Roy Diliberto feels improving a client's quality of life takes precedence over investment gains.

Somewhere along the way during his 39 years in the financial services business, Roy Diliberto went through the type of change that forces him to now talk about the "old Roy" and the "new Roy."

As he puts it, he went through a metamorphosis that was perfectly exemplified by the time not too long ago when one of his clients, a 71-year-old widow, gave him a phone call because she faced a dilemma. A friend had died recently and it got her thinking. About her life. About things she'd put off for too long.

She shared with Diliberto that she finally wanted to go on her dream vacation: a trip through Europe-with all of her children and grandchildren. She figured it would cost between $50,000 and $60,000. Although her net worth was in the low seven figures, she was not exceptionally wealthy to the point where she could write out that type of check without some second thoughts. So naturally, she called Diliberto and asked, "Can I do it?"

If she had asked that question of him 30 or even 20 years ago, Diliberto says, there's a good chance he would have called the client into a meeting, crunched the numbers, analyzed the results and tried to come up with a carefully thought out answer.

But that was the "old" Roy. Today's Roy-the new one-had a different response: "When do you need the money?"

This isn't a case of an advisor getting more laid-back with his clients' accounts late in his career. It's just that when Diliberto looks back on his career, he sees himself as having shifted his gaze from his clients' portfolios to their lives, their goals and, ultimately, their dreams. It's an outlook that has made him one of the leading proponents of what's commonly referred to as "life planning" in the industry. Except Diliberto cringes when he hears that term. "I'm not a psychologist," he exclaims. Life planning, he asserts, implies an affinity with family or marriage counselors, or other professions of that ilk. That's misleading, he says. "The objective is not to go out and try to cure someone," he says. What's often misunderstood, he says, is the purpose of the multi-faceted questions that are part of the endeavor.

Diliberto, for instance, will typically delve deep into a client's childhood soon after beginning a relationship. The purpose: to get an inkling of how they grew up to understand money. He recalls one instance where a woman recounted a rags-to-riches story about how her father lost a business that was left to him by her grandfather, leaving the family bankrupt. Her husband was dumbfounded when he heard the tale. But it left a clear picture of why she'd always been reluctant to spend money on anything, he says.

"It's part of life. You can't deal with people without dealing with the psychology of the person," he says. "The purpose is to understand them."

It's probably more accurate to call him a "dream facilitator." Simply put, Diliberto sees his mission as extracting the dreams and ambitions from his clients and then hitting the ground running to make it all financially possible.

"I tell clients what I try to do is merge their money and their life, to the point where their life and their money aren't fighting with one another," Diliberto says. "I think the best term for it is 'financial planning done well.'"

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