As a financial advisor, credibility is crucial to the advisor-client relationship; after all, if clients don’t believe the advisor’s advice is credible, then they’re not likely to follow through on it (and/or may not be willing to hire the advisor in the first place). Which, similar to professionals in other knowledge-based fields, often results in feeling the pressure to always have all the answers, and always have your own financial house in order… out of fear that a client may not trust and find credible the advice of an advisor who has made poor financial decisions themselves and hasn’t followed their own advice. Except the reality is that financial advisors are human beings too, we can all make mistakes, and in practice, it’s often our prior negative financial experiences as advisors that actually lead us to want to help others with their money in the first place. Which can actually make the financial advisor more authentic and relatable to clients who are experiencing similar challenges themselves!
In our seventh episode of “Kitces & Carl”, Michael Kitces and financial advisor communication guru Carl Richards sit down to debunk some long-standing myths around what it really means to be a “credible” financial advisor, why authentically owning up to your personal financial mistakes actually helps build trust and credibility (and might even end up helping you gain new clients), and why being relatable as a human being (who makes mistakes from time to time) may be one of the more important traits you can bring to the table as a financial advisor.
As a professional (whose fruits of that profession literally keep the lights powered on), one of the hardest things to do show your own vulnerability by admitting that you’ve made poor financial decisions yourself in the past, and/or don’t have all the answers to every question or problem. But the reality is that, if we can own up to our own poor financial decisions and mistakes that we’ve made along the way, both to ourselves and to our clients, it puts us in a much better position to meet our clients with empathy. Which in turn allows us to be less judgmental (and for clients themselves to feel less judged), and in a much better position to not only help them with the technical aspects of implementing the sound financial advice we give them, but to support their financial wellness as well (which is our ultimate goal in the end).
Because to achieve that goal and get clients to be honest with us, and themselves, about what they really value so that we can help them apply their capital towards what’s most important to them, it’s crucial to make sure that clients can relate to us as advisors. Which often means trying to bring yourself off the “advisor pedestal”, and meeting your clients where they are. Getting clients to talk openly about the financial mistakes they’ve made isn’t easy, but if you are open to sharing your own story, then you can help make them feel more comfortable by making it clear that you aren’t sitting there judging them (because you’ve “been there”, too).
And while there is such a thing as “over-sharing”, the key point is that authentically and openly admitting that you don’t know everything, and don’t always make optimal financial decisions, can ultimately help the people that you want to serve, and by extension, strengthen you own credibility as a professional in the process. Because all that fear that you have about feeling judged if you own up to your mistakes is the exact fear that every client who comes into your office has about being judged themselves by someone who they (wrongly) think has all the answers.