plan when they pay ana annual asset managment fee already?

2) People don\’t have enough assets to make a difference anyway. Some people just barely have enough to retire.

Dean Reply

The time it takes for the client to gather their information.

Michel Metten Reply

the information they have to give, due to all regulations, made to \”protect\” clients.

Gregg Taffs Reply

Presenting the solutions in a meaningful and interesting way whilst covering all of the compliance requirements and not sending my clients to sleep!

Steven Reply

showing urgency of financial products and getting commitment in the long run

Craig Reply

Clients sometimes struggle with understanding the value of the less tangible aspects of paying for have an adviser guide them each and every year.

Gardner Sherrill Reply

Most of my clients are retired and are just looking to maintain lifestyle. And minimize risk. They value my asset management but often see financial planning as unnecessary.

Ayush bhargava Reply

Staying Focused,
regular updates and most important \”Time\”

Madhu Chaudhuri Reply

The clients think its not that complicated to save costs they want to do it themselves, and of course mort of them are not disciplined to carry it through and measure output regularly

Claudia Reply

The amount of compliance paperwork that needs to be explained and signed and understanding the value of my service.

Steve Smith Reply

My clients don\’t have any problems with my financial planning service. Prospects? Now that\’s another matter.

Francis Klonowski Reply

Understanding it sufficiently to see it through after the meeting : they often say it\’s all clear while I\’m with them, and then afterwards it\’s not so clear. Probably my fault for not having quick or adequate follow-up reminders of the discussion.

Blake Reply

Time and cost would be two very common \”problems\” or \”excuses\” clients give.

Mohamad Hijazi Reply

The discipline to keep up with their financial planning. Be it for their premium payments or the discipline to wait out the term of the plans.

Andrew Reply

Staying disciplined and committed.

Tyler Reply

Discipline in saving!

mike Reply

They live most of the time in the past or there is currently no time for talking about the future. ..but next year for sure; )

Eric Reply

The time needed to invest in the planning process.

David Reply

Understanding that they need to allocate sufficient time as well as money to ensure that the plan is entirely relevant to them and will give them the guidelines to achieve their lifestyle desires.

Ben Reply

Our biggest challenge is getting clients to fully open up to us and share their goals and dreams. Once we make that vital connection with them, though, we find that they become some of the happiest customers as we walk in step with them towards their goals.

Michael Reply

Dealing with future uncertainty as to the economy or taxes.

Richard Reply


John Reply

Understanding my it is important for us to know who they are (Myers-Briggs, Financial Insights, Experience Identifer) and more importantly for them to understand who they are in order to self-identify those areas of their life (and consequently, the financail resources that need to be applied to these areas) before simply trotting out all the fiancial products that they think they need or want.

Gillian Reply

1. Too long
2. I need to save up for something in the near future.
3. I rather invest

Goldie Reply

How to get and keep their attention.

Glenn Reply

Belief and faith in changing the way they think about money …

Martyn Reply

Hi Ronald, Great article! To be honest I feel that a lot of the time we put barriers into our own minds about how our clients interact and react with us. For years I didnt feel that my clients would want to pay me a monthly reatiner and that I may lose some of them just by asking. But when I mad e a conscious decision that this was the way forward I had no difficulties at all. In fact clients now understand the value that I bring to them even more.

Bill Cummings Reply

Most potential clients do not know the differnce between a stock broker, inurance agent, money manager or financial planner. We have to educate them on the differences.

Brian Reply

same as most others. They can\’t find the time needed because other things are happening now and therefore, to them, more important

Giorgio/Italy Reply

I am a fee-only since 14 years so I don\’t perceive any client\’s problem about the cost of the service : I believe that the main problem the (new) clients have is that they are not educated to planning…but this is an opportunity for those Professionals that, instead, offer Planning as their main service ..they have the opportunity to show a different approach, to show the \”difference\” and to hearten the clients to think about the \”sense\” of their money and the \”sense\” of their debts …if we don\’t talk about their money and focus their (and our) attention on their life, things change and they are open to share goals, fears and project. Perhaps, sometimes, we, as professionals , are the first to have a Problem with our plan ..if we don\’t think that a plan is a benefit it is difficult we are able to convince clients that it is a benefit for them.

Steve Reply

The biggest problem my clients have with my financial planning service is all of the compliance \’gumpf\’ that I have to give them. It is boring, totally confusing and for the benefit of others.

Katia Reply

Biggest problem :
It takes a lot of time to do a proper financial plan

    Hevania Reply

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Joe Reply

The perceived cost

Mark Reply

Intellectually people know they need a plan, and in most cases will take the time to do one. However, people don\’t live their lives according to a plan and they don\’t referenece a plan before they make a decision because they are not programmed that way. I have found thatbit is difficult to get people to evaluate the benefits and consequences of their financial action before making a decision.

Justin Reply

Great post Ronald,

I think there is a perception that advice is expensive as the client don\’t see the value immediately. Also, it is difficult to quantify the value of the advice when it often about lifestyle choices and planning for the future. Clients understand the value of something when they get immediate gratification. So, as you highlight, clients have difficulty visioning their future self and so why would you pay for something that you cant vision? I specialise in the at retirement market where clients seem to have less difficulty in seeing what the next 20 years looks like.

Andrew Reply

The raft of paperwork and addtional information we now have to provide them with due to more stringent regulation and compliance.

Marsha Odor Reply

I work with educators in the 403b market. Teachers have many demands placed upon them from teaching and family. They often look at financial planning as something they \”need to get to\” when they have taken care of other priorities. It is simply less important than taking care of the pressing issues of today.

andrew Reply

The cost of the service and relating this to value to them

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