Clients can pick up on a “money attitude” from their advisors, says Michael Brady, the founder and president of Generosity Wealth Management, a financial advisory firm based in Boulder, Colo.
Even something as simple as the tone of an advisor’s newsletter can transmit a feeling about money to the client.
“Clients get their cues from you,” he says. “If you are a doomsayer, they are going to be anxious. If you are positive, they are going to feel better about their own situation.”
Brady, who has 25 years of experience in the industry (and founded his firm in 2009), has dealt with clients who do not have a lot of assets but still feel good about their circumstances. But, he says, he has also had clients with more than adequate resources who are constantly afraid they will lose the money or are scared they still do not have enough.
“Some people can have millions and still live in constant fear of either not having enough or losing it,” he says. “Alternatively, people can have small budgets and be extremely happy because they’ve learned to live within their means.
“Wealth does not mean wellness,” he says. “If you are a wealth manager, you have to be a part-time psychologist. Not only do you have to worry about bringing your own emotions to the table, you have to worry about your client’s emotions as well.”
“A client’s relationship to money goes to the very nature of who they are, and you have to understand that,” he adds.
In order to work with clients who are unreasonably anxious about money, Brady advises taking a slow approach. One of Brady’s clients lived in a mobile home until her parents left her substantial wealth when they passed away. She did not know the money was there and was unprepared to handle it.
In this case, the client may have had grounds for being anxious, but Brady says the approach to easing the anxiety is the same.
“Start slowly and gradually work into a space where the money can be used wisely for the person, the family and the community. As an advisor, you may never get the client beyond using the money for himself, but get them to feel comfortable with where they are. Then you can see if they want to go beyond, to the family and the community.”