All of us have a history with money. We grow up with too little or too much — or fall under the sway of parents or others who influence our attitude about saving and spending. As we age, money often becomes an indicator of our emotional well-being.
It’s fine to think about money frequently, enjoying its benefits and squeezing value from it. But it’s not healthy to fret about it constantly and let the “I-don’t-have-enough” worry eat away at you. Even some rich people express irrational fear of going penniless. In an honest moment, a financial adviser will admit that chronic worrywarts are high-maintenance clients. They require more hand-holding. What’s worse, they may not listen to reason.
A little empathy goes a long way. Rather than dread these clients, savvy advisers ask gentle questions in an effort to uncover deeper concerns, motivations and memories.
“I wouldn’t say the fear of never having enough money is irrational,” said Jim Ludwick, a certified financial planner in Las Vegas. “Most of the time, it’s because some friend or relative experienced adverse things and the client observed it up close. Their experience colors looking at their assets and liabilities objectively.”
When clients tell Ludwick that they’re scared of running out of money, he starts by listening without interrupting. Then he repeats back what he heard to confirm understanding. From there, he asks questions such as, “Why are you raising this now?”
“I try to understand the real source of their concern so that I can identify what’s triggering it,” he said. “I want to find out where their anxiety is coming from.”
When wealthy clients insist that they might lose it all — or they’re beset by fear that their nest egg is too small — an adviser’s sensible appeal to data can backfire.