The Key To Becoming A Trusted Advisor

January 5, 2016

by Dan Richards

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Every advisor wants to be viewed by clients as a trusted advisor, the resource to whom they turn for counsel – not just on their financial matters, but on their overall wellbeing. To do that, you have to be a resource for all the things that concern clients, not just what makes you money.

Affluent clients want to talk about what worries them and financial issues such as portfolio risk, minimizing taxes and retirement readiness, with frequent mentions of work stress and health concerns. Dig deeper, though, and another concern emerges –having their children and grandchildren grow up to be happy, productive and successful adults (always recognizing that success has to be defined on our kids’ terms, not ours or our clients). To be able to engage clients in helpful conversations on this issue, arm yourself with informed perspectives from experts in the field.

This issue of overindulged children hit the headlines two weeks ago with the arrest in Mexico of Ethan Anthony Couch and his mother. Couch is the 18-year old Texan who two years ago was convicted of four counts of manslaughter after a fatal accident while impaired and illegally driving on a restricted licence. In the sentencing process, Couch’s attorneys successfully argued that as a result of being overindulged by his parents he suffered from “affluenza” and needed treatment in a rehab facility and therapy rather than a prison sentence. After Couch violated the terms of his probation in early December and his probation officer was unable to reach him, a warrant was issued for his arrest, leading to the detention of him and his mother in Puerto Vallarta at the end of December.

While this is clearly an extreme case, many advisors have clients who are disappointed by how their adult children have worked out. A few years ago, I had the chance to spend an hour with Lee Hausner, who is based in Los Angeles and spent many years as a senior psychologist with the Beverley Hills School District; she has summarized her experiences on successful parenting for prosperous families in the book Children of Paradise. While some of her strategies are specific to only the most affluent, many of the principles can be applied more broadly and will be useful as you talk to clients.

Rules and consequences

There are two common diseases, Dr. Hausner said, that you find among children in wealthy families – “entitle-itus” and “affluenza”. (Her reference to affluenza was made before the “affluenza defence” became famous in the Ethan Couch case.) To prevent them, she urges parents to teach kids from an early age the concepts of consequences and accountability.

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The Key To Becoming A Trusted Advisor