Another way to handle an opening salvo in a political debate is to say: “‘I’m not sure this impacts the decisions we’re focused on today,’” Richards said.

Will The Client Back Off?
The next question after that is: Will the client back off the political conversation or won’t they? “I think that’s an interesting litmus test,” Kitces said. It will tell advisors if a client is willing to focus on the financial planning meeting at hand or if the client still believes their political opinions are the center of the world and impact their planning.

Many clients will invariably back off. But what do advisors do if they find themselves drained by politically animated clients who can’t be refocused on the actual financial planning?

Kitces said bluntly, “It’s OK to let go of a client over this. You’re not firing them for political reasons. You’re firing them for your personal mental health reasons. It’s OK to let go of a client for your personal mental health.”

Richards said it’s important to remember you’re not trying to change the client’s perspective, you just want to treat them as you would any other client you find difficult and draining to work with. 

“I think you could easily say, ‘Look, it sounds like those political views are so important to you and they affect your planning to a degree that you consider to be vital. And that’s not something that’s a good fit for me. … So, I would be doing you a disservice to keep you as a client with something this important that’s not a good fit for me. So, can I help you find someone else? Or maybe you can ask some of your friends who share those political views for a planner that’s a better fit. And listen, Mr. or Mrs. Client, I will pledge to you that I will do my absolute best to make that the smoothest transition possible ever so we can part friends. The next time I see you, I want high fives and hugs,’” Richards said.

Kitces said if he finds himself in the middle of a meeting and a client is fixated on politics, he might say, “‘Wow, we’ve been talking about this for an hour and a half. … It sounds like these political views are really important to you and they really affect your planning in a way that you consider vital, but I don’t know that I can help you at this point. This kind of planning isn’t a good fit for me. Why don’t we work together to find a planner that will be a better fit?’”

But if you open the door for clients to separate the politics from the planning and they decline, you are probably past the saving point and will need to find the most gracious way possible to expedite the exit, by doing the right thing for the client and trying to find him or her another place to land that will be a good fit, Richards said.

Kitces recommends that advisors focus on unwinding the relationship as graciously and expeditiously as possible. Because their mental health is worth more than this, he said.

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