Why It Matters:
- It’s easy to let clients slip into bad habits, but each client visit is an opportunity to make sure everything is running smoothly.
- Talking about upcoming vacations and the summer season can open the door to a conversation about getting finances “back in shape.”
- Setting goals and seeing real progress can encourage clients to do better with each visit and account statement.
Every season offers an opportunity for light conversations that can make a big difference in the way your clients view their finances.
Autumn is a fine time to discuss end-of-year charitable giving, summer can open the way to talk about back-to-school savings, and winter can be a good time to talk about tax preparation.
Each spring, getting back in shape for the summer season is a popular topic. But financial professionals can turn that into a “swimsuit season” for family finances.
Consider a series of “exercises” that will help your clients understand their financial situation, cut back on expenses, kick unhealthy financial habits, and build financial fitness.
Exercise 1: The weigh-in
Similar to how a personal trainer would want to evaluate a client’s health status before a new workout program, financial professionals might like to take in the whole financial picture. You first need to know where your clients’ weaknesses and strengths lie, so you’ll know which areas to tackle first.
Take a look at a client’s finances from last year and try to break down spending month-by-month. This is the time to evaluate where your clients’ money shortfalls may be. Perhaps they’re spending more than they make, or spending too much in one category and running out of money for another. Or maybe there are ways to direct more of that income to savings and investments.
Exercise 2: Getting trim
With a full picture at the ready, look for areas where a client may not even have considered a trim. As The Budget Diet blog points out, cutting $13 of spending a day adds up to $400 a month. Here are some “extras” to consider cutting back on or eliminating:
- Cable/satellite: Ask your clients what they spend on TV, and how important it is to them. Is cutting the cord and switching to Netflix or Hulu a reasonable way of cutting costs? And watching TV out of boredom leads to a sedentary life. Encourage clients to take a walk or visit with friends. A Stanford Center on Longevity study found social isolation (say, sitting in front of the TV by yourself) can be as big a health danger as smoking.
- Dining out: For a client who eats out three days a week, limiting meals out to just one, and putting the money they would have spent Into their savings can add up. The Harvard School of Public Health found eating healthy can be good for you and good for your wallet.
- Entertainment: Going to the movies isn’t as cheap as it used to be. If you have clients who routinely hit the movies out of habit, they could be spending $12 a ticket, per person (or even more for a 3-D or IMAX show). Add in sodas and popcorn, and that’s not a cheap night out. If they’re just killing time, rental services such as Red box or on-demand, are a lot cheaper.
- Driving: Clients who commute to work may not be able to eliminate this expense completely, but they can reduce it. It’s not just about gas and maintenance. Parking in a big city, even for an hour, can add up. Is there a cheaper parking lot within walking distance to the office? The Arthritis Foundation lists a dozen benefits to walking, including longer life, better mood, weight loss, and improved sleep. Just asking the question can spark a conversation.
Exercise 3: Habit hacking
Creating a healthy new habit takes an average of 66 days (science tells us that), so just as creating a new health habit, like walking to work, might make someone healthier, making a new wealth habit, like making coffee at home, might make someone wealthier.
- Java: Do you have a client who shows up for meetings with that telltale chain coffee cup In hand? Spending $4 Monday through Friday for a morning latte adds up to more than $900 a year. That’s an easy target for savings, especially if your client’s office has free coffee in the break room.
- Not planning: Paying fees for failing to plan is throwing money away. Budgeting and planning ahead helps everyone avoid bouncing a check (national average penalty is $33), and using an ATM that’s not owned by your client’s bank bites off another $3 each time. Simple weekly habits can help avoid mistakes, like a weekly trip to the ATM machine, or a weekly look at the bank statement online to make sure finances are in order.
- Smoking: You knew this was coming. If you have a client who still smokes, you can explain there’s a financial reason to quit, not just a health reason. According to a study by WalletHub, the estimated lifetime financial cost of smoking is just above $1.5 million per smoker. Ouch. Explain the benefits of lower life insurance rates and saving money on healthcare expenses. And when it comes to quitting, there’s help out there (free, of course).
Exercise 4: Biggest gainer
The key to making any resolution last is to help your clients see their progress. Little changes add up, things like shopping around for a better deal on car insurance, using monthly savings to pay off high-interest debt, and building an emergency fund so they won’t have to borrow when the unexpected hits.
When they start to see the results on their monthly financial statements, they’ll know you’re helping them make a real difference.
What to do:
- Take advantage of your clients’ next visit to do some spring cleaning and financial fitness tests.
- Start simply, create some small new habits that will energize your clients.
- Show them real progress. Give them an example of where a little change has led to gains.
Neither Transamerica nor its agents or representatives may provide tax or legal advice. Anyone to whom this material is promoted, marketed, or recommended should consult with and rely on their own independent tax and legal advisors regarding their particular situation and the concepts presented herein.