At this year’s AICPA Personal Financial Planning conference, one of the general sessions was led by financial life planning pioneer Mitch Anthony, who put forth what may be the best set of terminology I’ve ever heard for articulating the true client-centric value proposition of financial planning. Framing it in the context of an (admittedly still unmeasurable) goal of improving a client’s “Return On Life” (ROL, as opposed to the traditional approach of trying to improve the client’s portfolio ROI), Anthony suggested that the six key value propositions of financial planning are that we provide:
Organization. We will help bring order to your financial life, by assisting you in getting your financial house in order (at both the “macro” level of investments, insurance, estate, taxes, etc., and also the “micro” level of household cash flow).
Accountability. We will help you follow through on financial commitments, by working with you to prioritize your goals, show you the steps you need to take, and regularly review your progress towards achieving them.
Objectivity. We bring insight from the outside to help you avoid emotionally driven decisions in important money matters, by being available to consult with you at key moments of decision-making, doing the research necessary to ensure you have all the information, and managing and disclosing any of our own potential conflicts of interest.
Proactivity. We work with you to anticipate your life transitions and to be financially prepared for them, by regularly assessing any potential life transitions that might be coming, and creating the action plan necessary to address and manage them ahead of time.
Education. We will explore what specific knowledge will be needed to succeed in your situation, by first thoroughly understanding your situation, then providing the necessary resources to facilitate your decisions, and explaining the options and risks associated with each choice.
Partnership. We attempt to help you achieve the best life possible but will work in concert with you, not just for you, to make this possible, by taking the time to clearly understand your background, philosophy, needs and objectives, work collaboratively with you and on your behalf (with your permission), and offer transparency around our own costs and compensation.
While the words themselves are not necessarily new and unique, Anthony’s use of them, along with explanations of exactly what the advisor provides, and how (including some additions to the wording by yours truly), paint a remarkably clear picture of what the intangible service of financial planning is meant to provide, and why it’s worthwhile for consumers to pay for a financial planner.
In fact, it’s not hard to imagine an advisor’s website literally just using these 6 terms, and the associated explanations, as their exact explanation of “What We Do For You, The Client”! While still abstract terms, “we provide Organization, Accountability, Objectivity, Proactivity, Education, and Partnership” is still much clearer and more specific than “we provide a customized, individualized, personal financial plan!”