I recently received an email that really touched me. It was from an editor of a newsletter for financial planners that I subscribe to. This man had tragically lost his wife a short time earlier, and this email informed his subscribers of the reason for his wife’s sudden death. She had committed suicide.
Let me quote a few portions of his email: “The reason I’m sharing so much personal information is that I firmly believe we are too close-mouthed as a society. . . . The fact that no one talks about these things is one reason why we don’t have better systems, as a society, to help people through these events.”
I have to admire this man’s transparency and courage. While I’ve never met him, my respect for him has grown exponentially as a result of his willingness to be open about such painful and personal information.
Over the years, as I’ve been on my own paths of personal growth, I have come to appreciate the incredible amount of healing and empowerment that results when we share our painful secrets in appropriate ways.
But what, you may ask, does this kind of personal sharing have to do with financial planning? Actually, a great deal.
Money touches everything we do and is an integral part of all the decisions we make in our lives. Financial planners and other financial advisors are involved in many of the most intimate and life-changing events of clients’ lives, including career decisions, lifestyle choices, marriages, divorces, births, serious illnesses, and deaths. If you want to get the best advice and service from those advisors, it is essential for them to know what is important to you and what is happening in your life.
I have also learned the value of sharing openly from the planner’s side of the desk. When I facilitate workshops on healing money issues, talking about some of my own past money mistakes and beliefs is a powerful way to help participants become comfortable sharing about their own. In addition, it helps give them the confidence that they, too, can change what they believe and how they act around money.
Even in less emotional interactions, however, appropriate disclosure of personal information helps build trust. As an example, a client recently asked me, “Rick, how much has your portfolio gone down lately?”
I told her, “The same amount as yours.”
This may not seem to be a reassuring statement to hear from your financial planner. Yet this client appreciated knowing I was managing her money in the same way as I was managing my own. It helped her accept that downward cycles such as the current recession are normal and temporary. Telling her, no matter how politely, that information about my portfolio was none of her business would have undermined her trust in both my ability and my integrity.
Obviously, there are appropriate times and places for sharing personal information. You might not choose to vent to your CPA about the intimate and painful details of a divorce, though you would certainly need to share the details relating to your financial and tax circumstances. Deeper sharing might be more appropriate with a financial planner.
In most cases, a client/planner relationship lasts a long time. Some of my clients have been with me for 25 years. We have seen each other through times of joy, pain, and tragedy. The relationships we have built through sharing those significant times are among the most rewarding aspects of my work.
We all have our stories, and there is a great deal of power and healing in sharing those stories.