Valuing the Client’s Values

How do a financial planner’s values affect the decisions they make as an advisor?

This past week I presented some thoughts to a group of women in NJ around this topic. I asked them to consider the ways in which we bring our own attitudes, values and experience around money into our financial planning dealings with clients. How would we react, I asked, if one of your clients came to you and said he wanted to assume the identity of a woman, aka Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner? Or if one of your clients said she wanted a divorce because she was convinced her husband had a lover? Or if a client referred a person of a faith you did not approve of? Or if a gay couple came to you for help with an adoption? Or if a widow decided to move in with a child who is a spendthrift?

In this new world order, these are the kinds of issues we do not encounter on a daily basis but we will as the world gets smaller. In the last three years, these types of issues have been presented to me and they are on the increase. Up to this point in time, they were a rarity.

Since we always have the ability to choose what people we want to serve, will our own biases be surreptitiously used to dissuade a client relationship? Will the planner raise his or her fees to some outrageous level to scare off those he or she does not want to attract? Is it possible to remain in business if a planner openly declares he or she will not serve someone who has any of the following life circumstances…?

Money is money. The color is always green. It does not discriminate in ways our society does. The needs are the same but the laws may affect the outcome. Married or unmarried, the issues are clear. It takes some special planning but it can be done. The bigger question is: will the planner be open to the lifestyles you choose or will his or her “programming” color the advice given?

Unfortunately, there is no question you can ask to determine if a planner will or will not be open to what we gingerly call “an alternative lifestyle,” or disagrees with a major life transition you want to experience.   That’s the whole point of an initial interview. No money is exchanged and no commitment is made. If it’s a fit, then it’s a fit. If not, a referral to another planner might be in order.

Photo Credit: alfrank1986 via Compfight cc

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