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Is life planning coming of age?

Only a very small section of the IFA market offers a life planning service to clients but support for the area seems to be growing, albeit very slowly.

The Institute of Financial Planning held its annual conference at Celtic Manor in Wales this week and it kicked off with a pre-conference session on life planning.

With the industry under a restructure due to the RDR, how does life planning fit into the wider adviser community?

Helm Godfrey managing director Bruce Wilson says it is the pinnacle of good, independent advice.

He says: “Life planning is about finding out what clients really want in life and creating financial planning around that. It sits at the heart of the financial planning process because it is about really knowing your client.

“The actual life planning side is not in itself a regulated activity but it becomes the core of what you build clients’ financial plans around.”

Yellowtail Financial Planning managing director Dennis Hall says he plans to move away from financial planning and concentrating solely on the life planning side of his business.

Hall says he wants to be able to sit down with clients and work out their goals, then hand the details to a paraplanner who will create a suitable financial plan.

He says: “I personally see more value in helping people see what money means to them. Most successful firms have unwittingly been doing some form of life planning and it is a valuable service that clients will pay for.”

Life planning certainly has its critics but is it a good way to add value to your proposition and help justify fees?

Is it necessary to dig down to an emotional level with clients to find out what they really want from their financial planner?

Post your thoughts below.

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Comments

There are 5 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Nothing new here…
    …..many advisers have been doing this for decades. The ultimate test was being able to take on someone who had just started his/her career and then standing by them through feast and famine, often for little or no reward other than personal satisfaction, then reaping the rewards of succes together. No, I find nothing new here. I wouldn’t like to test the assumption that this isn’t a regulated activity though!

  2. Life planning
    Bruce is right. At Prestwood we’ve been doing lifestyle linked financial planning for over 20 years and it’s absolutely the core service for all clients.

  3. Is life planning coming of age?
    “With the industry under a restructure due to the RDR, how does life planning fit into the wider adviser community?” Firstly, the RDR is not as sure a thing as the FSA is trying to portray. Opinion from QC Peter Hamilton is that “The Financial Services and Markets Act does not permit the FSA to cancel an authorisation simply because the FSA has changed its views on what the appropriate qualifications should be….. It is one thing to impose new rules for new entrants to the IFA profession, it is quite another thing to disqualify someone who is already qualified.” So this element of the RDR appears to be illegal (not that the issue of legality has ever troubled the FSA, but maybe on this one somebody will bring it to book). And secondly, who actually needs or can afford a long term life plan other than wealthy individuals who have the means to allocate significant funds in several different directions according to a plan drawn up by a life planner which, in itself, cannot be anything other than expensive. For example, the answer to the simple question “How much do I need to set aside every month to be able to retire on an income of two thirds of what are likely to be my final year’s earnings at the age of 65?” is very likely to be a figure totally beyond affordability. A nice idea, but let’s get real. So the suit is cut according to the available cloth, which is what the great majority of GP IFA’s have been helping their clients do since time immemorial and against the continuation of which no reasoned argument has been formulated, least of all by the proponents of the RDR. If we are all to become (Chartered) life planners, then most of us will rapidly become very short of suitably HNW clients actually in need of or willing and able to pay for such services. But then, not a few people have argued that this is exactly what the RDR intends to achieve and the needs of everyone who is not HNW will be met by the banks, the building societies and the providers direct. I dunno, maybe I’ve got it all wrong and I’m just being paranoid. Then again, is it paranoia when they’re really out to get you?

  4. Achieving aims and prioritising
    All non regulated activities. Many IFAs act as sounding boards for theri clients, helping them tease out what they actually want to achieve. A lot of our work is around approaching an arbitary retirement age for people between age 55 and 65. Product flogging simply looks to sell something, but a lot of what good advisers do, whetehr you call it Lifetime Planning or whatever can simply be helping a client realise that they already have assets sufficient to allow them to stop work at say 58 or 59 if they want to, which then means they can continue going to work whistleing knowing of the boss pi**es them off enough they can stick two fingers up and walk away. Some of our client’s then decide “right that’s it I’m stopping work now” but many continue past age 65 now as they enjoy working 2, 3 or even 6 days a week now, providing they know they can get off the treadmill at any point.
    Retirement should not be about putting your slippers on and sitting in front of a fire, it should be about continuing to contribute to and interract with society, whetehr that be by doing voluntary work or continuing to earn money which if not needed you can always gift to charity.

  5. Fiona Sutherland 7th October 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Is life planning coming of age
    I used to be an ifa but enjoyed the life planning aspect of the role so much that I became a life coach instead. It’s life coaching skills you need to do a Great job on the holisitc side. Many IFA’s dont realis but one of the grand fathers of life coaching was Thomas Leornard, a financial planner in New york. His clients stated asking him to work with them on non financial life challenges and goals and it grew from there to CoachU who I trained with in 1999. Sadly Thomas died young – ultra fit and collapsed during a run but a real geuius. In my opinion – we have a bit of cathcing up to so in the UK , it’s time life planning was valued more.

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