Financial Professionals Recommend Empowerment, Plain Language to Help Clients Build Financial Literacy
The recent Great Recession underscored how critical it has become for Americans to learn more about managing their personal finances. But financial experts and educators agree that helping people grasp the importance of improving their financial literacy often presents a substantial challenge. How can financial professionals encourage their clients to learn more about personal finance topics?
Julie Ford, CFP®, CPA, a financial planner in New York City, believes empowerment is the way to go. Ford is a small business owner and part-time working mother of two toddlers; her business helps young adults navigate the many transitional seasons they’ll pass through during their 20s and 30s. “My approach is unique in that I focus on the heart issues influencing a client’s money habits,” says Ford. “For example, with couples, I help them work through their money stress and conflicts in order to put them on a unified front. The most satisfying work comes when I empower clients to manage their money wisely and create healthy money habits so that their wealth can be used to accomplish what’s most important to them.” Empowering people to make positive change also forms the basis of Debbi King’s approach. King, a Life Coach with The ABC’s of Personal Finances says, “It can be very difficult to convince people to learn more about money and build up that muscle. I was in $200,000 of debt years ago and it took me hitting bottom to even want to make the change. After I reached financial freedom, I began to empower others in this area.” King’s experiences helped her understand the money fears people encounter. “There is a lot of shame and fear of judgment when it comes to personal finance. I try to develop ways that they can start even with these fears.”
Navigating clients through life transitions is a fundamental touchpoint in CFP® Brent Leavitt’s strategy as well. Representing Nevada Benefits in Las Vegas, Leavitt says, “Most financial advisors look for clients who have large amounts of money to invest, but they ignore the person who is not quite there yet, but will be very soon. I focus on empowering those individuals by meeting with them and providing guidance to get them to that point.” According to Gil Dulberg of International Assets Advisory in Orlando, Florida, imparting knowledge is the key to such empowerment: “A financial professional must decide that enabling and empowering through education is at the center of his/her value proposition,” Dulberg says. “Financial professionals must overcome the fear that a prospect will not convert to become a client, or a client will become a DIYer…and jump ship. If we instill comfort and confidence by educating our prospects and clients, they will trust us, learn from us and remain loyal to us far longer than if we do not focus on client knowledge.”
However, clients will only feel empowered to the extent that they understand what’s being communicated. Speaking plain, straightforward language is a crucial part of teaching financial literacy, according to Ana Sandoval of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. “We have updated and revised our website to speak to the average consumer,” explains Sandoval. “We are doing away with a lot of industry jargon that does not make sense to many people. A company’s website is a great resource to have clients learn more about personal finance topics.” Bridget Casey, the voice behind the financial literacy website Money After Graduation, echoes Sandoval’s recommendation for online learning. “The online personal finance blog community is a really unique approach to learning about personal finance,” Casey adds. “If you find a blogger you can relate to – whether it’s about paying off student debt or saving for early retirement – you can find inspiration, motivation, and advice. Financial professionals need to make financial advice relatable. Money has to tell a story, it can’t just be numbers on a page.”
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