Everyone has emotional issues around money. When you think about it, what is a dollar bill but a piece of paper with a picture on it.

But when it comes to our clients there are so many various emotions around money. Individuals learn behavior around money based on what their parents taught them and based on their own experiences with money. Some of the old shibboleths such as “Money is the root of all evil,” “Money makes money,” “You can’t take it with you” form the unconscious basis for our clients’ thought processes around money. And these feelings play a big role in the financial decisions they make.

Rick Kahler, a speaker at Sourcemedia’s Financial Behavior in Retirement Summit talked about a young woman with plenty of skills and expertise who asked him how she could make ends meet with a job that paid $25,000 a year and sizable student loans outstanding. He explained that she couldn’t and asked her why she didn’t get a better-paying job. After much discussion it came out that she grew up believing that making lots of money is somehow immoral and this was unconsciously holding her back. A lightbulb went off for this young woman who quickly went out and doubled her salary.

Kahler was giving this example in a presentation about how to use a therapist in your practice. He said there are no “difficult” clients, just clients who have beliefs you have to help uncover so you understand what’s standing in their way. He gave the example of a couple who came to see him and instantly started fighting. He couldn’t work with them with the emotions flying back and forth. So he told them to come back in two weeks and scheduled a meeting for them with him and his therapy specialist. In that next meeting, the couple was able to resolve their immediate differences in about two hours and get on with the financial business at hand.

Far from being insulted by the appearance of a therapist at their visit, the couple was thrilled with the outcome. Talk about a way to differentiate your practice! His argument was that you have a team of outside specialists for all kinds of things, lawyers for trusts and estates, accountants for taxes, why not have a therapist on call for working through the emotional issues that surely come with most clients’ cases?

Of course, I realize that including a therapist in your practice is beyond the ken of most bank advisors, and something many would scoff at as irrelevant to what they do. But I think Kahler made some interesting points that apply more broadly. One is that everyone has emotional issues around money and that’s why people fight over it so much. A lawyer once told me that when it comes to wills and estates, the fight is about “Mom loved you more” much more often than it is about those pieces of paper with the pictures on them.

So it doesn’t hurt to be on the lookout for those unconscious beliefs about money and maybe engage your clients in a brief conversation about what their early experiences with money were and how that might be impacting their attitudes today. 
The second issue to think about is the concept of human capital. You may already do this. But you are not just dealing with a person’s financial assets, you are dealing with their employability and skills and how those can be enhanced or improved. As more people hit the “old” retirement age of 65 and either can’t afford to retire in the old sense or don’t want to, because let’s face it, they may still have a good third of a life to go, discussing human capital for both money and meaning purposes is going to become more and more important.