Becoming a financial advisor for the whole family

How to engage your client's children to forge deeper relationships and create stronger financial plans

Key Points

    • Advisors can help clients manage intrafamily issues around financial goals and habits.
    • Encouraging family financial discussions and moderating those conversations can help identify shared goals and values.
    • Offering tailored communication and specific planning services for younger adults can help engage the next generation.

Financial planning is all about helping families achieve their most important goals, but advisors are often talking to just one part of that family—usually the parents. Once clients leave your office, how are they sharing details of their financial plan with their kids? What questions might those children have? And are the parents equipped to help answer them? 

Talking about money can be difficult for many families. This lack of communication and potential misalignment on financial priorities could derail clients from the long-term plans you've helped them develop. The good news, though, is that advisors have a great opportunity to help clients manage intrafamily dynamics and stay on track for their future.

Here are four tips to help engage with your clients' families and provide valuable financial advice to multiple generations. 

1. Encourage family meetings 

Family meetings can help parents, kids, and even grandkids find common ground on financial priorities and values, while sharing their unique concerns and questions. But if clients aren't ready for a deep family discussion, try starting with easier first steps that gradually bring the generations together into conversations. 

You might suggest clients invite their children to your regular annual review. That way, younger family members get a glimpse into the types of choices their parents are making and can begin to understand how financial planning helps families work toward a common goal. 

Another idea to consider is hosting educational webinars or Zoom meetings on financial topics relevant to younger family members. For example, if clients have set up a trust, you could offer the children a primer on how trusts work before including them in more detailed conversations about their parents' estate plan. Targeted discussions like these can help you gauge whether families are ready to move on to more in-depth and frequent multigenerational conversations.

2. Act as a moderator 

Any family discussion about money can be an intense experience, potentially triggering strong emotions. Advisors can serve as a neutral party to ensure everyone has a chance to talk and to help keep tricky topics from becoming arguments.

Consider framing discussions around shared values before diving into specific financial planning topics or strategies. For example, a family might realize they all prioritize education and charitable giving. In that case, establishing common ground can help you develop strategies to pursue those goals, such as trusts that earmark money for grandkids' college education, or donor-advised funds that allow the family to work together to give to causes close to their hearts. 

3. Communicate effectively across generations 

Remember to tailor your outreach methods and the information you share to each generation's needs. For instance, older clients may prefer more traditional communication like in-person meetings and phone calls, while millennials and Gen Z may expect online videoconferences. When bringing generations together for a meeting, you may have to compromise—say, by scheduling an in-person meeting to accommodate parents or grandparents but making yourself available for follow-up questions via email.  

Part of communicating effectively is also making sure clients and their family members have the information they need, when they need it. Consider developing areas of your website geared toward specific generations. For example, a page devoted to young adult children of existing clients might include information on budgeting, paying off student loans, how to begin saving for retirement, and ESG investing. 

4. Develop multigenerational services 

To further build relationships with your clients' families, consider developing services that are specific to each generation's needs. For example, you may offer to help recent college grads set up their first retirement accounts, while helping parents or grandparents set up more complex wealth management tools like trusts. 

Also, be mindful that multigenerational wealth is often tied up in a family business. Offering services to assist with business succession planning can increase your practice's value and help you retain a family as clients as the business passes from one generation to the next. 

Working closely with a client's family can help ensure that the financial plans you develop together can be carried out smoothly. Along the way, you'll be strengthening your relationship with existing clients and creating opportunities to continue serving the next generation.

What you can do next

  • Get your clients enrolled in Schwab Alliance. The online and mobile platform is designed exclusively for clients of independent advisors. 
  • Consider a custodian that invests in your success. If you're thinking about becoming an independent advisor, contact us to learn more about the benefits of a Schwab custodial relationship.