“What is My Financial Planning Service For? What is My LIFE For?”

Do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to become a financial planner?

Did you consider yourself a helpful person back then?

Yes, you did, didn’t you?

However, was “being helpful” one of the requirements of starting your financial-planning-journey?

Mostly the requirements are like this:

Ambition: If there’s no ambition, there’s no career success. If you want educational attainment, occupational prestige, and high income, ambition is one of the most important requirements of becoming a planner

Technical skills: You need to be smart, analytical and objective. In other words: a super-number-cruncher

Grit: Ambition and technical skills are great, but you can’t quit when the going gets tough if you ever really want to accomplish anything big, like passing your CFP exam. More than 40% routinely fail this rigorous two-day, 10 hour exam. Not you. And that’s perseverance. That’s grit.

Experience: Most financial planners don’t start after they graduated from high school. Simply put: you don’t have the knowledge that’s required for the job at that time in your life. And by the way – in most countries – to get CFP certification, you must have three years of work experience in a financial planning business.

Life experience: The more financial challenges you’ve faced in your own life, the more empathy you will have with your clients.

Sales-skills: “Financial planning is important, but to make a living out of it, you need to sell financial products” is what my boss said a few years ago. Luckily, and to quote Bob Dylan’s famous words, “For the times, they are a-changin

But what about “being helpful”?

I mean, you are a helpful person, right?

But why isn’t this a requirement for a financial planner?

Is Being Helpful Enough?

If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you’ve seen me writing about “being helpful”. And that – for decades – your helpful nature combined with your solid, robust knowledge has been making a the difference that, slowly but surely, pointed our world towards a better future.

That was enough to be successful. However, that was yesterday. When we were living in the information age. Where people didn’t have Google to solve their financial problem. Where there wasn’t an online wealth manager who took care of your investments with a couple of swipes.

Yet, most professionals in the financial services industry are still prone to thinking that the better they get technically, the better they’ll be at helping their clients.

The more the tax lawyer knows about the tax code, the actuary knows about qualified plans, and the financial planner knows about finances, the more clients he will help and also build a successful business.

It turns out that most financial planners still believe they can be most helpful to their clients by building their knowledge.

However, two examples suggest this simply is not true. And a third and fourth seems to prove it.

1. The American Courtroom

Brilliant lawyers with a thorough grasp of the law drone on as judges watch the clocks and jurors nod. The lawyers are trying to sell their technical excellence, but their audience – the people who decide whether the lawyer will win or lose – want something else.

Take a look at this:

2. The Practice of Medicine

In a remarkably short time, medical science has found cures for the plague, tuberculosis, and smallpox. Anyone with a fatally defective heart can now buy a new one. It turns out that the medical industry has become technically more competent and expert. The industry clearly has become much better at delivering the expert part of its service.

Yet, 37 percent of people say doctors lack a genuine interest in their patients.


Doctors believe that technical proficiency is the measure of their worth. But, apparently, patients don’t.

3. Goldman Sachs

In the Goldman Sachs Report The Coming Evolution of the Money Management Industry the firm confessed that the real business of money management is not skillfully managing money.

This doesn’t mean that Goldman Sachs is ignoring their client’s insistence on performance. Not at all. When asked to rank the most important criteria for choosing an investment firm, clients consistently put return on investment – the best evidence of technical proficiency in investing – below trust and other “relationship issues”.

In one survey, clients rated track record ninth out of seventeen attributes, rating it below “a sincere desire for a long-term relationship,” among other seemingly right-brain criteria.

4. What Matters Most

This picture shows the answer to the following question: “What Are The Qualities of Your Financial Advisor That Are Most Important To You”.

It’s part of a client experience survey (white paper) that is powered by Beddoes Institute’s Leading Practices Program (Australia)

So, financial planner, what does this tell you?

It turns out that people don’t buy how good you are at what you do. They buy who you are and why you do it

Here’s some inspiration:

Who is Martin Luther King? He’s the one who wanted peace for both white and black people

Who is Steve Jobs?  He’s the one who wanted people to challenge the status quo

Who is Michael Jackson? He’s the one who wanted to bring joy and happiness through his music

Who is Sam Walton? He’s the one who wanted people to save money to help them live better

Who is John F. Kennedy? He’s the one who wanted to send an American to the moon

Now, I don’t expect you to become as famous as these extraordinary people, but have you ever thought about this question:

Who Are You and Why Do You Do What You Do?

Don’t you agree this is a tough question to answer? And aren’t you at least a bit sceptical about this? You might think, “does my WHY, my purpose, really matter to my clients?”

And if it does, “How (in the world) do I maximize “purpose” as a financial planner?”

Well, there is an increasing amount of research on this topic which proves it matters and which I’ll be showing you in a minute.

However, there is one big hurdle we have to take first. Because most of what we understand about purpose comes from Hollywood.

Yep, Hollywood…


You see, most of the stories we’ve seen on the big screen show us a romanticized view of the role of purpose in our work. They build myths about purpose that actually make it harder for us to focus on what matters.

So, let’s clarify this before we move on.

Here Are 4 Myths About Purpose

Via The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World:

Myth nr. 1: Purpose = Cause

Many of us who are looking for a cause think we have to find our one true calling. We want to know that our mission is to help save one-legged kittens or find a cure for cancer. Hollywood stars help popularize this notion. Think of it:

George Clooney – Darfur

Brad Pitt – New Orleans

Matt Damon – Water

Angelina Jolie – Refugees


And also non-Hollywood stars:

Al Gore – Environment

Jimmy Carter – Habitat for Humanity

For the rest of mankind, seeking our purpose is about finding a direction, not a destination. That is, purpose is a verb, not a noun. We may never find one true calling, but we can find our purpose, which can help us have much more meaningful careers and lives.

Purpose isn’t a cause. It’s an approach to work and serving others

Myth nr. 2: Purpose = Luxury

Why do the poorest Americans donate 3.2 percent of their income to charity?

And why do the wealthy donate only 1.3 percent?

Arguably, the most famous advocate for purpose in history is Viktor Frankl, who wrote about the importance and presence of purpose in Nazi concentration camps, where he lived during the Holocaust. He found that purpose was key to his survival.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way ~ Viktor Frankl

It turns out that in many ways, the prioritization of purpose is inversely correlated with wealth.

Purpose is a universal need, not a luxury for those with financial wealth

Myth nr. 3: Purpose = Revelation


Batman saw his parents murdered, and it became his purpose to fight crime in Gotham City.

Superman discovered that his people were wiped out because of civil war and found his purpose in fostering peace and civility.

But the reality is that this is not how it usually happens for us.

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us,” Marcel Prous famously observed.

Most of us will work 45 to 50 years. We have so many opportunities to make our financial planning business one that best suits our perspective on the world and the way we most enjoy contributing. Therefore, now might be the right time to re-invent your financial planning service.

⇒ Purpose is a journey. It doesn’t come as a revelation from above, but from living life awake and seeking new experiences

Myth nr. 4: Purpose = Easy

Running a marathon hurts.

And yet, completing a marathon is something that many report as being incredibly meaningful. It pushes runners to their limits, both physically and emotionally. Professional athletes make it look so easy. When we catch them, they appear natural and effortless. In reality, athletes work incredibly hard and endure tremendous pain to be successful. As fans, we rarely witness the injuries or watch the thousands of hours of monotonous practice.

Winning the race or game is amazing, but satisfaction stems from deep investment.

The same holds true of doing work where we are experiencing high levels of purpose.

Again, as Viktor Frankl also said:

Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain, but rather to see a meaning in his life ~ Viktor Frankl

As I see it, our financial planning services don’t free us from working hard and being challenged. They will actually inspire and drive you to push yourself further out of your comfort zone. The falls will be harder, but the wins will also feel so much better.

⇒ Purpose requires giving of yourself

And I hear you think:

But How About Sales Ronald? Does a Purposeful Financial Planning Service Pay Off?

Oh yeah.

It turns out that purpose is a performance enhancer when it comes to sales.

Via To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others:

In 2008, professor Adam Grant carried out a study of a call center at a major U.S. university. Each night, employees made phone calls to alumni to raise money for the school. Grant randomly organized the fund-raisers into three groups. Then he arranged their work conditions to be identical – except for the five minutes prior to their shift.

For two consecutive nights, one group read stories from people who’d previously worked in the call center, explaining that the job had taught them useful sales skills. This was the “personal benefit group”.

Another, “the purpose group” read stories from university alumni who’d received scholarships funded by the money this call center had raised describing how those scholarships had helped them.

The third collection of callers was “the control group”, who read stories that had nothing to do with either personal benefit or purpose.

After the reading exercise, the workers hit the phones, cautioned not to mention the stories they’d just read to the people they were trying to persuade to donate money.

A few weeks later, Grant looked at their sales numbers. The “personal benefit” and “control” group secured about the same number of pledges and raised about the same amount of money as they had in the period before. But the people in “the purpose group” kicked into overdrive.

They more than doubled “the number of weekly pledges that they earned and the amount of weekly donation money they raised.”

Financial planners, take note.

This five-minute reading exercise more than doubled production. The stories not only made the work personal, their contents made it purposeful. 

So what if you go back to those days when you started your financial planning career. When you were eager to help your clients. It must have been for a very particular reason.

Think back and rediscover your WHY.

Because, your WHY matters. In fact, it’s the lifeblood of your financial planning service. And I’ll bet your purpose, your WHY, is all about improving your clients life and, in turn, improving the world while living a purposeful and prosperous life for yourself.

And if it’s difficult to find out your true WHY, here’s some help. Just answer these two questions that’s at the core of your financial planning service:

1. If your client agrees to buy your financial planning service, will his or her life improve?

2. When the interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began?

If the answer to these questions is “YES”, the sky is the limit.

Let’s make financial planning matter.



Leave a Reply 7 comments

financial advisor salary seattle Reply

Which schools offer the degree amount that is desired?

Stephen Buckle Reply

Fantastic article Ronald! Excellent read.

    Ronald Sier Reply

    That\’s great to read Stephen!

Martyn Green Reply

Ronald, This is the best article you have ever written! Thank you!

Carien Jutting Reply

Very well said. When I opened my own practice in 1990 there was a BIG purpose and that was to make the subject of personal finance something one could understand and relate to how important it is in their life skills repertoire. With most of us in Canada responsible for our financial futures on our own having a good coach to learn from and monitor the progress over time creates the security of knowing that goals can be accomplished no matter how big or small.

    Ronald Sier Reply

    WOW, that\’s a very clear purpose. Hope you\’re still living it Carien

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