Welcome, everyone! Welcome to the 59th episode of the Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today’s podcast is Carol Anderson. Carol is the founder of Money Quotient, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Portland, Oregon that provides financial life planning training to advisors.
What’s unique about Carol and Money Quotient, though, is the way they have systematized the process of doing financial life planning for clients.
In this episode, we talk in depth about the 5-meeting financial life planning process that Money Quotient has developed, built around their 5-E stages of Explore, Engage, Envision, Enlighten, and Empower, how advisors can use standardized survey tools regarding a prospective client’s financial well-being and potential life transitions eto set a more holistic tone to a financial planning engagement from the start, the way Money Quotient segments the qualitative data gathering process into Satisfaction and Values, Biography, Transitions, and Goals, and the meeting templates they’ve developed to systematize every step of the process along the way.
We also talk about the psychology and sociology research and theoretical framework that underlies the Money Quotient approach – as they are a uniquely research-based organization in developing their financial life planning framework – the 3-day training program they’ve developed to teach advisors about their communication tools, and why Carol doesn’t consider financial life planning to be an alternative to traditional financial planning, and instead simply views it as a better way to help clients develop the self-awareness they need to truly identify the goals that will really improve their own well-being.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Carol shares her own story about developing Money Quotient, the challenges she faced when her initial partnership didn’t work out well, how her daughter ultimately pulled her back into the business, and how Money Quotient is now seeking to grow its own footprint. Because the reality is that the challenges of building a business are equally applicable to both us as financial advisors, and the service providers who work with and train us, too.
So whether you are interested in learning more about Money Quotient’s financial life planning process, curious what insights psychology and sociology may have for financial planners communicating with clients, or want to learn more about building a business servicing financial advisors, I hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast!
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- How Money Quotient’s unique questionnaire approach can benefit the financial planner, as well as the client. [7:28]
- Money Quotient’s four major inquiry categories. [15:57]
- How Money Quotient segments its qualitative data gathering process. [15:57]
- The five “E’s” of the financial planning process. [23:31]
- What a lot of advisors are missing when they collect data from clients and present a plan. [34:09]
- What psychological theories are behind Money Quotient’s process. [37:00]
- What research says about financial education in this country. [53:07]
- The most powerful predictor of an individual taking steps toward retirement preparation. [54:51]
- The distinction between financial life planning and financial planning in general. [1:04:16]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Carol Anderson – Money Quotient
- Drive by Daniel Pink
- Adult Learning Theory
- Financial Advisor Success Ep 015: Why Life Planning Is Simply Financial Planning Done Right With George Kinder
- Financial Advisor Success Ep 056: The Opportunities In Providing Hourly As-Needed Financial Advice For The Middle Market with Sheryl Garrett
- Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
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Full Transcript: Systematizing The Financial Life Planning Process To Increase Your Money Quotient with Carol Anderson
Michael: Welcome, everyone. Welcome to the 59th episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast. My guest on today’s podcast is Carol Anderson. Carol is the founder of Money Quotient, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Portland, Oregon that provides financial life planning training to advisors. What’s unique about Carol and Money Quotient though is the way that they have systemized the process of doing financial life planning for clients.
In this episode we talk in-depth about the 5-meeting Financial Life Planning process that Money Quotient has developed built around their 5-Es stages of explore, engage, envision, enlighten, and empower, how advisors can use standardized survey tools regarding a prospective client’s financial well-being and potential life transitions to set a more holistic tone to a financial planning engagement from the start. The way Money Quotient segments the qualitative data gathering process into satisfaction, and values, biography, transitions, and goals, and the meeting templates they’ve developed to systematize every step of the process along the way.
We also talk about the psychology and sociology research and theoretical framework that underlies the Money Quotient approach, as they are a uniquely research-based organization in developing their Financial Life Planning framework, the 3D training program they’ve developed to teach advisors about their communication tools. And why Carol doesn’t consider financial life planning to be an alternative to traditional financial planning at all, but instead simply views it as a better way to help clients develop the self-awareness they need to truly identify what their goals are in the first place. And be certain to listen to the end, where Carol shares her own story about developing Money Quotient, the challenges she faced when her initial partnership didn’t work out well, and how her daughter ultimately pulled her back into the business, and how Money Quotient is now seeking to grow its own footprint.
Because the reality is that the challenges of building a business are equally applicable to both us as financial advisors and many of the service providers who work with and train us, too. And so with that introduction I hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast with Carol Anderson.
Michael: Welcome, Carol Anderson, to the Financial Advisor Success podcast.
Carol: Thank you, Michael, I appreciate the invitation.
Michael: I’m looking forward to this episode because I know you have done work for many years now in the world of financial life planning, and I find in our advisory world one of the criticisms sometimes that comes up around trying to do more life planning is that sometimes it kind of gets a touchy-feely label. And it gets this criticism, I find, that it doesn’t get done very systematically. It’s sort of a, well, you just kind of have whatever conversation the client needs to have and you do whatever they need to do, and you never know where it’s going to go.
And I think that’s actually hard for some advisors because there’s some comfort in process and, sort of, knowing, like, what comes next. I’m going to talk about this and the client’s going to ask about that because it makes it easier to do what we do as professionals. And I know a lot of what you guys have done over the years at Money Quotient is actually trying to systematize and process some of the financial life planning process itself. So I’m really excited to have you on the podcast and just talk about that, that whole maybe concept of how do you systematize something as, I don’t know, varied as financial life planning and the kinds of conversations that come from it?
Carol: Right, yeah. That I do feel is one of our contributions to this way of working with clients is to develop more of a structure and a system. I always have wanted to provide financial planners with a way to delve into these areas and to remain comfortable in doing it. Communication skills are extremely important. Understanding individuals’ emotions and getting some insight into their values and their priorities, their frames of reference, and so forth, is extremely valuable in a client financial planning relationship, but that’s generally not where they have gotten their training.
So a lot of the planners that come to us are definitely seeking. They’re very interested in delving into this. They see that there’s real value but they don’t have a very high comfort level in delving into this type of framework. So at the very beginning I wanted to make a system and a process that everyone could feel comfortable engaging in for the client and for the planner, and that the conversations could then be more structured. And I think that we have achieved that. The ability to navigate difficult conversations can develop over time but the value of getting insight into a client’s emotions, their blind spots, anything that really can challenge their clear thinking and the financial decisions that they make, and what they are really working towards is of value. So I didn’t want that to hold back any financial planner that had that intention just to really take a look at these areas.
Michael: So maybe as a starting point just tell us a little bit about Money Quotient, like what it is. What do you do at Money Quotient?
Carol: Well, I guess the short story is that we have developed a series of tools that clients can use with their clients that really help to facilitate this discovery and goal setting process that can really help the client to get, you know, insight into their own values and priorities, help them to articulate their concerns and their aspirations. Kind of guide their thinking process, and through this their self-awareness really grows. And then at the same time it really allows the financial planner to get to know and understand them in a much deeper way as well. That way they can really fine tune the financial advice that they provide, so that really matches with their way of thinking, their goals, their concerns, and communicate in a way that they can really match their advice to what the client is looking for.
How Money Quotient’s Questionnaire Approach Can Benefit The Financial Planner [7:28]
Michael: So can you walk me through a little bit of just, like, how you view these conversations or what you’re trying to work towards compared to, let’s call it, you know, how we traditionally do this, right? I feel like most of us as advisors already, you know…we have conversations with clients and we try to gather information so that we can do the planning that we’re going to do. Like, what’s the difference between what you’re talking about and what we already do that I feel like a lot of us would say, “We do that.” I think you’re going to say, “We don’t do it the way you’re talking about it,” but help us understand the difference of what you’re talking about, the traditional way that we do things.
Carol: Well, I would say that the focus to begin with is not on the financial aspects, so kind of stay clear of talking about rates of return, and instruments, and so forth. Really focus on getting to know and understand the client initially. So the different tools that we have developed really help to guide that conversation and provide that insight. Then the client gets a sense that they’re really being heard and that the financial advice that is being provided is really customized to them as individuals. So they really feel like they’re being heard.
But on the other hand, these conversations can get very unwieldy, and so the questionnaires also provides some structure to the conversation as well and keeps things on track. And then as part of our training we help the advisors to understand the information that really does relate specifically to the client’s financial life and how they can, as they make their recommendations, integrate this information with the advice that they provide, so that ties it altogether. So our process really is built around the six-step financial planning process, but what our process does is really to address the qualitative aspects of each of the six steps of the financial planning process. So you can think of it more almost like a delivery system for the CFP financial planning process. It really helps to make a deeper connection with the clients.
Michael: So can you talk a little bit more about the kinds of, I guess, questions, or even questionnaires that you’re talking about? What kinds of questions would I be asking that that takes me down this road with clients?
Carol: Well, the one that is most frequently introduced at the very beginning of a client conversation, often times even with a prospect, is our financial satisfaction survey. So it has a list of 20 items, and the client is just asked to check off, from 1 to 10, their level of satisfaction with these different areas of their financial life. So often times, you know, when we talk to clients it’s often about what they’ve achieved in these different areas. But we put it more in terms of how they feel about these different areas in their lives, and you can uncover some really interesting information this way.
So if you compare answers from the financial satisfaction survey, say to their net worth statement, they can say that they don’t feel secure about their financial future. But on the other hand, you can see that the numbers really prove differently. So you can see that there’s some kind of disconnect that can really kind of get in the way of their sense of financial well-being. So we’re not just interested in what their net worth is or how secure they are, but actually how they feel about it and increasing their life satisfaction around all areas of their financial life.
Michael: So this is a questionnaire, like, I would give this to a client in a data gathering process, or even before a data gathering process? Like, “Hey, before we work together can you complete this financial satisfaction survey so I just want to understand what your current situation is and how you view your finances before we start working together?”
Carol: Exactly. So often times this will go out in a packet that’s sent to a prospect even before they come in. A lot of our advisors will ask them to return it to them before they come in for that getting acquainted meeting, and then they can just kind of review the responses and just make some hypotheses about what the perspective of this individual is, and, you know, how you can serve them. The other way, or the other way that this questionnaire can really benefit a financial planner is that it’s very holistic. So it’s not just focused on investments, it’s focused on cash flow, insurance, their ability to communicate with their family members about money. Just a wide range of topics that’s covered in just 20 items.
So it’s very quick and easy to administer to a prospective client, but you can get a ton of information about what’s on their minds and, you know, how they perceive all these areas of their financial life. Often times clients come to a financial advisor just for investments, not realizing that they can also address their financial lives in a more comprehensive way.
Michael: Do you know, like, do advisors who use the Money Quotient tools get pushback on that sometimes? I mean, I’m sort of imagining, like, sometimes you do get clients, right, that just come in for investment stuff. Like, “Hey, I know my portfolio’s messed up. I need someone to help me.” And you’re like, “Here’s a 20-question scale about your entire financial well-being.” Do you get people that say, like, “Whoa, what’s this? I just need someone to help me with this rollover.”
Carol: The feedback that we get is that that is very rare. And often times if they just explain that this is a way for us to get an idea about your total financial life and what’s going on in your total financial life. If they are coming specifically like they’ve received an inheritance they have to know what to do with, or some other major life transition, certainly you’re going to address that right away. But if they have an idea that these are other areas that you can work with them on, they are going to, you know, look forward to making this a long-term relationship with you as well.
Michael: So it becomes a means to open up a wider conversation perhaps, in a world where, I think for some of us, it’s hard sometimes to figure out how you pivot a conversation with a prospect to something broader than just talking about the portfolio or some insurance product? Like, whatever the thing is that they came in with originally. I guess if you’re giving someone this kind of broader based holistic survey about their financial well-being from the start you’re setting a different tone maybe with the client or the prospects about how this is going to go.
Carol: I really believe that’s the case. And I think it really serves the purpose that a lot of advisors are hoping to achieve with their client relationships is that they can take the focus off of return and put the focus on the value of the relationship that they have between the client and the advisor. So that makes for much stickier relationships that are independent of what’s happening in the market.
How Money Quotient Segments Its Data Gathering Process [15:57]
Michael: So tell me a little bit more about the other kinds of tools and systems that Money Quotient teaches and trains. So I get the financial satisfaction survey that we might use as part of our data gathering or intake process to try to broaden the conversation out a little bit from the start and identify those kinds of gaps. Like, I look at the client and they say, “Here’s what I want to spend and here’s what I’ve got in assets.” And you look at it and say, “Wow, you have more than enough.” And then you look at their well-being survey and it says they’re extremely concerned about running out of money, and clearly there’s a conversation there. So what else do you guys do or train as part of this process?
Carol: We actually have a suite of tools in four major inquiry categories. So the financial satisfaction survey is an example of one of the tools that’s in the satisfaction and values inquiry category. Then we also have what we call the biography category, and it really helps the client to examine how their background, you know, their family situation, their career transitions, etc, etc, have really influenced their perspective and their expectations regarding their financial life.
Also it kind of reveals some blind spots perhaps that they have just accepted or thought of as truths and are not. And helping them to get in touch with their frame of reference so that as they’re making financial decisions they can make those decisions with this kind of increased awareness around this frame of reference and how that may have influenced them in the past and caused them to make some perhaps poor decisions around their money.
And then we have a transitions category which helps clients to really explore 52 different life transitions, and those that they anticipate short term and long term. And just start a discussion about the financial aspects of those transitions, and also how they feel about those transitions, you know, if they’re looking forward to them, if there’s a sense of dread. And that will also help the advisor to understand how to communicate with them about those particular transitions.
And then there’s a whole goals setting process in our goals suite of materials. So it’s quite a large body of work in these four categories, and within each of those four inquiries there’s a sequence for facilitating them with the client. For instance, the financial satisfaction survey is what we would recommend to use first of all the inquiry tools in that particular category. And then it prepares the thinking for the next tool in that category, so it builds, increases awareness with each successive tool in a particular category.
Michael: So am I, like, literally giving clients a series of questionnaires? Or am I doing the financial satisfaction survey up front but then I’m just talking with clients through these satisfaction, and values, biography, transitions, and goals categories where it’s a structure to a conversation? Or is this actually more questionnaire tools?
Carol: There’s a combination of both, you know? It’s recommended questions to ask in a more conversational style, and then there are several actual questionnaires where they fill them out and return them to you. Some are just really, really quick and easy, they can be completed in two to three minutes right in your office. Others we recommend that the client complete at home when they have a little more time to put some, you know, to reflect on the questions and reflect on the responses. So each one is, you know, we have what we call a tool guide with tips and techniques for introducing the tool, and just little reminders about good follow-up questions to facilitate the conversation.
Michael: So where does this fit in my…you know, I’m still trying to think back to kind of my traditional planning process. I’ve got a prospective client, they’re coming in. I’m going to do this kind of data gathering, discovery conversation. I got a whole bunch of just financial information I also need to gather in order to do my planning process and the rest. So where does this fit in? Does my data gathering meeting just get longer now because I need to kind of go through some of these guided questions as well around the different categories? Or do I have to rework more of my data gathering process to try to bring this stuff in?
Carol: Well, I think everyone that goes through our training is rather surprised that it does not add that much time to the client meeting process, and that actually it helps to facilitate quicker integration of your recommendations. There’s more buy-in from the client, you know, a clear understanding of how to better communicate with that client and what issues are uppermost in their minds. So there may be a little bit more time in terms of client meeting in the very beginning part of the relationship, but everyone that’s adopted our process has said that it’s been well worth it. And, you know, the implementation of their recommendations, financial recommendations, is usually a much quicker and more enthusiasm around implementing those recommendations as well.
Michael: So keep taking me through. What else do we do in this process?
Carol: We do have what we call client meeting templates. So our recommendation is kind of a recipe for how you integrate our tools with a typical meeting process for financial planners. And we really recommend that you integrate the qualitative and the quantitative so they’re not necessarily separate meetings, but in each meeting that you have a client you’re doing both. In addition with long-term clients we also encourage the use of a lot of the other tools in those annual reviews as well so that this kind of integration of life planning and financial planning is just part of who you are and how a client identifies you as a professional, and what your practice can really deliver to them. So over the years we have developed what we call the 5-E Process which kind of explains what the goal is of each step of the process and how it complements the delivery of the financial planning process.
The Five “E’s” Of The Financial Planning Process [23:31]
Michael: So what are our 5 Es here?
Carol: The 5 Es are explore, engage, envision, enlighten, and empower. So I can give you a brief overview of each of those. We definitely have more in-depth explanation of each of these.
Michael: Help me walk through each of these at least at a high level. So explore is first.
Carol: Explore is first, and this is, you know, if we relate it to a getting acquainted meeting with a prospect, this is where you start the development and the strengthening of trust, and that’s by establishing and demonstrating the importance of understanding your client’s values and priorities. So tools such as the financial satisfaction survey, which I just indicated to you or discussed with you, and one that we have the life transition survey. Both are very quick and easy for the client to complete but provides, you know, great insight to you about their perspective, their needs. And also really can help clarify what type of financial planning process that you plan to deliver to them, and the more holistic view that you have.
Michael: Okay, so these are all things that I would attach to either my initial up-front data gathering meeting or perhaps even in advance of my initial up-front data gathering meeting? Like, I’d give the surveys and then we’d do the meetings and I can discuss some of the survey results in the meeting?
Carol: Right, and, you know, in a getting acquainted meeting, too, it’s a great way to explore fit for both the potential client and for you as the advisor. You know, does this client seem like a good fit for my practice? And then if there is an agreement on both the advisor and the client to move forward in the relationship, then we move into what’s called the engage stage. And this is a facilitated discovery process that really helps to engage your clients’ hearts as well as their minds, and providing important insights regarding each client stream of reference. So this is a qualitative data gathering process but it can take place, and should take place, in tandem with your quantitative data gathering process as well.
Then we move into what we call the envision stage. So this is where the planner would assist the client in developing a vision of the future that hopefully will really inspire enthusiasm and lay the foundation for a very meaningful life and financial goals. So this is where the client gets kind of a clear understanding of what they’re working towards and why. If they have concerns this is as the point where they can really breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you’re going to help them to solve any concerns that they have, or resolve any concerns. And then hope, if there’s aspirations that they have as well, that you know that you’ll address those as well so that this really can inspire some enthusiasm for moving forward with you as well.
So these first three stages of the 5E Process, you know, definitely the advisor is communicating to the client, but all the communication is designed to draw out information and to facilitate greater self-understanding for the client. So this is not a time when the planner provides advice.
Michael: And in this context, like, you are teaching advisors how to have these conversations? You’re giving templates of questions to ask? What’s the Money Quotient role in this structure?
Carol: In the recommended client meeting templates are based on these five stages. And so there’s recommendations of how to integrate the quantitative data gathering in each of these stages, and then what tools to use for the qualitative data gathering as well in each of these stages.
Michael: You’re literally teaching people a process of, like, “You do this and ask this, and then you do that and ask this.” And just all the way through each of these meetings, or each of these steps.
Carol: Absolutely, right. And we really recommend that planners stick to our template, particularly at the beginning because it’s just like anybody that is learning to cook, you know? To begin with it’s usually recommended to really stick to the recipe, but then as you learn more and get more comfortable you can start then being more creative, trying different ingredients. So that’s how we kind of explain it to our planners that work with us is, you know, there’s no requirement they stick to it but those that have do seem to experience the most success and the easiest implementation. We’ve been at this for a long time now so we have a pretty good feel for what works, and so we really recommend adopting our templates initially and then tweaking later.
Michael: So as I go through these first three stages, explore, engage, envision, is this literally three meetings with the client, one where I’m doing an exploration discussion and I’ve given them the financial satisfaction survey and the life transition survey, and then another meeting where we’re doing an engage discussion, then another meeting where we’re doing an envision discussion, and then I get to the rest of my planning process? Like, does it lay out that way?
Carol: It can. We do have four different client meeting templates, and each template represents a depth of process. So kind of depending on how many meetings and how many hours you do expect to spend with a client, this process can be adapted to fit that framework. So in some situations you will be, you know, perhaps doubling up in…engage and envision perhaps will be in one particular meeting. So at the highest level it would be a different meeting for each of these stages.
Michael: Well, I guess two questions. One, what comes after envision? I guess even before that, help me understand. By the time I get through envision, where am I in my usual financial planning process? I feel like I’m still basically at the end of the data gathering meeting, or am I a little bit further in? That I’ve really gathered data and maybe I’m doing some preliminary planning projections, or something like that? And we’re doing this envision process where I’m trying to help paint a picture of what your financial future would look like because I’ve literally got planning software up there and we’re looking at projections of a potential future?
Carol: Right, you can definitely be working on the projections, and qualitative data, and so forth, but you want to make sure you’re not jumping ahead of the client and your understanding of what their concerns are, what their goals are. So you really want to get a good picture of their financial situation but not to be developing a whole plan for them at this point until you have a very clear idea of what the issues are, what the goals are, and so forth.
So at the end of the envision stage we have a form that really helps you to…one-page form for summarizing the entire qualitative data gathering process. And, you know, it’s a way to say, “This is what I’ve heard from you about what’s important to you. This is what I hear from you about what our concerns are. This is what I hear from you as to some of the other factors that we need to take into consideration, etc, etc.” And then it’s a great way to check in with them with, “Am I hearing you correctly?” But it’s also a great way to prove to them that you really are interested in them. That their best interests are not the center of the work that you do for them, but the work that you are going to do in terms of the quantitative analysis is all going to be based on them as individuals. So that’s a good way to check in and make sure you’re on track.
And then you move into what we call the enlighten stage, which is where you’ve gone back and behind the scenes you’ve done your data analysis. You’ve come up with your projections and your plan, and you actually present the financial planing advice to them. But do it in a context that really communicates that you have an understanding of your client’s concerns, and interests, and their aspirations as well, and how you are linking the financial strategies that you recommend to their life goals so that they can see a direct connection. This is where you’re going to get the real buy-in from the client. It’s where they can actually see and understand this connection.
We also recommend not giving any advice or recommendations until you get to this stage, that the explore, engage, and envision are all about communication to draw out information. That the enlighten is the first time that you’re actually delivering advice to them in a way to educate and inform.
What Advisors Are Missing When They Collect Data From Clients And Present A Plan [34:09]
Michael: So can you give me an example of just what does it mean to deliver a recommendation in a way that creates an understanding about concerns and interests versus, you know, how we usually do it? Because I kind of feel like I gathered information on the client’s problems. They said they need help with such, so and so. I made a recommendation for that. I kind of feel like it should already be self-evident that I’m, like, literally crafting recommendations for the problems they brought to the financial planning process. How does just making recommendations that answer their planning needs differentiate from what you’re talking about?
Carol: Well, I think that that might be the case for a lot of financial planners and advisors, but often times they do kind of miss that connection. They’ve collected data but they present a plan in a very technical way that only focuses on rate of return, or risk profile, or whatever. But this is really delivering the financial plan in the context of the client’s financial life, and their unique life goals, their unique circumstances. So I think it’s a much more personal way and a much more effective way of delivering financial advice.
Michael: Okay, and then where do we go next? So I’ve given my plan recommendations, I’ve gone through the enlighten stage. I’m now getting to the end of my planning process and the implementation stage.
Carol: And that aligns with our empower stage. So we teach some techniques to really help keep your clients engaged, motivated, and on the path to achieving the goals that they have set that they really bought into, and helping them not to lose sight of the reasons why they have adopted this plan to keep them excited about it. And once they have been involved to the level that they have in this kind of process, they usually are very invested in the outcome and much easier clients to work with.
You know, regardless of what a wonderful planner can develop for a client, it’s really up to the client to bring it to fruition. So there’s that. They all have to take responsibility for the success of that financial plan, and so this reminds them of their responsibilities in that regard and also keeps them motivated to do their part.
The Psychological Theories Behind Money Quotient’s Process [37:00]
Michael: So how do you actually teach and train all this? I mean, you know, if someone wants to learn more of your process and implement this five-step process, which I guess at least in the ideal sense is kind of literally a five-meeting financial planning process, you know, you do each of these in one meeting?
Carol: That is the most ideal. It definitely can be combined into, you know…three meetings, I would say, is a good plan as well. So we have a three-day training called the Fundamentals of Financial Life Planning where we do teach a lot about our philosophy and about our process. We’re very much a research-based organization, so we have a number of different theories that we’ve adopted from multiple disciplines. So we review those and explain how they have really informed the process that we have developed. And also teach some of the fundamentals of those different theories so that they can keep that framework in mind as they’re working with clients.
Michael: Can you talk a little bit more about that? I mean, what kinds of theories are we talking about in this context? I know you said you’ve been doing this with advisors and clients for a while, so I’m assuming we’re not talking about just, “Hey, I’ve got a theory about how to run a financial planning meeting?” What are we talking about here in terms of underlying theories?
Carol: Okay, well, one of the main ones is adult learning theory, how to really engage adults in whatever type of project or learning that you have in mind. So there’s a lot there that has been very informative of our work, and we teach a lot of that in our training. There’s a self-determination theory which is a…it came out of the field of positive psychology and it teaches about what are the true motivations of individuals. What do they really need and what do they want to get out of whatever their endeavors are that they’re looking for?
Michael: So I know a lot of us have at least heard of things like Maslow’s hierarchy. We want to satisfy our basic needs before we move up the line. Is this kind of a similar framework?
Carol: It is somewhat similar. If you’re familiar with the book “Drive” by Daniel Pink, that whole book is based on that self-determination theory. So all adults really desire autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose, and that can very definitely be linked to your goal setting process and helping them to define goals that really motivate them. So that their financial goals are…that they see their financial resources as a way basically for self-actualization. It definitely can address problems, but then when they can get to the point where they can actually see that it can really liberate them to pursue what is very meaningful to them, that brings a lot of enthusiasm for whatever financial recommendations you have to give them.
Michael: So this is financial planning not necessarily in the context of working towards retirement? This is more financial planning as a path to financial independence where you can have the financial freedom and autonomy to do whatever it is you want to do, and that’s what we’re working towards?
Carol: Right. So even in the context of retirement planning, when you can frame your retirement planning work with your clients in that way so they’re really picturing what they want their retirement experience to be like, and what will give their life a sense of meaning and purpose in that stage of life, that’s going to be a lot more motivating to them than just a particular nest egg goal that, you know, is attached to nothing that is particularly meaningful for them other than a particular number. Which doesn’t often times give them any real piece of mind or any enthusiasm for that stage of life.
Michael: Right, it’s the client who says, “What’s your goal?” “I want to accumulate $1 million.” And we say, “Great, where did that number come from?” And they say, “Well, I don’t really know. It just sounded like a nice, round number.” And then we’re off down this road of, “Gee, you’re working really hard towards a goal with no actual idea why that’s a meaningful goal or what that does for you.”
Michael: Okay, so what are some of the other, kind of, theory framework items that you teach in this three-day training?
Carol: Well, we draw from sociology. There is the life course theory about how all of our experiences in our life history really influences in our frame of reference in the choices that we make. I think just in exploring a client’s career history can give you a lot of insight into the different trajectories that they’ve needed to take out of choice or were forced to. So that really gives a lot of information about the client.
Michael: So this is like the client who’s had their challenges because they’ve gotten downsized out of two or three jobs, so now they’re particularly fixated on being self-employed and independent because they’re afraid of getting fired or downsized out of another job, and it starts influencing all their career and job decisions? Like those kinds of paths?
Carol: Right. And just kind of exploring how they have adapted to some of those unplanned changes that were not thought of as positive transitions initially. How they adapted and what level of resilience they had in terms of adapting to those transitions can give them a lot of insight into capacities that they hadn’t given themselves a lot of credit for. And how some of the difficult transitions that they had really dreaded actually ended up being very positive for them. So it’s kind of a way of helping to shift their mindset about some of the life experiences that they are likely to experience in the future and which definitely have financial implications.
Carol: So definitely around, you know, the field of positive psychology, and I think Ed Jacobson has really charted a course for us to follow here by introducing that field to the financial planning community several years ago about, you know, communicating and presenting life choices in a very positive way can really help a client increase their sense of well-being, and also motivate them to make positive change in their lives.
Michael: And so all of this is what you cover in a three-day training program?
Michael: Where does that happen? Like, do you do these around the country? Do people have to come to you? How does someone get into this training?
Carol: We do a combination. So we’re headquartered in Portland now, Portland, Oregon. We started out in a little town in Puget Sound, Poulsbo, Washington. But we’ve all migrated south and we’re now in, except for one of our team members, we are all in Portland now. So the trainings that we host ourselves are here in Portland, but we also do hosted trainings where we’re invited to either, like, a Financial Planning Association chapter will invite us to come in and conduct a training. Or, for instance, has, you know, hosted trainings for us down there. They will have several advisors that they want to put through the training. And so then they’ll invite other advisors in the area that would like to join. So typically in these hosted trainings the host will find the venue and help with gathering the participants.
Michael: Right. Or I could imagine even some sizable firm is maybe large enough that they can hold gatherings on their own. How many people are typically in a training? What sized groups do you like to teach for going through this process?
Carol: We like between 6 and 16. We feel that’s a good size for…they’re very interactive and so we like the groups to be small enough that everyone really feels like they have the opportunity to interact, and ask questions, and present, you know concerns.
Michael: And what does it actually cost for people that want to go through one of these fundamentals trainings? What does the program cost for you guys to do this?
Carol: The program is $1,750 for the 3 days, so it’s a good value.
Michael: Yeah, you’re actually quite well priced compared to a lot of other training programs out there, particularly for something that’s three days on site. I mean, there are 3-day conferences that cost about, $1,500 or $1,700 for just some scattered CE sessions and you got to put it all together yourself. They don’t tell you how to do all of it sometimes.
Carol: Right, yeah. So we hope not to make finances an obstacle for those that are really engaged in this type of thinking and desire to serve their clients in this way. So it makes it affordable for younger planners, those that are just getting into the business, and so forth. So it’s really their intention and their dedication to this way of delivering financial planning that’s the most important to us.
Michael: And then once I go through the fundamentals training, like, am I done? Is there other stuff that comes there after? I feel like the fundamentals label kind of suggests we keep going after that.
Carol: Yes, that is the beginning. That is the start. For those that have completed the fundamentals training then they are eligible to license our materials, and we have various licensing packages that they can choose from. And then along with each of those packages is a set number of consultations that you have to support your implementation of the Money Quotient process. So that has, I think, is a huge value-added benefit, and that’s part of the licensing with us.
And then we have quite a robust learning opportunities calendar, so every month there’s at least two educational sessions, often times more. So we really encourage that. We work very hard to develop a sense of community with all of what we call our Money Quotient partners and our opportunities for them to learn but also opportunities for them to contribute to the community, too. So a lot of times our sessions will feature one of our Money Quotient advisors and they’ll share what their experience has been like and provide tips and ideas on implementation as well.
And once a year we have an annual event. This year we’ll have a Money Quotient retreat where we pick a theme and then invite speakers to address various aspects of that theme. That’s a two-day conference, so that’s in the even numbered years. The odd numbered years we have what’s called the Money Quotient Gathering. And that is a more facilitated conversation type of event where it’s structured in that there’s a process, but it’s extremely interactive. There’s lots of small group discussions. There’s short, little educational sessions that then spur some kind of activity that the groups work on and present to the rest of the groups. We’ve just done two of these so far but we definitely see the value of these and will continue to offer that type of programming on the odd numbered years.
Michael: And you mentioned that some of these additional education components are part of licensing. So how does licensing work for you guys, or how is that different from what I already get if I go through the fundamentals training to learn how to do this?
Carol: So the fundamentals training really is a prerequisite for accessing the materials. So as long as the licensing fees are paid then you have permission to utilize the materials in our process and take part in our learning activities, learning opportunities specifically for partners, and so forth. A lot of people that don’t have any intention of licensing also come to the fundamentals training for the educational benefit. So we’ve had various professionals that have come. We’ve had educators come, and they are coming, you know, mainly for the experience and to have a greater understanding of a financial life planning approach.
Michael: And then what is the cost then if someone wants to be participating in this ongoing licensing, or pay the licensing to use the materials, like to actually do your process in an ongoing basis now that they’ve learned your process?
Carol: The range is depending on the package, and the package includes a certain number of consultations, implementation consultations, and package of materials. The cost ranges from $60 a month to $125 a month.
Michael: Okay, so it’s a very manageable cost for actually getting, literally, the templated structure. Like, here’s how you do your meetings. Here’s the conversations to have. Here’s how you go through this process.
Carol: Right. And anyone that’s motivated, we are very anxious to help in that implementation. So we’ll frequently provide even more consultations than what has been promised just because if you’re digging this stuff and you’re excited about it, and it’s working for you, we really want to support all of our Money Quotient partners that feel that way for sure.
What Research Says About Financial Education In This Country [53:07]
Michael: And I’ve got to ask, just where does the Money Quotient name come from? What is Money Quotient?
Carol: Part of my history was that a long time ago I was very concerned about the lack of financial education in our country, that it was rarely available through our homes, through our schools, or in the workplace. And I was in a situation in my early 30s where that deficit was very crippling to me, and I was facing a very difficult life transition and I was totally unprepared for it. And then as I had opportunities to work in various financial services jobs through insurance, and through investment planning, and so forth, I realized that I was not the only one. You know, that most Americans are very ill-equipped to make their own financial decisions and understand their options, and etc. So my goal is to become a real crusader for financial education, and I just knew that was going to solve our country’s problems. I was just sure of it.
And then I had the opportunity, I was in my early 40s, to go back to school and get a master’s degree. And this is what I decided would be my goal is to get equipped to be this financial education crusader. And that is when I learned that past research is showing that financial education is not that effective.
The Most Powerful Predictor Of An Individual Taking Steps Towards Retirement Preparation [54:51]
Michael: Right, I’ve been following some of this lately as well, this kind of growing, I guess slightly depressing, base of research that says a whole lot of these financial literacy educational interventions we do don’t seem to actually have very much sustained effect because the knowledge kind of dissipates after 6 to 12 months, or something to that effect.
Carol: Exactly. It was startling to me. And the particular program that I also was in was very enlightening in that it was very mutlidisciplinary and really looked at all the factors that influence individual’s resource management decisions. So there would be the typical demographic variables, and there’s the social psychological variables, and etc, etc. So, you know, that was the first time I was really kind of exposed to the idea about a person’s values influencing their decisions and using that to take a look at that through that lens.
And in actuality I was doing my research thesis and my major professor really insisted that I use this Deacon and Firebaugh Family Resource Management System theory, which was kind of a family systems theory. And I was kind of annoyed that I couldn’t use my own framework and the particular survey data didn’t lend itself really easily to it. And so I was a little annoyed but you don’t really argue with your major professor, so it forced me into exploring this area.
And the results of that study, which was pretty rigorous statistical analysis, indicated that the most potent predictor of an individual taking retirement planning action steps (this was a survey of pre-retirees)… and the most powerful predictor of those that would actually take important steps towards retirement preparation was the degree of thinking about retirement that they had engaged in. There was another variable that was about if they thought about retirement as being a positive event or a negative event. And on either end of the scale it also influenced retirement preparation.
Michael: I feel like that would be a surprise for most. We kind of presume, like, retirement’s the end goal. Of course it’s going to be happy. Isn’t that what we’re all working towards?
Carol: But what was not predictive, which was completely neutral, was if they hadn’t thought about retirement at all. Then they took no steps at all. So that was very enlightening, and these predictors were much more powerful than the ones you would usually attribute to retirement planning actions, like if they’re getting closer to retirement age, or if they had higher incomes, or if they were higher educated. You know, all of those things. The degree of thinking about retirement was far and away the most powerful predictor.
So that really set me on this course of wondering, “Well, how do you get them to think about this then?” And that was, really, I mean, it’s a very long story, but it really started all the wheels spinning and realizing this life planning approach was much more powerful in terms of getting individuals to plan for their later years than, you know, building a nest egg, or whatever other fear techniques that you might have, that that was most important. And then coupling that with this realization that financial education wasn’t working either, then I was like, “Oh my gosh,” you know? Everything I was planning to do is not going to work, so now what?
And this realization then that if we focus first on this self-awareness and a person getting more engaged in what’s meaningful to them, more in tune with what their frame of reference is, help them to set some very meaningful goals, that this is what motivates them. So this is what needs to be attached to any kind of educational program is this more life planning perspective that really motivates the actions moving forward.
So thus, this little formula, IQ plus EQ equals MQ, the MQ meaning Money Quotient. So IQ is the financial knowledge, EQ is this, you know, emotional awareness, emotional quotient, emotional intelligence, whichever you want to call it, equals Money Quotient, which represents a person’s financial well-being. So that is basically what we have tried to incorporate into our process is that financial planners are the experts in the IQ of money, but they have not really been trained about the EQ of money. So we help to provide that part, and together they really contribute to the individual’s financial well-being, and to the motivation around their financial lives as well.
Interestingly, we just started working with a business coach. Her focus is more on branding, and communications, and so forth, rather than, you know, how we run our business. And she pointed out to us, which was one of those occasions where it was like, well, of course. We should have realized this a long time ago. She said, “We’ve always positioned it IQ plus EQ equals MQ.” But she said, “The EQ in this equation needs to come first.” And that that’s what is the uniqueness about our business. We’re also learning more and more through people like Simon Sinek, etc, to start with why.
So if we start with this self-awareness, a greater understanding about what our why is, then that becomes the motivation to become better educated and more knowledgeable about money. And then it develops a person’s financial well-being. So if people visit our website they’re going to see the equation IQ plus EQ equals MQ, but very shortly…
Michael: It’s going to be EQ plus MQ equals…EQ plus IQ equals MQ.
Carol: Yeah, so it was like we were just like, “Why haven’t we thought of that before?” But of course, that’s the way it should be. I mean, we’ve had it this way for 17 years.
Michael: So you mentioned even as you were developing this early on that you were looking at this from a life planning context. And so I’m curious, you were starting some of these studies in the 1990s. I think kind of our overall view of financial life planning was starting to come forth around that time with some of the early folks that were involved, George Kinder, and Mitch Anthony, and people like that. So I’m curious, as you think of it today, do you think of yourselves as being in the financial life planning training business? Or was that what you set out to do? Or would you actually do it differently or use different words at this point?
Carol: That’s a good question. Yeah, I definitely think we considered ourselves to be in the financial life planning space, for sure. You know, I think some of the major players now, our approaches are very complementary. We’ve taken kind of different tracks but I would say they’re very complementary, and a lot of our planners have done all of them. And so part of our implementation, too, is to find out what other tools or what other concepts do you want to continue to be part of your process? And we make recommendations how you can make that happen.
The Distinction Between Financial Life Planning And Financial Planning In General [1:04:16]
Michael: So from your perspective then, how would you define financial life planning, or differentiate it from financial planning in general?
Carol: Well, the focus being on really getting to know and understand the client, and in that process that qualitative data gathering, it really facilitates the self-awareness process for the client as well. And then that awareness really helps to form the goal setting process. So they can become actually like life goals instead of financial goals. But the financial strategies are put in place to support the life goals. So it’s just a little different shift in the way people present it. But it definitely helps to connect the minds and hearts of the clients to the plan that you present to them. So there’s definitely more buy-in.
Michael: Well, and it strikes me. We had George Kinder on a prior episode of the podcast. He was with us on episode 15, kitces.com/15, if anybody who’s listening wants to go back and listen to George Kinder talk about this. George I feel like has a more specific visioning of what financial planning, or what financial life planning works towards. He views it as kind of this ultimate freedom that we’re ultimately trying to pursue, and that we’re all in pursuit of a freedom, which I guess kind of speaks to the self-determination theory around autonomy.
But it struck me, like he framed financial life planning much more specifically around sort of a pursuit of our freedoms. And you frame it much more in a self-awareness context. It’s whatever the client wants it to be but our goal is just to help them become more self-aware to figure out what the things are that they really want, and then we’ll help them go pursue them. Is that a fair distinction or characterization?
Carol: I think it is with maybe just a couple of tweaks here. I think my goal has been that individuals are equipped to take control of their financial lives, and that they can really make the use of the resources that they have. And perhaps be inspired to use those resources to greater good, because that gives a lot of meaning and purpose to the individual’s life as well. I’m definitely a believer in the six-step financial planning process. So I do feel that that is the center of all this, and that our methodology is just designed to facilitate that in a way that becomes more effective than it currently is on its own.
Michael: So you would still kind of frame financial life planning as, like, this isn’t different than financial planning. This is just a better or more engaging process about how to do financial planning well?
Carol: Yes, I would.
Michael: Okay. Which I think is an important distinction, right? There’s a lot of discussion I find out there around some advisor is trying to decide do they want to go into financial life planning? Do they want to do this financial life planning thing? And it gets framed very much as a, “If I go do this it’s a different business or a different offering than what I do today,” as opposed to just saying, “No, no, no, you’re still basically going to do your six-step financial planning process and you’re going to give whatever advice you give. And you’re going to get compensated however you get compensated but we’re just trying to make your planning process with clients better, or I guess just literally more of a process. Because not all of us actually have a very formal process and meaning structure around what we do in the first place.”
Carol: Right. Well, and when you look at the practice standards that are developed based on each of the six steps, particularly in the step two there’s a real emphasis on the importance of the qualitative data gathering. And yet there is not a qualitative data gathering process that is taught in a CFP curriculum. It’s definitely talked about in terms of, you know, I think it’s the first class that talks about how important getting to know and understand the client and their values. I mean, there’s all the great language in the practice standards built around step two, but they don’t support you in that at this point. So it’s kind of like this is truly, truly important, and if you’re going to put your client’s interests first, figure this out. But that’s not going to be in a CFP course but it’s important you go figure it out.
So I think we’re just addressing a gap right here. And so we don’t want something that’s different, that is like a different credential from CFP, any of that. We really believe in the value of that credential and we just hope to make financial planners more effective in the relationships that they develop with their clients.
Michael: So does that similarly mean that you would encourage advisors to get their CFP marks first and then come to Money Quotient?
Carol: We don’t limit the attendees to CFPs, but I would say 99% are. It is open to anyone, and I have taught that what’s most important is not necessarily the credentials but it’s the intention of the individual that comes to our training. I think anyone can be effective, regardless of their compensation structure or their educational background. If they truly care about their clients and what they deliver to their clients, and the quality of the work that they do, that’s what’s important to us. And we’ll support them in that. Often times advisors that come to us from other kinds of deliveries processes or settings, often times they get so much reward from doing this kind of work that if they feel constrained in their current situation, work situation, they often times will break away just so they continue this work and do it to the full extent that they want to.
Michael: Interesting. So I’m curious about this from your perspective. So it’s one thing to go, you know, study this, kind of have an insight around how planning could be done better, try to teach some other advisors how to do it. It’s another to actually try to build a business around it. And it does fascinate me that you didn’t simply go into the personal coach and training business for advisors. You built this entity thing called Money Quotient and have tried to build it as an enterprise. And so I’m curious just as you look back, like, how that process has been. Or what was it like trying to form Money Quotient as an entity and say, “We’re going to put our stake in the ground and try to do this?”
Carol: Well, I got my master’s degree and I got all this important insight from the course work that I took, and I’m doing my master’s research and was kind of at a crossroads at that point as to what direction I wanted to take next. And I’d really fallen in love with the research and writing process. When I was going through it it was extremely challenging, and often times did not like my major profession much at all. But after going through it, it was one of those situations where I learned so much about myself and what I was capable of, and what my true talents were. And it was just a life changing experience.
So after completing that it’s kind of like determining what’s next. And I really wanted to continue to stay with the research and writing, so I started an organization, sole proprietor, called Carol Anderson Research. And I would do probably four or five projects at a time as a sub-contractor, and I would get called in to do some national research projects for different nonprofit or profit organizations where I designed the surveys, and did the statistical analysis, and write up the reports, or create educational programs, and so on, and so forth.
And I really tried to confine the projects that I took to subject areas like a more holistic view of financial planning, which we’ve come to call life planning, financial education, retirement preparation, and what I called successful aging. So those were the topics that really interested me. Also had, you know, opportunity to help people just be a consultant or a co-author on books or educational materials. And then it got to the point that I knew.
So I came really from this academic community, and a lot of the professional organizations that I started attending, there were some financial planners that were part of these organizations. And in our conversations we really felt that some of the work that I was doing, you know…there were a lot of financial planners that were really ready for this stuff, so I would really love for them to have access to it. And so one of my colleagues kind of shared that concept and so decided to start Money Quotient. And that partnership didn’t go well, so within a couple of years we decided to part company.
Michael: Oh, so you actually originally launched with a partner and then had to unwind the partnership?
Carol: Unwind the partnership. Yeah.
Michael: So not to throw former partners under the bus or anything, but, like, what happened? Because I feel like partnerships dissolving is one of those things that happens way more than most people ever talk about. But it’s out there and we never seem to have any conversations about why these things don’t work out. So, like, what happened that made what was a well intentioned partnership at the beginning, right? You don’t go into these things because you think they’re going to fail. You go in thinking they’re going to work and then they don’t.
Carol: Well, I just think that my partner really did see the potential of this work. There was, particularly in the financial planning community, there was a topic of a lot of conversation at that point. And so when Money Quotient was launched then there was a lot of interest, a lot of opportunities for speaking engagements, and so on, and so forth. And I think there was just a conflict in values in what the company should be, and what it could mean, and what the future was, and so forth.
Michael: It’s like you wanted to build a business and your partner wanted to speak? Like one of those sorts of splits?
Carol: I don’t know if it was that simple. It was just a real conflict in how clients were treated, how people within Money Quotient were engaged, a lot of different factors.
Michael: Just at the high level how you literally run the business, how you execute the business?
Carol: Right, pretty much irreconcilable differences, and it came to the forefront pretty quickly. So we unwrapped that, went our separate ways. But about that time is when my daughter Amy joined me. And I’m sure a lot of our listeners are familiar with Amy Mullen. So she’s my daughter and my long-time partner in this endeavor. And I was kind of discouraged at this point and didn’t really want to continue. I wanted to go back to my simple life of having, you know, that…
Michael: Right, that’s what I was going to ask. You know, a lot of the time when partnerships dissolve, that’s just kind of that. It happens, and it’s unfortunate, but then we go completely directions. But you’re still going here?
Carol: Yes, and I probably would’ve just gone back to the work that I was doing because it was meaningful, and so on, and so forth. And a lot more simple, a lot easier to manage. But Amy had started coming working with me and then also attended some of the trainings where she saw financial planners actually going through the materials for themselves, and how the impact it had on the client, or who were our clients, or the financial advisor. She was absolutely blown away. She just thought the value was so high that I just better dare not give it up, you know?
Michael: So she was your support system that pulled you back into this basically?
Carol: Oh yeah. It was like I could’ve said no to anybody but how do you say no to your own daughter, you know? So at a point when your own daughter believes more in your life’s work than you do, it’s really kind of shakes you up, for sure. So there were a lot of problems that developed based on that breakup that I had no idea how it would get resolved. But I said, “Okay, we’ll go for it.” So she’s been with me ever since that and has been very instrumental in our work and our growth, and what she’s contributed, too. So I’m very grateful to her, of course. I can’t even remember now what the original question was that I was working towards here.
Michael: Yeah, well, I was just asking, what led you to go and try to build this into a business beyond simply continuing Carol Anderson Research?
Carol: Okay, so that’s a key point. The other point was that in the brief time that I was just focused on Money Quotient alone I really missed this research and writing aspect that had been very central to my work in Carol Anderson Research. So I wanted to integrate the two, and I thought that a nonprofit structure would be most conducive to that. First of all, it would sort of communicate that this is a mission. It’s more than a business or a consulting firm, this is a mission for us. And number two, it just better facilitated whatever research and education opportunities that would come our way. So we did, at that point of that business transition, also start the 501(c)(3) entity.
Michael: And so that’s actually your structure now? Money Quotient is a (c)(3), a charitable entity?
Carol: Yes, it is.
Michael: Which is very unique in our space, I think, actually doing this as a nonprofit.
Carol: Right. So I think it has served us well. It’s also opening up some opportunities for connections with other organizations and some of the financial planning programs that are in colleges, and so on, and so forth. So yes, I’m pretty glad that Amy didn’t let me quit and we have allowed things to evolve, and that we’re at the point that we are now. So it’s been quite a journey.
Michael: Very cool. Yeah, it always strikes me, just the role of family and family…just family support systems for getting through hard times. Still to me one of the most common issues I see for advisors struggling in the business is just if spouses or family aren’t on board with what they’re trying to work towards. It rarely ends out working out very well. And likewise, supportive family can go a long way to getting you through the ups and downs of the business and the partnership breakups that may come along from time to time, and losing a big client. And just all of those real world challenges that come up, even when a business is going relatively well.
Carol: Exactly. So it’s a real integration of life and work, for sure.
Michael: So as you look forward from here, what’s next for Money Quotient? You mentioned you’re working with a business coach now around marketing and branding. I know you guys went through a big website overhaul and redesign recently. What’s next for Money Quotient from here?
Carol: Well, Amy will be my succession plan, and so we’re putting things in place for her to take over that role. I am by no means stepping out, for sure, and will probably never will because I do love this work so much. But we’re increasing our capacity so that I can really get back to my first loves, which are research and writing. So I’ve been growing our team. Just in the last couple of years we’ve gone from two full-time employees, who were Amy and myself, and a couple of part-timers, to now we have seven full-time people. Yeah, it’s a big jump.
Michael: Whoa, that’s a lot of growth. Is that just more advisors coming in? More advisors using the tools and paying the licensing fees that that gives you the room to grow and hire more people?
Carol: Right. So we’ve been putting that back into the business to increase our capacity. I’m just thrilled with our new employees. They’re all super charged about our mission. You know, just a really fun group of people to work with. So we just actually just got back from a strategic planning retreat out at the Oregon coast where we spent, you know, three days really looking at our goals and getting charged up about things that we want to accomplish, and setting up just mid-term goals. We meet daily in the morning. By the way, we are a virtual organization, so everybody has their own home office and we connect every morning for a half an hour to kind of catch up on our goals and check in with everybody.
Michael: So do you do a daily check-in meeting with the whole virtual team?
Carol: Right, and this is fairly new recommendation that we got from one of our advisory board members who had implemented it in her business through a book called “Scaling Up.” And it’s called a meeting rhythm process, and you know, it’s not been in place very long but I can sure see the value in it for sure.
Michael: I’m a big fan of Verne Harnish’s “Scaling Up” as well. We’ll put a link in the show notes maybe for anybody who’s listening to this and wants to check out the book as well.
Carol: So we’re just at a really good time. We’re in the process of working out a new offering that will be for those that would like to engage in kind of a year-long relationship with Money Quotient in terms of implementation support. So we’re pretty excited about this, too. Over the years we keep increasing the number of consultations, and so forth, that we do offer, and seeing the value. And we’re realizing that for some firms the timing would be really good for them to have this type of offering to them where they can really focus. A lot of advisors really want this to become their way of being.
Michael: Yeah, like just tell me a process of what to do and that’s what I will do. I need someone to give me a process that works.
Carol: Right. So there’s multiple levels. There’s terms of what roles the staff support people can play. So anyway, it will allow time to address all those different things, the collateral, the AUs to describe your practice. So there’s support in all those areas. So we’re working out the details. Not exactly sure when we can roll that out, but we’re pretty excited about that. So that’s kind of what’s on the horizon.
Michael: Very cool. So as we come to the end here, this is a podcast about success. And one of the themes that often comes up is just the very goal and end point of success means different things to different people. We all build businesses along certain paths, and as you mentioned, often that gets very informed by the career history and the stages that we have along the way. So as you built this successful nonprofit to bring financial life planning to a wider audience, I’m curious just from your personal perspective at this point, how do you define success for yourself?
Carol: Well, I do think that is a very personal definition for sure. And for me, I think it is really the finding what my life’s work is. And I think it’s been quite a journey, and not always easy, but so rewarding when you can really identify that, and it gives such a sense of intrinsic reward. And then the support that I’ve had from family, Amy, and my husband, and so forth, to be able to really engage in my life’s work in a really meaningful way. And to be able to have this freedom to continue with this life’s work as long as I want to. I don’t have to quit when I’m 65, and I’m well past that now, or any other kind of end point. It’s really up to me, and I really don’t foresee disengaging ever.
I do see that there’s ways that I can remain involved, and as long as it’s compatible with my lifestyle needs and preferences I plan to be involved. I think this whole approach, we’re just skimming the surface here. And there’s a lot more to learn, and that’s one of the things I love about it is all the depths of meaning that we can get from this approach, and the more that we can learn. So that’s kind of how I define success for myself. And I think kind of the frosting on the cake is the feedback that we get that this life’s work is really valued, and appreciated, and utilized by others. That’s been really wonderful.
Michael: Very cool. It’s amazing thing to even just figure out actually what your life’s work is and then be able to focus on it and build in that direction. It’s a funny thing once you find that. There’s really no reason you would want to retire or quit because it’s kind of fun to do.
Michael: Well, very cool. Thank you so much much for joining us here on the Financial Advisor Success podcast and sharing your story.
Carol: Well, thank you, Michael. I’ve enjoyed it. I appreciate your opportunity that you gave me.
Michael: Absolutely my pleasure. I’m happy to help share the Money Quotient message with the wider financial advisory world. Not very many people have helped, I think, to boil down some of the financial life planning concepts just to something that’s systematized into a process you can execute the way that you guys have. So I’m happy to see the growth and very excited to see how it grows for you from here.
Carol: Thank you.