During a recording of the MDRT Podcast held before the pandemic, Danielle J. Genier, CLU, CFP, described a client who once wanted to buy a cottage and then forgot.
Hold on, how does someone forget that they wanted to buy a cottage?
“Life gets fast,” said the 21-year MDRT member from Timmins, Ontario, Canada. “They forget.”
“I don’t think they forget,” said Jonathan Godshall, LUTCF, MBA, a six-year MDRT member from Puebla, Mexico. “I think they forget how important it was for them at that time. Or that they can buy that cottage, and we can help them, because that was part of their overall goal in their planning.”
It speaks to a simple but easily overlooked aspect of being an advisor: holding clients accountable to their own goals. It’s something, in fact, that Genier makes a priority in her practice while working largely with pre-retirees and retirees. Whether five or 10 years before retirement, each client has a list of what they need to do to meet their plans and their goals.
“If they tell me they want to retire by the age of 62, we’re going to make sure they retire by 62. If it’s changed, you’ve got to let us know because we’re going to hold you accountable to it,” she said. “In every meeting we set out, everything is based upon goals of what they want. And sometimes I have to remind them and say, ‘We’re just holding you accountable to what you want to do, not what I want to do. It’s not about me retiring. I can retire if I want. But you’re telling us you want to retire, and that’s what you hire us to do.’”
A lot of that accountability, said Peter Jason Byrne, comes from clients needing advisors to give them permission to say yes. “They’re scared to do things that they can afford to do but don’t know if they should or shouldn’t, so they just don’t do anything at all,” said the 12-year MDRT member from Coorparoo, Queensland, Australia. “So it’s about getting them in and asking them what those goals are, then encouraging them to make those decisions.”
Of course, that also has to be put into action. For Byrne, accountability means not just helping clients identify and plan dream vacations, but encouraging them to send a postcard once they arrive.
“We’ve been asking for postcards for only two years, and now we have probably 20 to 25 postcards from people who have had their dream holiday or done that trip with their family or been to Italy,” he said. “So I think as a reminder to myself and the team when we walk into that office, those postcards are the evidence of the difference we’ve made for them.”
Sometimes that accountability and action might be under urgent circumstances, like when facing serious illness. One of Byrne’s clients in her early 50s was terminally ill. Byrne immediately helped her determine she could afford a trip she wanted to take with her 23-year-old son, while also referring her to a travel agent to schedule the trip (to New York) the next day.
“Within the month, they’d actually been to New York and they did a photoshoot, which I thought was really cool,” Byrne said. “They did some really cool things. It knocked her around a bit, but she’s come back and she’s got four other places that she’s going to do. She’s ticking them off as she goes.”
The members agreed that clients often will thank them for making things possible, when in reality they merely have held them accountable. Genier has a good way to communicate her appreciation and her priorities on the subject:
“You’re the one who saved the money,” she says. “What I thank you for is that you trust me and you trusted us in this process to save the money.”