Could it Be That Meaning is The New Money For Financial Planners?

Here’s a short story that seems to have nothing to do with financial planning (but it does).

Imagine Bob Lutz.

Bob Lutz?

He’s the former CEO of General Motors.

Bob is not the artsy-fartsy kind of guy. He looks and acts like a marine, which he once was. He smokes cigars. He flies his plane. He once said that global warming was a myth, peddled by the environmental movement.

But when the New York Times asked him about how his approach would differ from his predecessors at the time he started as a CEO at GM, here’s how he responded:

It’s more right-brain. I see it as being in the art business. Art, entertainment and mobile sculpture which also happens to provide transportation.”

Let this think about this for a moment. General Motors, an exemplar of not even of the information age but of the industrial age says it’s in the art business … 

The art business…..?

And the person leading GM into this right-brain world isn’t some artist but a piss and vinegar former marine.

Where does this come from?

I’m going to be straightforward with you: this is a long article. That’s why I’m giving you the answer to the headline of this article right away. So that you can decide if it’s interesting enough to continue reading.

Question: Why is meaning the new money for financial planners?

Answer: Because the largest part of a financial planner’s target audience is searching for meaning in his life.  


Then please, read the whole article.

In his (highly recommended) best-selling book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Daniel Pink argues that one of the reasons that right brain thinking will evolve is that people search for meaning in their lives.

Pink argues that when people mature, they develop a sharpened sense of reality, increased capacity for emotion and enhancement of the sense of connectedness. In other words, as people age, they place greater emphasis in their own lives on qualities they might have neglected in a rush to build careers and raise families.

Such as purpose, intrinsic motivation, and meaning.

You’ll find the fundament for this conclusion in another bestselling book by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. According to Pink, one of the most powerful and enduring works of the last century. Frankl argues that the search for meaning is a drive that exists in all of us. It’s a combination of internal and external circumstances which bring meaning to the surface.

Internal circumstances

Can you imagine finding meaning in your life while being transported to the concentration camp of Auschwitz?

Do you? Even if you experience crushing labor, sadistic guards and rotten food?

Still do? What if your wife, your brother, your father and your mother were killed in this concentration camp?

Author and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl did. He wrote a masterpiece about it called Man’s Search for Meaning. During his time in Auschwitz and later Dakau he managed to keep notes to pursue his goal: the developing of his theory of psychological well-being.

Drawing on his own experiences in the camps as well as the experiences and mental states of his fellow prisoners, Frankl developed the theory which he began before his arrest. He argues that man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. Our fundamental drive, the motivational engine that powers human existence is the pursuit of meaning.

Frankl managed to find meaning and purpose even in the unimaginable setting of a concentration camp. He demonstrates that meaning is possible in spite of suffering. Indeed that meaning can sometimes grow from suffering. But he also emphasizes that suffering is not a prerequisite to finding meaning.

If Frankl and his fellow prisoners could pursue meaning from the work camps of Auschwitz, can you imagine how we can pursue meaning from the comfort of our abundant lives?

(By the way, are you still reading? I will come to the point in a minute)

External circumstances

Also, external circumstances will bring meaning to the surface. In the early years of the 21st century, several forces have gathered to create the circumstances for the pursuit of meaning on a scale never before imagined.


while poverty and other social problems persist, most people in the advanced world have been releaved from true suffering.

We now live in an era of abundance with standards of living unmatched in the history of the world. Free from the struggle to survive we have the luxury of devoting our lives to the search for meaning. As said, if even Viktor Frankl knew how to give meaning to his life in Auschwitz, what would happen now as we live in an age of abundance?


in 2000 the researchers Paul Ray and Shary Ruth Anderson identified babyboomers as the ‘subculture’ of 50 million Americans that they called ‘cultural creatives.’

This subculture accounts for 25% of US adults. A population roughly the size of France. These people have a right-brain approach to life. For instance: cultural creatives insist on seeing the big picture, Ray and Anderson wrote. Also taking the viewpoint of the one who speaks and stories as an important way of learning is an example of right-brain thinking this group embraces.

A big part of this group is the baby-boom generation who are reaching a demographic milestone. They realize that they have more of their lives behind them than ahead of them. After decades of pursuing riches, wealth seems less alluring and meaning becomes far more important in their lives.


there is the continuous threat of terrorism which offers a reminder of life’s fleetingness and raising questi0ns of its purpose.


the economic crises offer a reminder of wealth’s fleetingness and raising the question of its purpose.


as I wrote earlier, technology continues its unrelenting march. Overwhelming us with data and choking us with choices. When every bit of information and service is two clicks away, meaning isn’t a commodity but a differentiator.

All these forces have gathered into a perfect storm of circumstances that are making the search for meaning more possible. Which means that for baby boomers and for many others – in the new age – meaning is the new money.

What does this mean for the financial planner?

Remember Bob Lutz. Who could ever imagine that he – of all people – would be a thought leader of right brain thinking?

With all these gathered forces in mind, right brain thinking is moving from the periphery of our lives to the center.

A big part of the financial planner's target audience (in particular the baby boomers) now have enough to live, but nothing to live for. They have the means but no meaning.

Although financial planners have focussed on the goals of their clients, most planners haven’t yet been able to be meaningful with their service.

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The circumstances in our industry didn’t enthuse this. As I see it, our industry developed a corporate culture where profits were more important than the personal interest of our clients. That’s why most financial planners and other advisors had to fit in to be successful for the company. We called this ‘professionalism’.

Professionalism meant we had to deal with our corporate targets to be successful.  What this essentially means is that we sacrificed being meaningful to clients for corporate conformity. Except for the best and strongest planners of course. This corporate conformity generated greater profits and efficiency. And that worked in a world where more is better.

But now, as we have developed and several circumstances have changed our perspective, meaning has become an essential aspect of our work and our lives. To be successful as a financial planner in this changed world, we need to pursue meaning. Not only for ourselves but especially for our clients.

But pursuing meaning is no simple task. You can’t buy a cookbook with a recipe for it.

To master the “art of being meaningful” to your clients, it’s necessary to continue our left-brain work but develop our right-brain potential. We have to master aptitudes that are attributable to the right-brain. Aptitudes such as storytelling, design, building relationships, empathy, play and building rapport.

And it’s not only mastering this aptitude.

This also means the art of selling your ‘meaningful’ service is indispensable. It’s not financial planning you sell.You have to tap your message and service into the emotional minds of your clients.

Appealing to the right-brain – where meaning is centered – is therefore crucial.

Don’t sell your service, sell the emotion. It reminds your clients how your service makes them feel about themselves.

When mastering the new aptitudes in this new age, we will be more important, meaningful and successful.

Let’s make financial planning matter,

Ronald Sier

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Leave a Reply 8 comments

John Page Reply

You are right, listening deeply often takes more time. I always look at this as an investment of time now to get a big payoff in the future. By that I mean if you really know what people value your plan will solidly hit the mark, and you will in fact be overrun with referrals if you are able to clearly articulate what it is you do. Providing a summary of that to your clients makes it much easier for them to pass the message on to their friends.

John Page Reply

I would argue that if you’ve really been doing financial planning, helping clients discover meaning in their lives is nothing new. I’ve been doing and teaching this for more than 25 years. To me, the key, is to discover what the client’s values are upfront. This can be very intentional. In fact, I would tell a client that in order to do meaningful work for them I first have to understand their values. Once I understand their values then we can get into creating specific objectives that manifest their values.

I would argue that this is not hard or complicated unless we make it that way. It’s as simple as asking what is your greatest financial concern? Then going deep on the answer until you discover their values. I do think it’s excellent that you bring this to everyone’s attention. to this void in most financial plans.I am the chairperson of the PlanPlus Global Financial Planning Awards. Over the last four or five years I have noticed that our winners always help their clients discover meaning in their lives. what’s interesting is, most of these advisors seem to do this naturally. They sometimes don’t even realize what they’re doing. Yet they get to the meaning.

Thank you for educating your readers as to how very important it is that you learned to help clients discover the meaning in their lives. I have noticed that the planners that seem to do this intentionally, and get paid for it, are those that are charging flat fees.

All the best, and keep up the good work!

Mark Fenton Reply

my goal is to find ways to be meaningful to potential clients.

Johann Maree Reply

so you gotta live life on purpose

Ray F Reply

One of our profession\’s biggest challenges is adequate training and mentors that are skilled in tapping into our clients right brains. There is nothing in the CFP curriculum, or any other insurance or investment curriculums that address these issues. There is the Kinder Institute with George Kinder that is doing some of this work as well as some other entities.

    Ronald Sier Reply

    Hi Ray,

    You might want to check out the courses inside the smartfinancialplanner platform. Hope you like it.

stevenconville Reply

Being financially sound is a wonderful feeling. Knowing you have a plan for your money can help you sleep better at night.

Sue Reply

What problems do you expect when ‘being meaningful’ is your purpose?
Time pressures… I find that \”being meaningful\” takes more time.. to drill down.. to really listen.. to ask the \”inquiring questions\” in a respectful but revealing manner.

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