Financial Counsel Client Communication Reflection Paper

Please provide a reflection on the following three items. Under the heading “Supplemental Readings” on your Content page you find a couple additional chapters that may help with your reflection. Your reflection will be graded on effort, depth, creativity, and accuracy relative to other students in the class. It’s worth 5% of your grade, as outlined in your syllabus.

1. Before publishing the communication book used in this course, there had been very little academic writing on the topic of client communication (see the exception but limited in terms of practical significance: Sharpe paper). Harold Evensky recently published a book, but it is primarily anecdotal and based on his own experience (albeit likely to still very helpful). Bob Veres, Michael Kitces, and other practice management bloggers have also occasionally written on this topic, but the financial planning profession lacks empirical support/evidence-based communication processes and techniques. As just one example, how a client is asked about their goals may likely yield very different goals – and goals are the foundation of the financial plan! One planner may simply ask a client what their goals are for retirement, and spending in retirement. Another planner, may delve deeply into a clients’ values, ask George Kinder’s 3 life planning questions (as discussed in class), and even have a client take numerous assessments to help them identify what makes them the happiest – all of this before developing any goals with the assumption being that this process will inform and likely change the goals ultimately outlined by the client. Can variance in communication processes when speaking to clients about goals really result in different client goals, and if so, what should be practices look like in this regard?

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2. In class discussion (and the uploaded chapter), I have introduced the emerging field of study and practice called financial therapy – or what might consider the art of financial communication. Financial therapy has applications in furthering the knowledge base around money psychology and addressing maladaptive financial beliefs and decisions of individuals and families. In contrast to traditional finance, financial therapy assumes individuals and couples often fail to make the rational financial decisions that lead to expected utility maximization. It also assumes that individuals’ financial choices are strongly influenced by their financial socialization, cognitive biases, emotional factors, and their past experiences with money within various social systems. Pulling from your review of the Communication Essentials book used in this course and additional readings specific to this financial therapy, what are your thoughts on financial therapy, the use of the interview questions, specific communication tools, and your application of theoretical-based methods or skill-based methods of communication?

3. “Optimal debt management is integral to the financial planning process. Helping clients manage debt appropriately and efficiently provides financial planners with a tremendous opportunity to make a substantial, positive impact on a client’s overall financial plan. Debt, or leveraging, is a common and important tool used in the acquisition of a home, pursuit of desired lifestyle and opportunities, development of human capital (e.g., education and training), or creation of financial capital (e.g., investing and entrepreneurship), and thus should be viewed as an important strategy to wealth accumulation and financial success. Over-leveraging at the household level and high-interest debt, however, can be detrimental to a client’s overall financial plan. As such, debt can be viewed as problematic or strategic depending on myriad contextual factors, including, but not limited to, interest rate structure, tax-deductibility of interest, expected invested return, cash flow requirements, loan forgiveness opportunities, creditor rights, and other factors.” (Joseph Goetz & John Grable, 2015, CFP Board Financial Planning Competency Handbook). Your “Surviving Debt” book assumes a client is in financial distress, but you understand that even clients who are financially strong and stable require optimal debt management planning. For this reason, “A household financial stability framework (i.e., evaluation of current stability and probability of household experiencing a future financial shock and its ability to absorb shock) should be utilized when making recommendations related to debt management. This framework is necessary because optimal debt management recommendations vary based on the overall financial stability of the client” (Goetz & Grable, 2015). What are your reactions to the Surviving Debt book and what are some scenarios wherein your debt management recommendations might vary based on the financial stability of the client?

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