Sadly but perhaps inevitably, there is precious little overlap between the population of genuinely first-rate advisors in our industry and the population of people who consistently do first-rate writing on the subject. Roy Diliberto is a welcome exception to this rule – if not the exception.

I’m reminded of this no less than every two months, when he posts his invariably thought-provoking observations in these pages. His most recent essay, “Data Gathering vs. Discovery,” is a particular classic, and it rendered me determined to go back and re-read his fine book Financial Planning – The Next Step.

Roy is the godfather of the movement variously described as “life planning,” “financial life planning” and even “integral finance” – indeed, anything to distinguish it from traditional left-brain, primarily if not purely quantitative financial planning. The question he has always asked – to which, as with Socrates’ most telling interrogatives, there can be no good answer – is: what is the point of applying your technical skills to a client’s situation while you still have an incomplete human understanding of that situation?

Thus the spine of his book is one simple but defining principle: “The value of our advice will improve in proportion to the knowledge we have about our clients” – though by “knowledge” Roy manifestly means an understanding of their core values, most important goals and dreams, and deepest (even if irrational) fears. And in case after case – because he’s a terrific storyteller into the bargain – he illustrates the technique (nay, the belief system) by which the empathetic planner may discover the very real impulses which lead clients in different directions than a rigid dollars-and-cents analysis might suggest that they “should” go. But there’s nothing the least bit touchy-feely about his approach: it is disciplined, practical, practiced and clearly spelled out. You don’t have to reinvent this wheel.

Financial Planning – The Next Step is one of those exquisitely rare books that have the power fundamentally to redirect not merely your practice but your values, and even your life. The chapter “Marketing: Meet Ralph Busco” is alone worth the price of the book, which – wouldn’t you know it – Roy donates to the Financial Planning Association.

© 2014 Nick Murray. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission. Nick reviews new books, articles and research findings in the “Resources” feature of his monthly newsletter, Nick Murray Interactive. To download a sample issue, visit, and click on “Newsletter.”