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Planners rate themselves more highly than clients do

What is interesting about this Financial Planning Association study is the disconnect between how advisors rate themselves and how clients rate their advisor. With the below stats bringing that truth home.

Stat chat

Both clients and planners were asked if the following qualitative topics were part of their conversations:

Box 1: Planner is open to discussing what client values most in life - 87% of advisors say yes, 50% of clients agree. Box 2: Planners financial recommendations are based on the client's personal goals, needs and priorities - 90% of advisors agree vs 49% of clients. Box 3: Planner communicates the importance of considering all areas of life when creating a financial plan - 87% of advisors agree, only 47% of clients agree. Box 4: Planner contacts clients regularly to see what changes in life may affect the financial plan - 85% of advisors agree, but only 39% of clients agree.

Now, we know advisors want to do right by the client. Want to do well for them and for the client to be engaged. So, why such as disconnect?

As Tom Frisby explains in our latest Into The Lumiverse episode:

“There’s a difference in your client relationship between effectiveness and efficiency. Efficiency is your internal stuff. How quickly you can turn work around, how much dirt you can move every day. That’s efficiency. Effectiveness is how that is perceived by your client.”

We couldn’t agree more with Tom. Too often, particularly in goals-based planning, advisors become very efficient at capturing goals. In fact, many of our fact-finds and processes are designed to quickly capture many of the “typical” retirement goals of clients.

A pre-retiree male financial advice client in a purple t-shirt and black trousers standing in front of a card that says "retire at 65 with $150k pa income."

We could almost guarantee that 80 percent of financial plans would have “retire at age 65 on $X”. That might be goals-based planning, but we would argue that it is not in “client perception land” (thanks, Mark).

The problem we see all too often is advisors hear financial goals they can solve, capture them and dig no further. This means client goals are very generic - “retire at age 65 on $X”. When clients look back at their personalized plan, they don’t see much of them in it. No matter how fantastic your recommendations are, they will just not resonate with them because it is efficient, and efficiency lacks emotion.

Next time you capture client goals, spend some time digging deeper. Find out what they are doing when they retire, what their rich retirement life looks like, and what memories they want to create.

A financial advisor's client showing his personalized goals on a kanban board. He has an orange tick on his thumb as he feels connected to his plan

Use this information to bring to life their goals. So instead of “retire at age 65 on $X”, the goal is “retire at age 65 and spend more time traveling the world to see old friends and nurture my relationships, with enough set aside to leave my kids with enough to get a good start in life.” Now tell me, if a client saw that captured in their financial plan, whether there would be a disconnect?

Tips to address the stats:

Planner is open to discussing what client values most in life (87% of planners said yes, but only 50% of clients).

Tip: Make sure you make space to talk about values. Define them and capture them in the client’s words - not yours. Summarise where you need to but be choiceful in the words of the client you keep - such as retaining their action or aspirational statements.
A financial advisor client ranking her values.


Planner’s financial recommendations are based on the client’s personal goals, needs, and priorities (90% of planners said yes, but only 49% of clients).

Tip: Make goals as personalized as possible. Don’t keep them to the financial metrics. Make space for clients to articulate what it means to them and the why behind the goal, linking it back to their values where possible. Again - use images and videos to really bring these to life.

A couple are viewing their financial goals, looking at the images they have set for each goal


Planner communicates importance of considering all areas of life when creating a financial plan (81% of planners versus 47% of clients).

Tip: When you hear a goal from a client, take the time to ask how that might impact other areas of their life. For instance, if they really want to save for a new car, will that influence how much they can spend on social activities? Make sure you have these trade-off conversations with clients and, again, use their values as an anchor to make confident choices that align with what they want to achieve in life beyond the balance in their bank account.
A financial advisor male client in a purple t-shirt and shorts is looking at a series of levers that will impact his financial plan. From left to right the levers are spending, saving, timing, risk and legacy


Planner contacts clients regularly to see what changes in life may affect the financial plan (85% of planners versus 39% of clients).

Tip: Reach out to clients regularly to discover what has changed their lives. We recommend sending a quarterly goals survey and encouraging clients to update their platform as things in their life change. This encourages your clients to continue to connect with their goals in their plan and keeps you in the loop of any material changes that might impact their plan.
A financial advisor client completing Lumiant's Goals Survey on his smartphone, answering the question what financial goals would you like us to help you address? The client has selected Purchase a Home, reduce my debts and save for a large purchase

Let us know what you do to meet client changing expectations in the comments. Want to check out the full episode of Into The Lumiverse?

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