Becoming a financial advisor for the whole family

Key Points

    • Advisors can help clients build stronger financial plans if family members are involved in the process.
    • Encouraging family financial discussions and moderating those conversations can help identify shared goals and values.
    • Tips for taking a whole-family approach to planning include: encouraging family meetings and modifying your services for each generation.

When clients talk to their advisor, they often have family on their minds. Yet, advisors rarely get to talk to those family members. What do the kids know about their parents' financial plans? Do the children have questions? If clients' lives change dramatically, does everyone know what to expect?

Talking about money can be difficult for many families. This lack of communication and potential misalignment of financial priorities could derail clients from the long-term plans you've helped them develop. As their advisor, you have an opportunity to help clients manage intrafamily dynamics in ways that can make their financial plan more effective.

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 allow everyone to share their unique concerns and questions. But if clients aren't ready for a deep family discussion, start slow and gradually bring generations into conversations.

You might suggest clients invite their children to your regular annual reviews. 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 is to host 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 tutorial 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 to more in-depth and frequent multigenerational conversations.

2. Act as a moderator

Any family discussion about money can trigger strong emotions. As a neutral party, you can ensure everyone has a chance to talk and can 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 set aside 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 video calls. 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 aimed at 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 (Environment/Social/Governance) 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 grow your client base as the business passes from one generation to the next.

Be there when they need you

Working closely with a client's family can strengthen relationships and foster new ones. With your help, families can feel confident that their financial plans will be carried out smoothly, building financial stability for generations to come.

What you can do next

  • Find support tailored to the unique needs of your business and clients. Learn about our specialized services.
  • Consider a custodian that is invested in your success. If you're thinking about becoming an independent Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), contact us to learn more about the potential benefits of a Schwab custodial relationship.