How was your initial conversation with Adam and Kristin?
Adam and Kristin walked into our conference room very gently—with smiles, but you could tell they were a little nervous, a little uncertain about how this whole thing was going to go.
Like a lot of people, they were really struggling with our current economic environment, feeling like the stock market was completely overvalued and unrealistic, and that their current advisor was not involved in their lives at all and barely knew them as investors, let alone people. He wasn’t asking the right questions or communicating, just dictating to them.
They were also starting to worry about Adam’s business. He had a veterinary business, so they were thinking: Should he sell? When would be the best time to sell? And what did that look like?
This was all on top of really wanting their kids to get involved as well; to start discovering their own values while learning about money, budgeting, and credit—the beginner stuff—to set them up for success.
Curious as to why now, we asked them, specifically, what brought them in today. They shared with us a story from their Saturday night couples dinner, where everyone was talking about what’s going on in their lives—with family, with work—and Adam and Kristin noticed that their friends were really calm even though they had so many things going on. So they asked, “How are you juggling all of this?” Their response was simple: “Our financial advisor.”
How were you able to determine their value in partnering with Morton?
It was crystal clear to all of us that their needs were not being met.
We uncovered three main areas in just our first conversation where they were being underserved and that’s before we even looked at their investment holdings.
1. Education: They wanted to learn. They wanted to be part of the conversation. And we love that. At Morton, education is very important to us. It’s only through education that our clients will become more confident and empowered in the decisions we make together. It’s through this knowledge that they can truly become better investors.
2. Communication: Yes, they could call their previous advisor any time and easily reach him, but they felt like he was taking a reactive approach. They don’t want to feel like they’re bothering their advisor when they have a money question, just to be dismissed in saying “leave it to the experts.” I think most advisors also fail to ask what a client’s communication preference is (phone, email, in person, or Zoom) and how often they would like to connect. Adam and Kristin love emails because they can keep records and reference information later.
3. Legacy: Not only was the succession planning or exit strategy for Adam’s business important, but we also discovered how important it is for them to instill values in their children, to show them that wealth is a tool, not the goal in and of itself.
Morton's Empower Process is very different. Can you describe their response to this approach?
Most advisors have only one thing on their agenda in the very first meeting, and it’s obvious: they want to “close” and have the prospects sign on the dotted line—and that’s just not our focus. The entire purpose of an initial conversation with us is to not only collaboratively help you discover what truly matters to you and your family, but also what your core values are and whether or not we, as your potential partner, can help you get the most life out of your wealth.
I think they were both shocked we didn’t start with an investment pie chart selling them on our products. That had been their experience with most other advisors. When they asked how we would invest their portfolio, our team challenged them with, “How can we know, or how can you know, what the best investment mix is for your financial success when we have not first identified what this wealth needs to do for you?”
Here there was a pause, and they looked at each other, baffled, before they realized, That’s right. How could ANY other advisor start with an investment recommendation?
The most successful investors have a deep understanding of the purpose behind their wealth: a true long-term destination in mind. When you spend the time to define your purpose, you stay committed to your investment strategy and become more resilient as an investor.
We wanted Adam and Kristin to walk away with clarity on what wealth means to them. And when we walk away, we want to know what we need to bring to the table to allow them to feel peace of mind, confident, and trust that their financial needs will be met in the most enjoyable way possible.
So this led to an overall discussion of their candid fears of the stock market, which is what we wanted to uncover—their fears, their concerns, what kept them up at night. Talking about emotions can be uncomfortable but once you recognize that sometimes emotions need to be factored in, you are better able to stick to your long-term investment strategy.
I think Kristin especially appreciated us discussing the emotions around investing since most advisors avoid that topic altogether (this is where Kristin leaned in, engaged and excited to discuss). As a psychologist, she wanted to go there and was grateful we didn’t shy away from it.
They also felt relieved that they didn’t have to agree on an investment strategy today since they still felt so much uncertainty around the stock market. And that perfectly led us to explain our investment philosophy on how we approach the investment universe.
One: we are risk managers first. They loved that. Two: true diversification. You do not want your financial success depending on stock market performance. You should also want things that you can touch and feel, like real assets, real estate, gold. Adam loved that. And third: cash flow—consistent money flowing in, so each time you can take control on whether to spend, save, or reinvest. This part was really powerful because we could see a clear transition of emotions, from uncertainty and fear to excitement and intrigue.
What are some questions Adam and Kristin had and how were you able to answer them?
The most pressing question for them was when, or if, Adam would be able to sell his veterinary business. Their existing advisor was so focused on liquid asset management, and not their overall portfolio, including the illiquid portion—Adam’s business—and the succession plan of that business.
This was a really big decision, with so many variables at play. Our cash flow planning software was a perfect illustration of how we would determine this type of solution. We were able to pull up a sample client’s cash flow and simulate a business sale, talking through which variables they could control and which variables they could not. We created a strategy that involved both sides of this coin. It wasn’t until we unpacked the entire equation that they were able to see how they could minimize the uncertainty around such an uncertain question. I actually think we asked them questions that they never even thought of. We didn’t want to overwhelm them, but they needed to know there were a lot of factors to consider and that we would gladly walk them through those factors. Surprisingly, they weren’t scared, but relieved that they weren’t in it alone anymore—they had us.
As they got more comfortable, they were really able to open up and share the things that mattered most, which was really fun to talk through together. We believe in minimizing uncertainty and giving our clients the confidence to make the right financial decisions today in order to create a more positive and successful impact on their financial future. Peace of mind, comfort, visibility, and clarity are what we strive for during the cash flow planning phase.
The best part was that we circled back to their fear of the stock market and we were able to simulate a “fear factor”—how a sample portfolio down 10% for 2 years in a row impacts their plan. You could see the previous fear was from not knowing what the damage would be, but seeing it on the big screen was just another way to bring light to their biggest fears and watch it wash away.
It sounds like you covered a lot. How did the initial meeting wrap up?
A big part of our role as advisors is to take the burden and weight off our clients, taking complicated situations and simplifying them.
My favorite part, after we spent an hour talking about and covering all these great things, was sharing our client’s dashboard, where we take all five components of the financial plan (cash flow, insurance, tax, estate, and investments) and put it all on one easy-to-read page.
They loved it so much, eagerly asking if they could get a copy before we even finished telling them what it was. We provide this updated dashboard every time we meet with a client, sharing the road map of what we covered in our last meeting, what is on the list today, and what we will accomplish in the future. It even acts as an accountability sheet—both our team members and the clients walk away knowing exactly what needs to be done next. We believe our dashboard is a perfect way to wrap up everything we covered in our meeting with a nice clean bow that you can take home.
We also sent them home with the starter packet for the cash flow planning process, which included a detailed budget worksheet, since they mentioned wanting to get started right away with the data gathering. They both nervously laughed at this part, admitting they tend to overspend and are looking forward to seeing where all their income goes.
We also created a custom upload link so they could easily provide all their documents for our review: insurance policies, estate materials, and cash flow items.
Overall, we would say this was a successful meeting, not because they were eager to move forward in partnership (which they were), but because they left us with a shifted mindset that we could all feel. They both transformed from uncertain and afraid to confident and excited. And you can’t really ask for anything more than such a powerful, enjoyable experience for anyone.