3 ways to help your clients fund their freedom
For financial advisers only
Three seems to be the magic number, according to our Financial Wellbeing Index1:
- 1 in 3 of us have a specific picture of ourselves in the future
- A third (1/3) don’t have any emergency savings
- 1 in 3 have a written down plan that goes beyond a year
When we have these three things in order, it becomes easier to make long-term plans and stick to them.
What we found in our research was that it’s not always a lack of knowledge – most people know they need to save money for the future, have a rainy-day fund and manage debt carefully. But it’s our habits and how we feel about money that can stop us doing what we should do.
And freedom goes beyond retirement. Or more like, comes before retirement. That feeling of being free (free from debt) doesn’t just mean that you’re able to cover unexpected costs or you don’t owe money to personal loans or credit cards. It can also be there to fund a career change, further education, or a new hobby.
In this article, we’ll explore three concepts that can help your clients improve their relationship with money and give you some suggested questions to ask to motivate them to adjust their thinking – fully supported by our Financial Wellbeing Index.
1. Future self: A game changer for financial wellbeing
Knowing your future self is about having a complex understanding and vision of what you’d like your life to look like in the years to come. For your clients, the aim is for them to be so in-tune with their vision that as they describe it, it feels like you’re there too. This is what we refer to as having a concrete picture.
And it’s not just them knowing what they’re doing in retirement. A client’s vision should include specifics from who they’re spending time with and how many times they’re going out to restaurants, to knowing exactly what kind of legacy they want to leave behind (if any).
What are the things that matter most to them and will bring a sense of purpose and happiness in their future life?
People with a concrete vision contributed more to a long-term savings vehicle
Importantly, this was true across all income groups. You can see the impacts in the chart below.
If you can help your clients to specifically imagine how they want their future to be, based on what makes them happy and feel useful, they’ll be better at working with you to define a long-term financial plan that can propel them to achieve that future.
This could increase loyalty as clients return to you to review the plans you’ve helped build or encourage them to contribute more into existing investments. As they see their goals becoming a reality, your clients will recognise how well you understand them and their future self.
So, thinking about the future is a big part of achieving financial wellbeing but how can you help?
Beat their ‘in-the-moment’ brains and stretch their mental time horizons – begin at the next two years, then five, and eventually moving to those 10-20-year plans. For some clients, this could take a while so be patient and trust the process.
Three ‘future self’ questions to ask your clients
- Tell me about three times you felt happy and useful. What were the reasons, what did you achieve?
- Think of a specific thing you want in your future – what is it? What do you think you might need to do for it to become a reality?
- What legacy do you want to leave behind – who might benefit from any inheritance, and by how much?
2. Power of a plan
Our next element is having a financial plan for life. We know that people who are better at imagining their future self are better at working out a long-term financial plan. Again, this is true for people across all income levels.
But our research found that the number of people across all age groups that had thought about how to financially meet their goals was low. Worryingly, it was just 28% of those age 35-44 and 26% age 45-54.
A bigger concern is that 34% of people in the 55-64 age group didn’t have a written down plan. We’d expect a larger percentage of this group to have a firm plan as they approach retirement.
There’s also an undeniable importance of visualising and planning how clients can maintain their existing (or preferred) lifestyle. For example, have they got things in place if the unforeseeable happens that temporarily derails them?
You might be thinking that your clients have a written down plan because that’s partly the idea of having a financial adviser. But are they successfully changing their mindset to help them achieve their long-term goals? For example, setting and meeting smaller goals to reach their long-term targets.
Or do you have some clients that come back to you periodically and haven’t changed how they think and act around money.
Clever plans consider what brings your clients joy and purpose now and how they get into a position where they can achieve those things financially, both now and in the future.
Three ‘power of a plan’ questions to ask your clients
- How would you manage if you were unable to work? What contingencies do you currently have in place to help you?
- Describe your retirement on day one, year one, year five and onwards. What are you doing, who are you with?
- Analyse the stage you’re at in your life now - what are your spending and saving habits, what does money mean to you. Then, describe how you want your life to be like in the next 10, 15, 20 years’ time - what are you doing, who are you with?
3. Financial worries vs financial trouble
Money can have a positive or negative impact on your life. And we think that's not just because of how much or how little someone has but also because of their beliefs, emotions, and practices around money.
Healthy finances are of course a key component of financial wellbeing, but we found many people are struggling. Of those we surveyed, a third of people have no emergency savings. For those with emergency savings, the amounts held would only allow people to live without an income for an average of just over four months (or 18 weeks).
This highlights just how important it is for people to protect their income. Not only will they be protected against unforeseen circumstances, but they’ll also improve their financial wellbeing – giving them confidence in their financial decisions so they can sleep better at night.
But we also think it’s important to distinguish financial worries and financial trouble. Trouble is urgent – I can’t pay the bills, or I don’t know where my income is coming from. Whereas financial worry is more about how a client is feeling mentally.
Our research found that people of all income levels worry. In fact, 55% of average earners and more than 1 in 3 top earners worry about money. Clients may worry about different things, but that worry doesn’t disappear the more money, or disposable income, a household has.
Instead, it’s about how we can encourage clients to worry more effectively or insightfully.
Three ‘financial worries vs financial trouble’ questions to ask your clients
- How long would your savings last if you had to rely on them to pay your monthly bills?
- Would your employer pay any sickness/ill-health benefits if you were unable to work? How much and for how long?
- If you have children, how would you continue to pay childcare/education costs?
Tools to support you
Our in-depth digital flipbook explores our research even further and provides clients with recommendations to help them think and act positively about their future - going deeper than budgeting tools and savings rules and shows how financial wellbeing is possible for everyone.
We’ve also created a summary of our insight into the nation’s financial wellbeing – just for advisers and employers.
Plus our financial wellbeing tool is here to help your clients identify areas of their financial wellbeing you can work on together.
Find out more about financial wellbeing at aegon.co.uk/financialwellbeing
1Aegon Financial Wellbeing Index, research conducted in August and September 2020 with 10,466 UK residents.