If you want to make claims that you deliver financial wellbeing, you need to actually deliver financial wellbeing.
In order to be something, you need to do something.
Sometimes, however, it is possible to be before you actually are!
In his book How To Write One Song, Jeff Tweedy, singer/song writer for the band Wilco, talks about how, when he was 9 years old, he would tell everybody that he was a songwriter.
When he reached aged 12, he thought he better actually start writing some songs to back up his claims.
The writer Neil Gaiman, in his fabulous commencement speech “Make Good Art”, talks about claiming in interviews when applying for jobs that he had written articles for several notable publications when he had not. This was a lie but, when he got the job, he went back to those magazines and succeeded in writing articles for them.
In this way, he was not so much lying as was “chronologically challenged”.
Similarly, I talk to a lot of people who want to be a writer. Or, perhaps more accurately, they want to be an author.
How do you be a writer? You write. To quote Billy Crystal in the film Throw Mamma From The Train: “A writer writes. Always.”
I could give many more examples, but I’m sure you’ve got the idea by now. In order to be something, you have to do that thing.
If you want to be a financial planner, you have to practice financial planning. If you are only talking to clients about their investments, and not about their lives, then you’re not being a financial planner.
Likewise, if you have financial wellbeing as a client outcome on your website, you need to be talking to clients about how to use their wealth to make them happier.
This is much more than just stating objectives such as ‘Living the life you want to lead’. It means putting into practice the theory and research about the relationship between money and happiness. You need to be addressing the five pillars of financial wellbeing with your clients.
It’s Not Just Marketing Spin
We see a lot of websites with the words financial wellbeing on the homepage. However, click on the How We Help You drop-down tab, and a list of product areas usually appears – pensions, investments, protection et cetera.
For some firms, this might be a simple case that their web site needs updating. For others, however, it is because they want to create the impression that they deliver wellbeing to clients, without actually doing so. If the client thinks they are going to be helped with their wellbeing but just gets advice on their products, this is going to tarnish the imagine of financial wellbeing.
Financial Wellbeing Audit And Certificate
It is for this reason that the IFW has created the Financial Wellbeing Audit. It enables firms who pass the audit to use this in their marketing, including placing the IFW logo on their website. In this way clients can separate firms who claim to be financial wellbeing advisers to those who actually do focus their advice on wellbeing.
For those firms that fail, the audit provides a pathway for firms to deliver genuine financial wellbeing oriented advice.
The audit helps the firm, but we also want to help individuals. The Financial Wellbeing Certificate has been written by me with contributions from a number of others such as Neil Bage. It is delivered by Quiver Management, and provides training for individual advisers and paraplanners on how to help clients to be happier, not just wealthier.
In this way the IFW is providing the tools for both firms and advisers advisors to do what they say they do, and be what they say they are.
PS Here’s a great line from Neil Gaiman’s talk, about how he did the things he needed to do to become what he wanted to be: “I imagined that what I wanted to be was a mountain, and I just walked towards it. Anything that took me off the path towards that mountain, I turned down.”