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Revitalizing Your Approach to Client Advice with George Kinder

The financial advice industry is relatively young. After all, it has only been in the last few decades that consumers have started demanding financial advice with less commission-fueled conflict of interest.

Our industry is young enough that it has very few “historic influencers.” George Kinder is clearly one. He was the very first winner of the Financial Planning Association’s “Heart of Financial Planning Award.” Inducted into the Financial Planning Magazine Hall of Fame, numerous other national publications have featured his financial philosophy.

On this episode of the Elementality podcast, Reese and George discuss the ideas about personal freedom that led George to start the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. Find out how his vision about the real needs of clients can help you work with your own clients today.

 


Podcast Transcript

George Kinder:
Likely is what financially was always been meant to be, it’s what financial advice has always been meant to be. So I usually advise as well about product. Financial planning is not about spreadsheets. Financial planning and financial advice, if they’re done well, it’s all about the client. It’s about learning that complexity of who the client is, the poem, if you will, the piece of music that the client is and what they aspire to, and that’s a constantly changing thing.

Abby Morton:
Welcome to Elementality. I am Abby Morton, CFP and producer of our podcast here at elements. I love being a financial planner, but I know it’s a challenging profession as well. That’s why the number one goal of our show is to help you prosper as an advisor, as you better connect with your clients. We know your time is very valuable. Plan on a good return when you spend it here with us.

Reese Harper:
Welcome to another episode of Elementality everybody. I’m your host Reese Harper, and I’m excited to expose to some of you what might be a new face and probably bring back a familiar face to many of you who already know him. George Kinder. George, welcome to the show men.

George Kinder:
Great to be here.

Reese Harper:
Me and you have already connected on some really fun things. I hadn’t had a chance to meet you, but for those of you who don’t know, George is an author. George has been really influential in the financial planning community since, I’d say the late ’70s, mid ’70s, right? Well, kind of a pioneer in financial planning in a concept that he’s really coined and supported with a credential and has a big following around life planning in general. Those of you who don’t know him, we’re going to be in for a real treat today, and those of you who do will get to hear his latest thoughts and what he’s exploring right now. Reading about you and kind of listening to you talk, I can see that how your creativity, all the inputs you’ve had in your life have really made you approach financial planning in a really unique way. Just kind of curious how you’d respond to that. Does that resonate with you? We didn’t talk about that really prior.

George Kinder:
Oh, great man. I love it. And I mean, it is interesting. My dad who I ended up having a very good relationship with, but in my early days, I didn’t. As a youth, I-

Reese Harper:
Kind of butted heads.

George Kinder:
[crosstalk 00:02:32] with him, yeah. And he gave me probably the first piece of really good advice he gave me was when I was heading off to college. And what he said was, don’t go pre-professional, don’t even think about what’s coming after college. Just go and learn, and follow your intuition, your creativity, your brain, your heart, just really, really soak it up. And that [crosstalk 00:03:08].

Reese Harper:
That’s good advice.

George Kinder:
It was incredible. It was just incredible. And as I said, I had not had a great relationship with him. So I was kind of stunned by this, this kind of liberal kind of flavor. And I entered… So I went to Harvard and I entered Harvard as a math major. I had 800, every time I took math, the SATs, the GREs, all the rest, 800s. And within a year, I’d shifted from being a math major to being an English major, which was my worst subject, my worst subject. And it was just that in literature and in the arts, questions were being asked that were profound about life, about the meaning of life, and then how to construct something that from your… if you’re playing music. How do you construct something that has an impact on a person’s life that’s transformative? And that fascinated me. So I, right from the get-go, I kind of would go after whatever I was really bad at to really learn and become good at.

Reese Harper:
I think both George and I are probably on a kick more than ever on this right now, just in the… George, probably more than me, because he’s had a lot of time to contemplate this, but I feel like that as you pursue your craft as a financial advisor, make sure and keep interjecting things into your life that expand your thinking outside of your profession. I think it’ll help you not only be more relatable and have a better relate-ability with your clients, but it helps you think about solving problems in a different way.

George Kinder:
Well, I think what’s wonderful about it, when you’re talking about to financial advisors is that you’re going to be so much better as a listener to other people, if you are broad-based, the more broad-based you are. And once you get through the kind of, how do you structure an efficient portfolio? How do you design a financial plan? How do you do all of that stuff? How do you know what is the right insurance and what isn’t and how do you know what it is to be a fiduciary, whatever those things are that are essential, once you know those things, that’s your gig. I mean, you just know that. So, where else are you going? Are you just going to stay static with that for the rest of your life? No, that’s what powers your value to a client, but then the value really begins, and the value that you really have to the client is your relationship with them.

George Kinder:
Because in that relationship, what happens is that you build trust and then you discover if you’ve discovered it inside yourself, who it is the client really wants to be, and you make that your passion. It’s not about the money anymore, it’s not about the spreadsheets. It’s about delivering them into their life of freedom. That’s what life learning is, delivering people to their life of freedom and in short order.

Reese Harper:
So if we talk about the difference between… I mean, you’re kind of the, I guess one of the first people and the first person to sort of coin the term life planning. How would you define this and kind of say, what’s the difference between traditional financial planning and life planning as you would define it.

George Kinder:
Likely is what financial planning has always been meant to be. It’s what financial advice has always been meant to be. Financial advice is not about products. Financial planning is not about spreadsheets. Financial planning and financial advice, if they’re done well is all about the client. It’s about learning that complexity and who the client is, the poem, if you will, the piece of music that the client is, and what they aspire to. And that’s a constantly changing thing. You and I were talking about jazz, it’s a constantly changing thing. And to be so ready for all of the complications and the intrigues and the passions and the sorrows of all of that, and then to know how to bring in the spreadsheets and the products so that you’re delivering the person exactly to who they want to be, that’s life planning. And the focus is just different.

George Kinder:
It’s not about the money, it’s not about math. It’s about the client and delivering them into their dream of freedom, and within short order. I mean, we deliver them in our, what we call a registered life planner designation, we pride ourselves in delivering the client into their dream of freedom within typically a year and a half. They might not get everything, they might not get that island in paradise, but they’re going to be well on their way. They’re going to feel launched and a real richness in their life that they’ve been blocking.

Reese Harper:
This might be an interesting way of doing this. I’m going to throw this out real time here because I know you can handle it, but let’s pretend I’m a new customer. All right. I’m a new client, you just met me. I told you a little bit about the fact that I love music. Try to put yourself right now in the shoes of a financial advisor. What are some of the kind of things you’re trying… Ask me a question or two that you would want to unpack in that initial engagement. I’m just curious, kind of where you’d go.

George Kinder:
Yeah. So, if we can deliver you into the life you really want to live, you really want to live, what would that look like?

Reese Harper:
Pretend like I don’t know what this number is, okay. So, because I don’t. I mean, I’m a brand new client, but I need to have a certain amount of money I think, to be able to be done, but I don’t really want to keep doing what I’m doing right now. Yeah, How would you kind of… I guess what’s your questions or your followup to that? What are you thinking of?

George Kinder:
Well, this isn’t exactly how I go. This is kind of freeform, but I… There’s a meeting structure, I guess, a particular structure to it that I’ll describe.

Reese Harper:
Oh, interesting.

George Kinder:
But here, what I would say is, okay, so, well, you’re there. You’re there. Let’s put you there. You’re there, you’re there. And it’s within a year, a year and a half, you’re there. You’ve got it. What does it look like?

Reese Harper:
Okay. Is this happening during discovery or would this moment be post-becoming a client where you’re starting to dive in deep, do you think? That when do you kind of break down the difference between sales and my service, right? When does discovery end and, or discovery begin and maybe sales ends?

George Kinder:
I pretty much never ask questions.

Reese Harper:
Okay. So you never asked questions during sales?

George Kinder:
No. And there’s only one thing you ever sell a client on, there’s only one thing you ever sell a client on. And that is their dream of freedom within a year, year and a half. Here it is. Here’s the life you’re living, which you want. That’s the only thing [crosstalk 00:10:41].

Reese Harper:
Okay, so that’s you’re selling… If I’m understanding you correctly George, you’re saying prior to them signing a client engagement, I’m not going in to ask questions, I’m not unpacking, I’m not doing discovery. And I totally agree with that. It’s my experience so that advisors, generally, they violate that rule. It’s the number one rule they violate. I don’t think they realize they’re giving away, that is the value man. That’s the value right there, building that relationship, the questions, the empathy, that humanity, that they’re going to feel, the minute that starts happening, you’ve begun delivering the value. And some people will say, well, George shouldn’t I do that right now so that they sign up with me. If I don’t start going there, then they’re never going to know what I can deliver. Well, what do you say to that?

George Kinder:
Well, I mean, the typical end of my first meeting is… I mean, they know I’ve got a contract, I’ve sent out a copy of it and all that. And typically into my first meeting, the contract’s there and among the piece of paper, I say we don’t need it. We don’t need to do this right now. And the client says, no, no, I want to, let’s do it. I want to get started right away. So that’s the end of my first meeting. I’d say 80, 90% of the time.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, you’re leaving them with the desire to engage, but you’re not actually giving them the closure of actually engaging.

George Kinder:
If they say they really want to, I go, well, all right, if you want to. Yeah. I mean, okay. We’ll sign, we’ll get going, but the reason that they do that, Reese, and the reason that you’re describing is right for a typical financial advisor, they don’t know how to work with a client because they don’t put the client first. They’ve got in their mind a particular sale or a particular product that they’re delivering. No, give me a break, that the client doesn’t want their product. What does the client want? The client wants freedom.

Reese Harper:
Peace of mind. They want, yeah.

George Kinder:
Peace of mind would be part of it for most people. Some people want vitality. Some people want [crosstalk 00:12:59].

Reese Harper:
Control.

George Kinder:
Yeah. Control. I mean, there are different things, but they want their experience of freedom. They want to experience their authenticity throughout their life, starting as soon as possible, and you can deliver that to them in the first meeting that the extraordinary thing. And that gets delivered by listening, just simply about listening. So we train people in our… Training, there’s an amazing training where you get together with… you pair up with another advisor, and it’s real. It’s like, what you just asked me to do with you for five days, four or five days, so you could go at it with each other and you… the first meeting is just about listening. And what you do is you say, so why are you here? What would you like? And then the only question you ask on top of that is, well, anything else?

George Kinder:
There’s a saying in life planning that the first time you ask a question, like a narrow question, and they might’ve said, I’m here for retirement and you go, oh well, tell me about retirement. What does retirement mean to you? First time you ask a question you can recover from, but if you ask two questions, the client backs up, goes, oh, it’s your meeting, Reese, just fire away the questions. And then you get to nowhere. You might sell the product, you might gain them as a client for a few years, four or five years, maybe even, but you’ve lost them. You don’t have a client for life because you never listened. You never learned who they really are and what they really want.

George Kinder:
And it’s all your agenda. Even if your agenda is their Freedom. If you narrowly ask questions, you’re losing them because they don’t get to build that authenticity from being listened to, as you say, empathically and inspirationally.

Reese Harper:
It’s so hard to learn that skill though. We’re not instructed and coached. We’re not taught that in any meaningful way in our formal education undergraduate or graduate work. And then in financial advice and the CFP, I mean, it’s like no different than the SAT. I mean, this is just regurgitating facts and figures again. And we’re just doubling down on people, learning how to answer math questions and give facts. I mean, we’re like walking dictionaries and like, I feel like a lot of its financial advisors take pride in that. I know every answer to every financial fact and figure you could throw at me. Ask me how, I know everything about the backdoor Roth IRA conversion. It’s like the client at some point, man, you’re… The dictionary is not going to be… you’re not gonna be valued as a facts and figures dictionary. You’re not going to be valued as a spreadsheet generator. You’re only going to be valued if you can go there to that deep kind of empathic listening, but how do we get training on that? I mean, I’m guessing I’m throwing a softball up for you, George.

George Kinder:
That’s what we do. I mean, that’s so amazing. Our trainings are all experiential and the primary one, the major one is a four to five day training and it’s… Well, all of our trainings are about listening, but it is astonishing because you come in, when you exit that training, you both know how you’re going to deliver your financial advice, but you also know your life plan. You’ve been life-planned. How can you be a financial advisor without living your life plan, without knowing it? So, yeah, we created, they are trainable skills, but they’re experiential. You can’t learn them in a CFP program.

Reese Harper:
It takes a lot of… My experience, George is that most advisors talk a lot and it’s hard for some time, it’s hard to train yourself to not just start talking. Is that common or is that just a problem I have?

George Kinder:
No, no, that’s totally of just about every advisor coming in has struggled just sitting there and listening.

Reese Harper:
It’s so hard, isn’t it? Why is it so hard, George? Why is it so hard? I think it’s because we have some answers there or we think we have an answer and we don’t realize though that that’s not… that won’t actually solve the problem. All the answers we have are not why they’re there, right?

George Kinder:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
They’re there to have that experience of being known and understood and supported but they’re not there to… They might come in with a question and they think they’re there to get an answer, but they’re really not, right?

George Kinder:
That’s right. That’s right.

Reese Harper:
So, so let’s talk about this then. Let’s say I’m a critic that’s going to be hard on the financial advice industry here for a minute.

George Kinder:
Sure, yeah.

Reese Harper:
If the best financial advice is essentially therapy, good listening therapy, good financial therapy, why don’t people just go get a good therapist and then go get a Robinhood account or go set up a Wealthfront account? I have my opinions on this, but I just want to throw it out there. If financial advisors are not trained listeners, why not go hire a good trained listener and then do this stuff cheaper or something? Talk to me about that dynamic.

George Kinder:
Sure. Yeah. Well, the first book I wrote is still the most popular book. It’s called the seven stages of money maturity, and it really is a psychology of money book and [crosstalk 00:19:00].

Reese Harper:
Oh, I thought you were going to say it was a romance novel.

George Kinder:
What happened after I wrote it was that at some point, I just woke up and I realized everybody’s doing it wrong. They’re all trying to do therapy. They weren’t trained as therapists. They’re trying to do therapy based on this book, I wrote, they’re all doing the wrong. A whole bunch of people wrote books coming out of my book and I’m just going, oh. I start tearing my hair and going, they’re not… No, no, no. You want to deliver people into freedom. How do you do it? So that was when I wrote my second book and started the institute and did a training program in how you did it. So the problem with therapy, you’re absolutely right, first of all, that we want as a financial advisor to have, if we’re going to be a great financial advisor, the listening skills that a great therapist has. That’s an essential requirement and we need the emotional intelligence that a great therapist has. So that we can deliver empathy, and so that we could also deliver inspirational support where a person says my gosh, I just love playing the piano, whatever it is. I just love.

George Kinder:
And we go, yeah, wow, cool. So we need those, but that’s all we need. The therapist still asks too many questions and goes into the past. What we want is to look at what’s the dream life? support the sorrows that where a person says oh gosh, but I haven’t lived up to it, whatever my dreams are, or go, yeah, wow, for the inspiration, but what we want to do is keep our eyes on the prize, and keep the client’s eyes on the prize, which is that dream, that what I asked you for, the place in the woods, playing the piano, having an impact, having enough resources to be able to do whatever you want. But really having an impact of knowing that you have it and knowing that you’re there.

George Kinder:
A great financial planner, a life planner, rather than pulling apart your neurosis that kept you from getting to your dream, he throws the focus entirely on the dream, supports you so that emotionally you feel like, wow, I can do this. So you’ve had this enormously positive feeling and then adds the financial acumen, the financial knowledge, the spreadsheet, and all that, so that in fact, you can see the path and you can do it. So what happens is that most of our, if we’re basically a healthy neurotic, which most people are, we get through our neuroses much quicker by focusing on our dream and actually getting it delivered and getting to live the life that we want rather than constantly focused on how we’re not able to live that life, not able to live that life week after week after week, how come we’re not able to live that life.

George Kinder:
That’s the difference. And and I say that having learned a tremendous amount from… most of my clients were therapists in the early days and that’s that’s why I studied with them. I studied their… I took all their workshops and all of that, but I saw a great respect and their listening skills are unbelievable. And it’s exactly what we need to be great advisors.

Abby Morton:
I know one of your biggest challenges is delivering a consistent financial planning experience to your clients on an ongoing basis. You get off to a good start onboarding a client, and then what? There just doesn’t seem to be a good process for nurturing the new relationship. The Elements Financial Planning System can help you easily organize and evaluate client financial data. Then, based on key indicators of their financial health, deliver timely insights to your clients. Using our system gives you the structure you need for ongoing planning. To learn more, schedule a time to talk to us today by going to getelements.com/meet.

George Kinder:
You and I related briefly around mindfulness, via email. I think at one point. I think of our programs as being mindfulness-based. That a great listener, the best listeners I know, tend to have some kind of internal practice of listening inside themselves. Not with a lot of thought, but just being, learning to be inside themselves. And so that’s one way, the more that we develop inside ourselves and the more we develop our capacity for listening, the more we can give an experience a freedom to our clients in that first meeting and in ongoing meetings.

Reese Harper:
You found what centeredness and peace of mind looks like. For me, I kind of… It’s interesting that you say that. In my own life, there was kind of the Walden Pond, small cabin in the woods for me. You and I share a preference for cabins, it sounds like. English majors tend to like a cabin, I think. They don’t want that ranch. I look at that ranch, I’m like, yeah, that’s way too much work, man. I want to write, I want to read and write so I can do that in a small cabin. There’s these things that we want, that we worked hard for, that we kind of want, that kind of represents some kind of financial success, but you and I both know that those things actually don’t… They’re not required in order for us to have the centeredness and peace of mind, the happiness, the freedom that we want. Sometimes it’s just maybe a little bit of liquidity that someone’s lacking. Maybe it’s, they’re just, their cashflow is just a wreck, and their savings rate is upside down, or they’ve got… I got a $3 million net worth and it’s all allocated in their primary residence and they’ve got no liquidity at all outside of that, and they’re feeling stressed out of their gourd and they could afford two ranches.

Reese Harper:
It’s sometimes a balance sheet adjustment. I worry one that sometimes if I’m not careful, I might be causing people to over-consume. And then I look at it and I go, well, the consumption was important for me. I needed some things to feel like my work was meaningful, that I got my stuff, I got my ranch essentially, right? But then I’ve also experienced that same realization that it didn’t actually matter, those things weren’t… I don’t know that that gave me the peace. It was more something shifted internally in inside of me. Having those things kind of helped. it’s a complicated balance here. So the first question would be how do we not… How do we not make sure people don’t get out of control with their consumption, because if all we’re doing is encouraging them, then they… it can blow up. The second thing is more, what is really required for people to feel freedom? Is it consumption? Is it a psychology? Anyway, it’s a big set of things I threw at you. So just feel free to go wherever you want with.

George Kinder:
No, it’s great. It’s great. I love it. It’s actually a pretty easy question to answer. What I’ve been describing mostly is the first meeting and the major requirement of a great advisor, which is listening. But the second meeting that we do, we have, we break the discovery process into three meetings and that includes a preliminary plan and solving the obstacles that stand in the way and all that. And then all you really need to do is deliver the final spreadsheet and the recommendations. But in the second meeting, we discover what it is that the person really cares about most. And we don’t pay attention to the superficial stuff. I mean, it’s there and we sprinkle it into the plan, but we pay attention to what the client cares about most, what’s most profound.

George Kinder:
And so if that’s writing in a cabin in the woods, that’s going to be there. That’s all it is. Now, how expensive is your cabin in the woods? How expensive is writing in a cabin in the woods? How much resources do you need to support that? And if you go, yeah, I want that, but I want a brand new kitchen, but the brand new kitchen, when we go through this process of evaluating the brand new kitchen pales in comparison to writing in the cabin in the woods, and we just go, well, you can have that brand new kitchen that puts the cabin in the woods out maybe 3, 4, 5 years, or you can have the writing of the cabin right now in the woods. And maybe we can get that kitchen if you save and budget over the next couple of years, maybe we can get that new kitchen too, but you can have what you really want now or within a short period of time.

George Kinder:
So when you play to what the person really wants, those things tend not to be enormously expensive. Often, they have to do with their relationship with their kids or their spouse, or their long lost sibling.

Reese Harper:
It’s not always consumption-related. We gave an example of the cabin and the ranch, but sometimes these are balance sheet adjustments, or I was just in a conversation where it was a mom that I was doing some volunteer work, and I just offered to consult recently. A single mom that’s going through a tough divorce right now. She was telling me, she really, really, really wanted to end up with this house that she had been living in as her primary deal and turns out she just really wanted a horse. She really wanted the horse and to have this horse in side of a stall in this local community where she could go and spend more time relaxing.

Reese Harper:
And the house wasn’t as valuable, I was like, well, shoot, you got plenty of equity in the house, if you’re willing to give that up. I mean, you’re going to rent a house and we’re going to be fine. This was someone that didn’t have a lot of means. But man, just the immediate shift, wasn’t… It didn’t require consumption beyond what the resources they already had. You’re saying that that can often be the case. It may not be a long-term goal.

George Kinder:
Yeah. It almost always is the case. We have a vision process that takes people deep rather than just looking at material things. And it has a way naturally in each of the exercises we give, we’ve got three or four exercises we give. And each of them is a kind of process that deepens the person and gets them to see what is most important to them. And when you see what is really important, a lot of times people go, oh my God, I almost forgot that. That’s what’s really important. I don’t care about that other stuff. But as a trainer, you get trained in how to deliver them that. The final question we ask and we are mostly famous for what are known as the three questions.

George Kinder:
And the final question is one about you go to the doctor and you only have 24 hours. So you discover you only have 24. You thought you were perfectly healthy, but you suddenly discover you only have 24 hours left to live. And the question is just, looking at what you had anticipated doing and who you’d anticipated being, what did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do? And it’s rarely that expensive house. It’s rarely that expensive house.

Reese Harper:
It cuts to the values. It’s cutting to their values, their deepest sense of values, right?

George Kinder:
Absolutely. Yeah. And when you do that, you’ve got the client for life again, because you now know them at what is absolutely the most important place in their life. It’s the legacy place, it’s the end game.

Reese Harper:
It’s a critical conversation. I think that it can… People hearing this for the first time and haven’t had the full context of the five-day training, I think it can… Any one of these taken out of context would… You could be missing the bigger picture. I think what George is… What I’m hearing, it’s not always a consumption-related factor that drives people, it’s actually their deepest sense of values that is really driving them. Getting to that, the root of their values is… And the way they want to spend their time, the way, what they value about how they spend their time, that’s that legacy piece. And if you don’t uncover that with people, if you’re not going there, you’re still quite… you haven’t quite got the client. I mean, really got them.

George Kinder:
Yeah. You don’t. And so we do. We make sure we’re… It’s a very thorough process. And then the final meeting, the final life-planning portion of the meeting is going through the obstacles. So, and like a great therapist, but here is in the positive way around the dream, you’re saying, you can do it and I’m here. I’m going to support you. Let’s make it happen. But you ask them what could get in the way, and then you ask them, well, what are you going to do this week to solve it? What are you going to do next week? Who is going to help you? And you just get… And that third meeting is all about solving the obstacles and it’s a bang, bang, bang, bang, bang action, step oriented path. And at the end of that, the client is just like moving so much energy. It’s astonishing.

Reese Harper:
Well, I want to just ask, what was the challenge though? I was going to ask you the question, what was the challenge that you found that you were trying to tackle when you founded the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. And I heard you say something about the first book coming out and it was kind of about therapy, and then you’re like, oh my gosh, they don’t get it. Was that the problem that you were solving was that people were… What I’m hearing you say is they thought therapy was the answer, become a therapist and you weren’t really saying that exactly, right?

George Kinder:
Yeah, right. They thought the psychology of money. I mean, my first book really is a psychology of money, maybe the first psychology of money and philosophy of money. And people thought that that was the answer, and therefore, psychology was kind of the way to do things. And so the challenge was how to redirect that enthusiasm that I created, that I’d found and launched in a way in the financial planning community, how to redirect that toward the actual meeting structure to deliver freedom to a client in short order. And so that was my challenge. And that was the creation of the five day that now is on Zoom. It’s great on Zoom because you see each others eyeball to eyeball, it’s pretty cool. and that’s a four day on Zoom. And so that was the creation of the registered life planner designation and all of that. That was really the challenge for that piece of my work.

Reese Harper:
I read a lot of books from this era, let’s say the late ’70s early ’80s, mid ’80s, where I felt like there was a push towards… We got these, like a financial advisor needs to go get their PhD, or they’ve got to go become licensed LCSWs, or they got to go… they’re going to have to go get some, a master’s degree that appropriately positions them to be a therapist. I heard this a lot and I’m kind of wondering, I liked it. When I first heard it, I was like… I was young. This is me reading in 2003, 2004. Well, I started at Northwestern Mutual thinking I’m going to be a financial advisor and I’m, within a year, I’m kind of going, whoa, this is not exactly what I thought I was signing up for.

Reese Harper:
I’m selling insurance and this isn’t… Products are not financial plans and financial plans aren’t even what clients want. They want this dream. They want this vision, right? They want this experience, but I… So I started reading all these books and I’m seeing all this therapeutic kind of counseling stuff being floated around and I really resonated with it. But then I noticed the industry did not pick up on that really. I mean, that trend, I mean, if anything, we got more dogmatic with delivering plans. We started printing plans in binders. I mean, hundreds of pages of projections, 10-year cashflow, five-year cashflow, like precision cashflow forecasting. It’s like, where did we end up? But how did this happen?

George Kinder:
And how many times does the client look at that in their life [crosstalk 00:36:19]?

Reese Harper:
Yeah. Did you feel like you’re… you’re saying you had to correct a little bit of the… You had to balance at least the therapeutic advice. You just wanted people to develop the listening skills, but I don’t feel like they picked up on that theme. The whole industry is still, they’re not there. So what’s happening? Why did that not take off? Why are people not willing to do therapy? Why is it so weird and awkward or I don’t know.

George Kinder:
You’re coming toward for the last book I wrote, which is about life planning civilization, and I think the industry is… We have a real misunderstanding of the industry. And it’s really a problem with the industry and it’s a problem with how we understand capitalism. And it’s a problem with hierarchies of power basically. And so the systems approach to kind of… I mean, I thought that the industry of course, would go wherever the client. Whatever would be best for the client, because that would build a great business, but we’ve seen, it’s so easy for propaganda to land. And when clients come in to see advisors, they don’t trust the advisor first off.

Reese Harper:
No way. Yeah. The financial system as zero trust.

George Kinder:
Zero trust. And they haven’t cared about that. Why bother if we can win them anyway. They’ve got to come to us. We got a monopoly on this anyway. And if you look at… So we’ve had to create. I mean, in life planning, we’ve created community of listening with thousands of advisors all over the world now who are great listeners. So there is that movement is happening, but you’re fighting against the… I mean, do you know who… If you look at, you can look on opensecrets.org, I think it is. And look at who funds the Banking Committee in the Senate? Who basically bought all of those senators? And it wasn’t you and me buddy, it wasn’t our clients. It was big banks and the insurance companies. And what is their goal? Their goal is to sell as many products as possibly can, because they had a predicted margin of profit on each one.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. When it comes to advice, you got no margin that’s really monetizable, right? Advice is never going to be an attractive product for an institution to monetize, ever. They’re going to resist that. You see it all the time, all the broker dealers, all the RIA is like it, they don’t want to turn into accounting firms that are basically just monetizing. I mean, accounting firms don’t even want to give advice. They just want to file massive tax return volumes without having to do any bookkeeping and any advice, any coaching. It’s a complicated thing to monetize, and so you end up just getting… The client is assuming they’re going to get advice from mint.com and they get credit cards sold to them, or they assume they’re going to get advice from the new financial app they download, but then next thing they know they’re getting a mortgage pushed on them.

Reese Harper:
Advisors play such an important role. George, they play such a critical role, but it’s not something that corporate interests are going to be really quick to get behind. That I think that your life really is about living a life that’s true to the values and the deepest parts of you, the most authentic parts of you, that really allow you to just tomorrow wake up feeling like you’re free, because you are being your authentic self and you’re pursuing the identity, the values that you’re… they’re deepest to you. And as an advisor, that’s going to take a shape in a lot of different ways in the size of your practice and the objectives that you have.

Reese Harper:
For me in a small way, that’s taking shape and trying to help be a small voice in the advisor community to try to get advisors to start communicating more and moving in a direction that would be best for all of us. So George, I’m going to let you leave the final thoughts here as we part ways, and just say, thanks again for all your time, it’s been a pleasure spending an hour with you. So any parting thoughts you’d like to leave?

George Kinder:
Boy, Reese, you’ve summarized what I would say so beautifully yourself. I’m really impressed and stunned at how you got this. I think that a double message of take pride in what you do. It’s astonishing what we’re doing, and we’re right at the heart of where kind of money and meaning, humanity and money are meant to meet. And then speak out, get active because civilization needs this model of humanity of humaneness within its capital structures. And what an astonishing world that would be. And what we’re doing in life planning is we’re delivering everybody by delivering them into their dream of freedom. We’re delivering entrepreneurial energy into everybody, all over the world. It’s just incredible, but decentralized, democratized, not hierarchically driven.

Reese Harper:
Beautiful stuff, George. You and me will have to make a habit of doing this once in a while. So it’s a lot of fun connecting. I really appreciate all your work and I hope you know how appreciative I am and not only me, but all the advisors that you’ve touched over the years. You’ve put a lot of heart into this and really appreciate what it takes to commit to a craft and approach it in the way you have. So thank you for your time and we look forward to doing this again.

George Kinder:
My pleasure. Thank you so much, Reese.

Abby Morton:
Next time on Elementality.

Reese Harper:
Client doesn’t really know why they would pay more, or why they would pay a certain amount, or why they should pay anything because the advisor isn’t scoping their value out real clearly. And then the advisor is also kind of struggling to know if what they’re committing to is the right thing, because they don’t exactly know what it’s going to cost to serve as a customer.

Abby Morton:
You can learn more about the Elements Financial Planning System at getelements.com/meet, and schedule a time to speak with one of our friendly financial planning experts. Elementality’s executive creators are Reese Harper and Chad Jardine. Elementality is produced by Abby Morton and directed by Jordan Haines. Have a good one.

 

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