Although many consequences of battling the coronavirus pandemic are yet to be known, the emergence of helpers, heralded or unsung, is one positive development.
In our world, financial advisors as helpers isn’t just where the industry is heading; it’s the reason many of us got into the business in the first place.
When you share what is most meaningful about being a financial advisor, you may say something like, “I get to help people.” We know this is true, but does everyone else?
As you work from home this summer, perhaps alongside your children, think about how you can use this time to explain your role as helper. Better yet, how can you show your children what you do, empowering them to be helpers in their own right?
As you’d do with your clients, start small, incorporate your children’s interests, and focus on planning and counseling.
Just as you help uncover your clients’ dreams, translating them into defined goals and achievable plans, you can do the same with your kids.
5–8-year-olds: Explain what a goal is, using examples from your children’s surroundings. Ask them to describe their dream family outing. Then, ask what needs to happen to achieve this goal.
Encourage them to ask and answer their own questions, as you would with your clients. Help little ones explore where to find these answers, who to ask, and who to look up to.
9–12-year-olds: In this age range, children already understand goals, and likely have concrete ones of their own. If you use a discovery sheet with your clients, walk your children through this exercise.
Using their goals — attending a special summer camp, for example — ask them to explain why it means so much and how to make it happen. If there’s a cost involved, explore how much allowance they’ll need to save or how much you’ll need to work to pay for it.
13–18-year-olds: If your teens are interested in learning more about your work, congratulations! Beyond exploring their own goals, present them with real-life examples from your clients.
Do they share these aspirations? They will likely have strong opinions and big dreams; help them tackle what’s important to them.
More steps to growth: Challenge your children by asking how they might approach a similar situation faced by a friend.
You might ask, for example, “If your friend Liam wants to attend theater camp with you next summer, what questions should you ask to help him make it happen?”
Teens can tackle even more complex scenarios and get creative with their advice. Ask, for example, how they would counsel friends on paying for a gap year before college or a new car; what alternative plans would they offer?
Wants vs. Needs
This is a big one. As you know from counseling clients, distinguishing wants from needs and discretionary from essential spending can be tough.
5–8-year-olds: In this age range, wants and needs can easily be confused. How can you draw distinctions between what children need and what would be nice to have?
Let them surprise you — and themselves — by seeking to understand the “why.” Show them examples from your life as an adult, explain how you make similar decisions, and cite times you’ve mistaken a want for a need.
9–12-year-olds: When your children have a good grasp of wants versus needs, discuss how to prioritize the two.
Encourage them to discover trade-offs and the costs of making choices, such as getting the latest pair of sneakers for the first day of school versus new soccer cleats for the upcoming season.
Normalize mistakes they make, letting them know now is the right time to learn these skills.
13–18-year-olds: In their teenage years, your children’s world is a lot bigger. Peer pressure and advertising may affect their perception of wants and needs — just as your clients can be motivated by “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Probe deeper into the need they’re trying to satisfy, and help them learn what that means.
More steps to growth: It’s one thing to talk with your children about how to think more deeply about what’s truly a need; it’s another to observe how they engage their friends.
Because these concepts speak to values and beliefs, watch how your child proposes bringing up these questions with peers.
Look for examples of active listening, understanding, empathy and respect for differing value systems, but also a willingness to ask tough questions and challenge assumptions.
These conversations can even inform your practice as you encourage your clients to have similar discussions with their family. After all, one of the best rewards of being a helper is empowering those you’ve helped to pay it forward.
Sharing & Connecting Along the Way
We all want our children to have healthy money habits as they enter adulthood and begin making their own decisions.
By sharing what you do and how you do it, you can improve the likelihood of this taking hold — and have connecting experiences with your kids along the way.
Kol Chu Birke, CFP, is managing principal of technology and corporate strategy at Commonwealth Financial Network.