Welcome back to the 224th episode of the Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today’s podcast is Amy Mullen. Amy is the President of Money Quotient, a company based in Portland, Oregon that has developed tools and training to help advisors have better and more meaningful conversations with their clients.
What's unique about Amy, though, is that her Money Quotient solutions give advisors the tools not just to help their clients achieve their goals, but to help clients get real clarity around what's most important to them in their lives in order to create the clearly defined goals that they're actually motivated to work towards, and in the process, help the advisor to become a "thinking partner" who journeys alongside their clients as they ultimately realize those goals.
In this episode, we talk in depth about how Amy’s firm helps advisors guide their clients to gain self-awareness around their values and what’s most important to them, why with that understanding it becomes easier for clients to make financial decisions that will move them closer to the vision they’ve created of a fulfilled life, and the reason that, in contrast to the current behavioral finance framework, Amy posits that people are perfectly capable of making good decisions on their own despite their “irrational” biases… as long as they have a process to help them understand the possibilities that are available to them and properly weigh the pros and cons of the financial choices they have in front of them.
We also talk about the Money Quotient system itself, and how each step of the process has been tailored to each of the various stages of the financial planning process (creating both awareness for the clients as well as a conversational framework for the advisor), the questionnaires, exercises, and even templated deliverables that Money Quotient has developed for advisors to use with clients, all organized around the concepts of Explore, Engage, Envision, Enlighten, and Empower, and how Amy helps advisors leverage this process to create a fully developed client experience and value proposition to grow their businesses and validate why they’re worth the fees they charge.
And be certain to listen until the end, where Amy shares her own journey to becoming the president of Money Quotient and the challenges she’s faced along the way, the work that their sister company, MQ Research And Education, is doing in partnership with various universities to better define the factors that influence financial wellbeing and life satisfaction, and the satisfaction that Amy has gained herself by seeing the positive outcomes of advisors who are not only having better conversations with clients but who all go through the Money Quotient process themselves as part of their training and benefit from the impact of it personally when they gain more clarity on their own true financial planning goals.
So if you're interested in learning more about how to make more meaningful connections with clients, how Amy's process helps clients follow through with recommendations, or why helping clients visualize what their lives look like after they've reached their goals creates better buy-in, then I hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast with Amy Mullen.
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- What Money Quotient Is And Who They Serve [5:13]
- How The Money Quotient Process Helps Clients Get Clear On Their Goals [16:58]
- What Amy’s Process Looks Like In Practice [31:40]
- The Five Stages Of The Money Quotient Process [48:09]
- How Advisors Can Learn The Money Quotient Process [1:02:31]
- What Surprised Amy The Most About Teaching Her Process To The Advisor Community [1:15:23]
- The Low Point(s) On Amy’s Journey [1:20:00]
- What Success Means To Amy [1:25:48]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Amy Mullen
- Money Quotient
- #FASuccess Ep 059: Systematizing The Financial Life Planning Process To Increase Your Money Quotient with Carol Anderson
- Client Relationship And Experience Survey
- Communication Issues in Life Planning White Paper
- Introduction to Money Quotient
- Fundamentals of True Wealth Planning
- Ken Gillaspie Legacy Fund Scholarship Application
- A More Beautiful Question Course Registration
- #FASuccess Ep 085: Boosting Firm Productivity With A Financial Planning Resident Program With Elissa Buie
Michael: Welcome, Amy Mullen to the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Amy: Thank you for inviting me.
Michael: I'm really looking forward to today's discussion, and talking a bit about the evolution of just the financial advisor business itself. We have all this discussion these days of, first, it was the fear of the robo-advisors. And then I think we've accepted the robo-advisors are not going to disrupt us and eat all of our lunch. But there is still this growing pressure of just what are you doing for that proverbial or literal 1% advisory fee above and beyond what I can get for a robo-advisor for 25 basis points?
And I think it's leading a lot of us in this direction of well, we have all this additional value we provide, it's helping people reach their goals and achieve their goals, and stay on course, and not do all the crazy stuff that the behavioral finance research says that we do. And that we have all these value-add layers in helping clients manage their behavior and stay on track. And that's our value. And on the one hand, I love that. And I think I very much believe that. But I also feel like we have this challenge that we say that, and we have all this behavioral finance research that shows clients do screwy things that don't always go well for them financially. But no one actually teaches you what you're supposed to do about it.
And you come from a business that does this and helps teach and train advisors about it. And so I'm really excited to have the conversation of what happens when we get beyond behavioral finance and all the different ways that economists say we do screwy things that don't fit economics models? And what happens when we get to talking about what real human beings actually do and how you help real human beings get to the place they're trying to get to?
Michael: So I know it's a lot of stuff. So, just to kick off and get started, talk to us a little bit about Money Quotient. This business that you're involved in that lives in this place of helping advisors actually have, I don't know how to describe it, better, more meaningful, more impactful conversations with clients that actually help them get to where they're trying to go.
What Money Quotient Is And Who They Serve [5:13]
Amy: Sure. Well, Money Quotient has been around for a while. This is our 20-year anniversary. And prior to the Money Quotient coming about, Carol Anderson, who's the founder of Money Quotient had a research and writing organization for a good decade, prior to Money Quotient.
So, for the last 30-plus years, we've been really looking at and researching what actually motivates humans, adults, to take action in their financial lives and actually adopt healthy financial strategies, healthy financial behaviors.
So the difference really between the behavioral finance perspective and what we teach is that we are looking at consumers as complete and whole human beings that are very capable of making healthy decisions. They just need a process or a path to understand what the decisions are about, what the pros and cons are of their decisions. And then they are able to make healthy decisions on their own. Versus, a lot of the behavioral finance perspective is almost looking at humans as rats in a maze if you will, and that we need to manipulate the maze in order to make them go in a particular direction that we believe is healthy for them.
So our approach is helping clients to gain self-awareness around their values. What's most important to them. What they really want their life to look like, what would be fulfilling and meaningful. And with that understanding, it becomes a lot easier in terms of making decisions around what is going to bring them closer to that vision, and what's going to bring them further away. It also helps them to examine their financial behaviors. How are they managing their money? How are they making decisions? “And is this hindering me getting to where I want to go? Or is this helping me to get there faster?” So we are helping to empower the client to have clarity and be able to make healthy decisions on their own.
Michael: There was a lot of loaded stuff in what you said there. Not just behavioral finance feels a little manipulative, which I also happen to agree with. We talk about how do we nudge clients? And how do we architect choices to get them to where we're trying to get them to go? And again, I'm not saying that to be negative per se. We're trying to get them to go to the good place that we think they should be, and we're doing it for good reasons. But it is a fundamentally different framework to come at this from the perspective of “No, actually our clients are quite fine in making good intelligence decisions as responsible adults, they just may need help having a good process to make sure they arrive at the right decision and consider the right stuff, which is very different than this really implicit assumption in behavioral finance. My clients are literally biased, broken human beings incapable of making appropriate decisions unless I manhandle the situation and steer them to where they need to be and where I've determined that they're supposed to be.
So I'm struck by that dichotomy, but also that there's something implicit you had said part of your work is, I think as you put it, what motivates us to take action in our financial lives and actually adopt healthy financial strategies and behaviors. And I feel like in that there's this implicit judgment, implicit statement that that means part of what we're supposed to be doing when we're here basically is figuring out how to capitalize on that, how to help people be motivated and take action and adopt healthier strategies and behaviors. And just, it strikes me to think about it that way because, for most of what I feel like we talk about in the financial advisor world, there's two types of clients. Those to whom I give my recommendations and they take and implement all the recommendations, otherwise known as good clients, and those to whom I give all my recommendations and they don't act on the recommendations, otherwise known as bad clients.
And then, I know for some advisors, we literally have criteria of what is your ideal client. And one of the criteria often is “people who will listen to my advice and take it.” And there's something very different in how you are framing this that I feel like this is shifting the responsibility a little to say like, if we're giving advice, our clients might take it. That's not a function of well, then find better clients who will take your advice. That's on us that maybe we didn't give the advice the right way. Am I reading too much into that? Or is that part of how to think about this?
Amy: Yeah, I completely agree that this is the way that you should be thinking about this because I would guess that the majority of our society does not have a huge interest in financial matters. In fact, I think for most people, it's a boring chore that they have to take care of. And so, there's a lot of procrastination, there's a lot of moaning and groaning. There's also a lot of shame around people's financial lives. They're embarrassed about the lack of education they've had, they're embarrassed about past decisions that they've made, and about their lack of managing their money very well. So there's a lot of mental obstacles that are already there for clients that advisors don't really understand that they're coming up against, I think. That if they're just labeling them as bad clients because “they didn't follow through on my recommendations,” they're not really realizing that probably, under these mental obstacles, there is a human being that's totally capable of doing this.
And it is extremely beneficial if they are able to take a little bit of time with their clients to find something, find a vision, find a passion, something that is really motivating to them. So in other words the person most likely is not interested in mastering their cash flow, right? That's not a big, exciting, inspiring thing for most people. But you might have somebody who's really passionate about becoming a musician. And what are all the components of becoming the musician that you want to become? “Well, I want to buy a Gibson guitar, and I want to buy this amplifier, and I want to get professional lessons, and I want to fly to this place to see my favorite artist here.”
And so, you can uncover things that the client is actually very motivated and passionate about that makes now looking at cash flow a means to something that they are actually excited about. So, I think the way that the financial planning world has been operating is that we just are hoping and expecting that our clients are going to get excited about adopting financial strategies. But the truth of the matter is most of the time, advisors are getting really frustrated because they're not following through on things that the client is just not all that interested in.
However, if there's some great, exciting thing that they are working towards and they know, okay, the way I'm able to reach this particular vision that I have is to find how I can allocate certain resources towards these goals. So you're taking that passion and you're flipping it into motivating them to take action in their financial life.
Michael: Okay. I feel like, at least a lot of us these days would say, “Well, yeah, I do goals-based financial planning. We put a bunch of these goals into MoneyGuidePro, or whatever my software of choice is. I'm trying to get my client all these goals and having them work towards those goals. Is that an example of what you're talking about? And then we're on the right track?” Are you talking about something that's still different than that?
Amy: Well, I'm guessing that it would be a bit different than the type of goal setting that most advisors would be talking about. Because I think in traditional financial planning, we have our idea of what the financial goals are that fit neatly into our analysis software, and are the typical types of goals that we think about.
Michael: Save for retirement, save for my kids' college. Right? Okay.
Amy: Mm-hmm. Or even buy a house, or some of these things which are typical financial goals that we think about. And that is definitely a part of it. But what that doesn't necessarily get to is much more specific goals that are really strongly aligned with client values that build this strong motivation to take action. And so, if you are asking your client in a client meeting, what are your goals? Likely that client sitting across from you is thinking, “Okay, I'm sitting across from a financial planner, what are the sorts of things that he wants me to say or she wants me to say? What are typical things that you talk about in financial planning? Well, I'm going to talk about my retirement.”
Michael: “Because I don't actually know the answer. So I'm just trying to come up with what I think my advisor wants to hear?”
Amy: Right. Well, or it's just this is what you typically talk about in a financial planning office. We talk about retirement, we talk about education funding. And so, a client is not going to naturally think of or be aware that these other passions and goals are things that they could be sharing with you, that they could build into what their financial plan is. And so they will not likely, just naturally, share those with you. And I would also argue that they may not totally be clear on what those goals are for themselves yet.
So, I think one of the biggest assumptions in traditional financial planning, that is actually creating an obstacle to having more success in planner-client relationships is that the profession believes that clients already understand what's important to them. And they already understand what their goals are that they want. And they simply just need to tell you, and then you can put the numbers together and figure it out. But the truth of the matter is, is that most people have a real fuzzy perspective on what is important to them, what should be important to me. I enjoy some of these things, but I don't think I can make it happen because I have a limited perspective of what is possible.
So, one of the things that we offer, or the thing that we offer, really, is the process to help the client think through and become clear on, really, what is important to them, what are they passionate about, what is the type of lifestyle they want to live that gets them really inspired and excited? And when they're inspired and excited is when they're actually going to follow through on implementing the financial strategies that the planner ends up recommending.
How The Money Quotient Process Helps Clients Get Clear On Their Goals [16:58]
Michael: So, in a moment, I'm going to ask, “so what is this process? What is it that you take them through?” But before we go there, can you help me understand a little bit more for all of us that just, we sit down with clients and we start the conversation. We're like, “what are your goals that we're going to construct this financial plan towards?” Or maybe we're using a tool like MoneyGuidePro, and I'm not trying to pick on MoneyGuidePro, but just they do have a structured intake process around this, and I get the icons that are up on the screen, and they can grab the retirement icon, and my kids' wedding icon. And we give them a set of goal choices. I guess I'm still just trying to see what's wrong with those goals? Or how do those goals differ from what you're talking about here?
Amy: Well, there's nothing wrong with those goals, but likely, in terms of the quality of motivation that lies behind those particular goals, it's likely not going to be as strong as something that they have literally come up with themselves and that are really based on their core values. So the types of goals that come out of a process like this, you'd probably never see them in a financial planning software as a goal that you just select from their list. Well, let me think a little bit. It could have to do with quitting their job and traveling the world for the next year, or something like that. It can involve all kinds of things that we wouldn't think of on our own. So it just will uncover far more inspiring-type goals that is going to build a lot of excitement and motivation. And that's what we're trying to accomplish. The motivation to pay attention to your financial issues and to understand and implement healthy financial behaviors.
Michael: Yeah, there is an interesting framing this to me. I'm just thinking back, even over the years of, again, I'm not trying to pick on MoneyGuidePro, I've just been a user for a really long time. So I'm used to the platform and how it's evolved. I'm even thinking back. The early versions, we just gather the goals, input the goals, set the financial parameters around their goals, do the projection. And this wasn't unique to MoneyGuidePro. All the financial planning software programs did this. And then in their more recent iterations, I think it's in response and recognition of this challenge that I think a lot of advisors were coming to them saying, yeah, so I had the financial planning meeting and I asked my client what their goals are so I could put in the software and they didn't really know what their goals were. They couldn't tell me so I couldn't put anything into the software.
So MoneyGuidePro then made the module that says, you can take them through this process. And since they can't figure out what their goals are, we'll make some icons, and literally put some goals in front of them, because maybe they're getting stuck thinking of their goals on their own. So we'll give them a list of potential goals and they can select from the goals.
And to me, I guess the irony is, it actually highlights like, yeah, a lot of them don't actually really know what right goals are. And we've got our list of goals, literally pre-populated in the software, or just built around the modules. We got an education planning thing because you should have an education goal, we've got an insurance planning thing because you should have a goal to keep your family secure, we've got a retirement goal module because you should have a retirement goal. The software is built to shoehorn clients into certain end-goals or end types of goals or in categories of goals. It's not really, literally, a process of goal discovery. It just assumes everyone's going to have one of a list of about half a dozen to a dozen different goals. I just need the parameters of yours. Like, everyone is going to retire, what's your age in retirement? Everyone's going to send their kids to college, but how old are your kids, how far away is college, and which college do you want to send them to? It's all built with the presumption that there are standard goals that pretty much everyone wants. And the only thing that varies is the parameters of when and how much.
And I suppose you could still make the case that's true, even in what you're framing up, but I get it. It doesn't get someone all that fired up and be like, well, I figured out with my financial planner that 63 will be my retirement age and not 65. And then I can retire on $82,000 a year, and I don't need $89,000 a year, and that actually lets me retire six months earlier. So I'm only going to retire 16 years from now and not 16 and a half years from now. Like, it doesn't get a 40 something really fired up.
Amy: Right. And I do believe that all of those goals that are already listed in, like, MoneyGuidePro and some of the common data-gathering forms and that kind of thing, they are likely still things that need to be planned for. But the difference is, when you're using this sort of process, the client is actually creating a vision of what that will look like. And the vision becomes motivating. So in other words, the example that you just gave is they're thinking about what age they're going to retire, and is it earlier or later than they thought. But what they're not thinking about is actually what sorts of activities am I going to enjoy in this time of my life? Am I going to want to travel, and where am I going to travel? And really building out this vision of an exciting and fulfilling retirement that they feel drawn to, and therefore, want to get to faster.
So retirement is just a word. And if it doesn't have the vision behind it, then you're just looking at numbers, and there's not a lot of personal attachment to it. So creating that vision builds the strong quality of motivation to actually adopt the financial behaviors, and keep the financial behaviors.
One of our resources helps clients to think about their life in segments. All these different areas of their life. Like their community life, and their family life, and their home life, and work, and finances, and leisure time. And it breaks it out into a lot of different areas of life. And the thing is, when somebody wants to make an improvement on any area of their life, they want to make change or want to make an improvement, then likely there is some financial tether to any changes that they want to make in any area of life. So this tool allows them to think to compartmentalize these different areas of their life so that they can begin to envision what would make that area of my life better. And from this conversation tends to come some of the goals that they feel a lot more excited and inspired from.
I'll show you the difference between the two. Like, I'm going to take one section, which would be a person's health. If somebody were just to ask, it doesn't have to be a financial planner, it could be anybody. But if somebody were to ask a person, what would it look like to improve on your health life? Most people would start listing shoulds. I should be working out...
Michael: I was already there. You've asked it. I'm starting to answer in my head and my brain was already at I should be doing more dot, dot, dot. I was there even before you got to the sentence, eight seconds later. Yeah?
Amy: Yeah, “I should be working out four times a week. I should stop eating sugar. I should…” All these “shoulds” that we're putting onto ourselves, which, can you feel the weight of that?
Michael: Yeah. “Okay. I'm feeling pretty guilty and crappy about myself already. So, now that I feel beat up because I'm already upset with myself for all the things I haven't done since my new year's resolution. Yes, let's continue this awesome conversation.”
Amy: Yeah, right. Very uninspiring sort of thing. Whereas, the opposite of that, really, what the process that we offer helps clients to do is in that same area, rather, we want them to describe what it would be like to already be living their best health life. And to make it visceral. So, what does it sound like? What does it smell like? What does it look like? What is it...? Like thinking about your five senses. So the difference would be a person would say, “I'm feeling really healthy and strong. And when my friends asked me if I want to go on a hike on the weekend, I enthusiastically say yes because I'm not afraid that I won't be able to keep up. And my endurance is there. I also enjoy playing soccer with my grandson, and I don't get winded. I'm able to keep up.”
So, you can see that vision becomes far more inspiring to put some of the necessary steps in place to get there. So if you think of things that you have to do in your financial life as like a list of shoulds, then you can understand why a lot of people drag their feet on implementing things. But when you are able to help them create a very compelling vision of something that they really want, suddenly, those steps to getting there don't feel quite so painful.
Michael: And so then, your process, your system, what you teach at Money Quotient is things like this, exercises like this, questionnaires and tools like this. I'm just thinking, “Yes, what you said sounds awesome. I don't know that I would have quite thought of it that way. And I'm not quite sure what the right words are about how to ask those questions. Like, totally on board with you now. But now I'm just trying to figure out what the words are to ask about all the different areas,” and I'm taking a part of what you do is like, you actually give people the words, and the questions, and how to get through these.
Amy: Yes, the whole system. So it's a real practical process that advisors, really, at any stage of their career, whether they've been doing it for 30 years, or whether they are career changers, or they're young people coming out of universities and wanting to start having their first experiences across the table with clients, that there is a system that they can rely on to facilitate with their clients to help their clients get to these specific things.
So there's a real paradigm shift here in the role of the advisor. And so, I think in traditional financial planning, over several years, financial planning is not that old. So I do believe that this is just a part of the evolution of the profession. But the role of the advisors, they really looked at themselves as the keeper of important information. I've got the secrets, you want to come to me to get the secrets to have the six steps...
Michael: “I studied. I got my CFP certification. I'm the keeper of the knowledge and the expertise. You lay some money on the table. I give you the answers.” That's the deal. That's the transaction.
Amy: Right. Right. And now, obviously, since a lot of the left brain analytical information that was being kept by advisors to provide to clients, a lot of that stuff is being more and more commoditized...
Michael: Right. A lot of that super-secret information is available on the internet now in a not very secret way. Yep. Yep. Like, this is our collective challenge.
Amy: Right. So the paradigm shift that an advisor has to be thinking about in terms of their role in this relationship is more of a facilitator of a process that allows the client to come to, essentially, their own solutions. And I don't mean financial solutions. I mean solutions for what they want with their life. Their goals, their vision.
So the advisor is simply facilitating a process and acting as a thinking partner. And the tools or the questionnaires, the series of questionnaires that the advisor is guiding the client through will naturally guide the client's thinking to identify their values, and then use those values as a basis for creating a vision of an ideal life that they want to live, when that's really compelling and meaningful and purposeful. And then from that vision, very specific goals just naturally arise from the vision, and then those goals and values, really, become the foundation of any financial strategies that they put into place.
So during this, essentially, discovery process, the advisor is administering these tools in a particular sequence, allowing the client to have their experience and think things through and talk to their partners. And then, basically, the advisor is asking, “How was that exercise for you? Did you have any insights? Are there things you'd like to share with me?” And slowly, they build into this grand inspiring vision of what they want.
So, actually, it ends up taking a lot of pressure off of the advisor to have to come up with all the right answers for this client that they barely know. Because the client is really gaining clarity around, really, what it is that they want for themselves. And that allows them to articulate it to the advisor in a better way than they would have been able to without the process. And so then, the financial recommendations are super honed in to specifically who that person is, and where they want to go. And so, therefore, much higher levels of buy-in and much higher levels of implementation of the financial plan too.
What Amy’s Process Looks Like In Practice [31:40]
Michael: So, I'm really struck by the way that you framed this. Of we're the facilitator of a process where the client comes to their own solutions. It's like acting as a thinking partner, a very heavy term unto itself. I'm just trying to process more like, what does this look like in practice? I think for so many of us, just “A client comes, they pay us the money, we give them the financial plans. And then we manage the dollars and answer their questions on an ongoing basis. Like, am I still doing that? Am I doing that but differently, or we're actually talking about a whole different business model and offering?”
Amy: It's not a whole different business model. No. In fact, most advisors who attend our training, they don't change the number of meetings they have, the length of the meetings that they have. They typically come up with the presentation meeting where they are presenting the draft of the financial recommendations at the same time, whether they're using MQ or not. However, the difference is that they're really changing the way in which they're having conversations within those meetings to get much more relevant information more quickly and efficiently.
I will say, David Yeske and Elissa Buie are both members of our community. And one time we had Elissa Buie in one of our trainings as a veteran. We like to bring past veterans back into our trainings from time to time to share with the new advisors, “What does it look like to implement the Money Quotient? And what was your journey like? And how did it help you? And one of the participants asked Ellisa, because your firm was already, really, values and goal-centered, can you tell me really what the big difference was before Money Quotient and after Money Quotient?”
And she said, basically, it helped to make their data gathering and processes more effective and efficient, where she said, “What used to take us a few years to fully learn and understand about our client in terms of developing that relationship, and just really fully knowing them, now, with the Money Quotient process embedded, it takes six weeks to three months to know them at that level.”
So the process creates efficiency and it makes sure that nothing really falls through the cracks. And so, you're far less likely, down the road, year two, year three to learn something about the client you didn't know about that completely disrupts or blows up the original financial plan that you created. So there's that. Plus, there's just a much higher level of buy-in to the plan. And when there's buy-in, there's follow-through, there's happy, sticky relationships. There's all of that stuff.
Michael: So now help us understand just, literally, what is the process? We've talked about the process and teaching the process and building up to the process. So, I think now probably a lot of people are just wondering, literally, what is the process?
Amy: Well, we have a model that we teach. So this does involve five stages. And basically, it is Explore, Engage, Envision, Enlighten, and Empower. And it lines up with the CFP process. So we're big believers in the CFP process. I'm a CFP, and a good portion of our community are CFPs, too, although that is not a requirement to work with Money Quotient. But we really designed the model to help advisors to be as efficient and as effective in each stage of that process. So we're really tying in much more of psychological aspects at play between the planner and the client and their relationship. We're doing implementing or integrating more of what we understand is going on neurologically with their brains, what helps to build motivation to take action, what helps them to make decisions. And there's a lot of different aspects of psychology that are built into the model as well.
And so when I say built into the model, I mean that we've created a simple process to follow that is a series or a sequence of exercises that the client goes through. And the exercises take into consideration all of these things. So, for instance, the couple of tools that an advisor would use with a prospect in a getting acquainted meeting, they are designed to be super fast to complete, because, at this stage of the process, we don't want to create too much work for that prospect so that it creates an obstacle for them to come and meet you for the first time. We also don't delve very deeply into the data gathering at this point, because the client hasn't met the advisor yet, so they're not quite sure if they trust the advisor. And if the questions go too deep, that would essentially create a mental obstacle, and they may hesitate to go see that advisor.
So, very quick to complete, doesn't get too deep into information. Also, they are awareness tools. So they open up the client's understanding of the breadth of what a financial planner does. I think all financial planners understand that consumers out there really don't know. They really don't.
Michael: They don't get what we do and what all this financial planning stuff is.
Amy: Right. And so, these tools help to create a structure for the conversation so that the advisor has a really good understanding of the client's situation and can understand what the scope of engagement is going to be, while at the same time, it is expanding the client's awareness of what the offering could be, what the advisor could be helping them with. This goes into another assumption that I believe is embedded in the profession that is not helping advisors to be as effective as they could. And that is this belief that clients need to be able to lead the way and that advisors follow the client's lead. So if it's important to the client, they will bring it up in the conversation, and we just need to go where the client is going to go.
But the truth of the matter is, if they don't understand what it is that you do, or the breadth of the things that you cover, likely, there's going to be a lot of things that they could have shared with you that they missed because they just didn't know that was something that they could talk to you about. So, having these seed planters, this awareness tool makes sure that nothing really falls through the cracks, and that they become more aware of what it is that you do too.
Michael: So, I think you had said we might not even be fully established in a client relationship yet. So, just from a practical perspective, are we literally talking about like, this is a questionnaire I may send to a prospect before they're even a client, I'm sending to a client who said yes, but we haven't actually started working together yet., and this is like pre-work before I do my data gathering meeting? What am I actually sending to whom, at what point?
Amy: Right. So there's two questionnaires that are super quick to complete. They're literally checkboxes. One is called the financial satisfaction survey. The other one is called the life transition survey. The financial satisfaction survey has them rate their level of satisfaction with various aspects of their financial life. And this is where the awareness comes in because it has them rate their level of satisfaction across all the areas that a holistic, or a comprehensive financial planner would be talking about in a financial planning process. So by hitting on all those different topics it opens up their awareness, but they're marking their level of satisfaction with how that's going in their life right now.
Michael: So like, how do you feel about the current state of your portfolio? How do you feel about the current state of your retirement? How do you feel about the current state of your kids' education? These kinds of things? These kinds of questions?
Michael: I'm sure yours are more articulate than my version.
Amy: But it goes a bit deeper than that too, or deeper, I'm not sure if that's the right word, but broader. Broader is the better word. So it also goes into what's your level of satisfaction with your money management style? How you're managing your money. Or how you're documenting your financial information or organizing your financial information. So it goes broader.
And then also, what's your level of satisfaction with your ability to communicate about your financial life with people in your life who are important to you? Maybe your family members or your spouse or something like that. And so, it's pretty broad. It covers 20 questions, but it takes them like two minutes to fill it out. And then it provides the advisor a really nice framework for facilitating the conversation with the client. And it really quickly helps them identify, “okay, what are the things that the client feels are going really well?”
And that may or may not be the truth, because you could look at their actual financial information and be like, “Oof, this person really doesn't have an understanding of that. They feel pretty comfortable in this area, but I'm looking at their financial situation and it looks worse than maybe they realize.” Or the opposite. Like, they could feel really insecure about several things, and you look at their financial stuff, and you think, “Wow, they don't really need to be this concerned. They're really doing okay.” But if you're just looking at the numbers alone, you're not going to know that. You're not going to know if they're feeling anxious about it or if they're feeling overly confident.
So, anyway, just asking about levels of satisfaction is going to be different than likely they're going to get from many of their financial professional relationships.
Michael: And then, what's the life transition survey? The second one that you give is this two-survey exercise.
Amy: Right. Right. So the life transition survey lays out, I believe, like 52 different transitions that are fairly common in a person's lifetime. And they are broken down into different sections. So there's a bunch of work transitions, and there's a bunch of family transitions and financial transitions, and then also legacy transitions. And all of them have financial implications that should be proactively planned for and would be a part of a financial planning discussion. So the client marks whether they're currently experiencing any of this transition, or if they're anticipating this transition in the near or distant future. And so, in a snapshot, a really quick snapshot, the advisor has a really good idea of where that client is today, currently. And then again, it's an awareness tool for the client in that, they likely would have not thought to speak to a financial planner about various family transitions they're going through.
So, again, it opens up their awareness to the breadth of what they should be talking with an advisor about and which should be included in the financial strategies.
Michael: And so, how do we actually set up this conversation with the client? Well, so first, I guess, I just want to clarify is, should I be thinking about I use this with a new client before the first data gathering meeting, this is part of my prep leading up, or is this something that I'm literally using with a prospect before they're even a client to understand needs and issues before I sit down with them and explain all the things I can help you with.
Amy: We recommend that these two questionnaires be sent out to a prospect prior to getting an acquainted meeting. And I think when that is done, it sets the advisor apart pretty immediately because it shows that the questions that are being asked are probably different than ones they've experienced at other financial professionals' offices before. So it can be a great way to differentiate the advisor's process right upfront. And it gives the clients an opportunity to broaden their perspective, maybe think more about what they want to talk to the advisor about once they get to the office.
Well, now we have all of our Money Quotient tools in submittable forms. But the submittable forms make it super easy because you just send them a link, they click their answers, they hit submit, and it goes right back to the advisor. And so it's super easy for the advisor to have those completed forms prior to actually sitting down with them. They can just do a quick review and think about how they're going to navigate the conversation once they're in that getting acquainted meeting. But it really creates a framework for an efficient conversation to get to the whole picture.
Michael: Right. If I'm coming in, and I literally know they're very not confident about how they're currently managing their money, and their big hot button is I'm anticipating a financial transition because a parent is ill and going to pass away soon. Like, “Okay, I know exactly where this conversation is going.” And if I get someone that comes in instead, and says they're totally confident of their money management style, but they're feeling like their financial life is very disorganized and they're really concerned about the health of a child, this is a completely different conversation. And I know before I sit down in the meeting what's going to be going on here.
Amy: Right. So you can see how the process creates the structure, but the actual outcomes are going to be very unique for each client. So it's not leading to some cookie-cutter, “okay, your answers were this, therefore, we're diagnosing you as this, and these are your answers.” Or something like that. It's a structure to help them think and be thorough in their planning, but the end result for each individual client you work with is going to be unique for them.
Michael: And in setting this up with the, I guess now we're still on the prospect phase, this may just literally be, “Dear Bob and Joan, before our meeting next Tuesday, if you could, please just fill out these two quick questionnaires. It just helps us to understand your situation a little bit more so that we can have the most productive conversation when you come into our office next Tuesday.” Or I guess, when we meet on a Zoom call, because we may not be in our office yet. But someday, when you come into our office next Tuesday. This will just help make sure we have the most productive conversation.
The Five Stages Of The Money Quotient Process [48:09]
Michael: So I think now we're getting a good sense and vision of what's going on here and how this actually works. So explore stage. If I'm thinking in terms of my CFP process, this is my establishing the relationship part. Then I get into, classically, gathering data stage, which I'm taking as your Engage stage. So can you talk to us a little bit now about, so what do those tools look like? Like, how does this work in the Engage stage?
Amy: This stage is actually, we've broken it into two of our stages. So we've really enhanced the depth of the data gathering process. So it's both the Engage and the Envision stage of our true wealth process that work to help the advisor be effective and efficient. The Engage stage is all about establishing the current situation of the client. And this involves a values clarification process. Understanding what their values are, understanding what their perspective is, what their preferences are. Also gathering all of their quantitative information, their statements. All of this.
So we do the qualitative discovery process parallel to the quantitative discovery as well. So you're doing a bit of both in your meetings. But there is a spectrum when you look at the flow of the true wealth process. You're exploring a bit of the past with your client first as a way of understanding their perspective, their preferences, and their values. Because all of those things are all formulated by their life's journey. So, from childhood experiences, their education experience, also the career path that they've taken. All of these past experiences have shaped what their perspective is, what their preferences are, what their values are. Also, what they're passionate about. It really has created the person who's sitting in front of you.
So the Engage stage is about having a better picture of everything that we are today. And once we get a good handle on that, and then we move into the Envision stage, which is all about, basically, designing what point B is going to be. So Engage is defining point A, Envision is defining point B. And that includes just walking them through a couple of exercises to expand their thinking on what an ideal life would look like for them. And I mentioned that tool before, that breaks it down and compartmentalizes different parts of their life. And then you move them into, really, envisioning what an ideal life would look like. And then from there, it's really easy to identify goals. In fact, they will do that. They do the work. And you're just listening and taking notes, essentially, and also asking additional questions to help them continue to think about things. But the client really gets to the outcomes of the process themselves.
And then, at the end of the Envision stage, you should have all the pieces you need to then move into creating your recommendations.
Michael: So, as we talk about these pieces of an Engage and Envision. So I'm presuming now, I'm seeing the pattern, we're going to have some tools, some questionnaires, some exercises in each of these stages. Like, that's literally part of what Money Quotient does and brings to the table. For the explore stage, you give me the financial satisfaction survey and the life transition survey so I don't need to reinvent the wheel here. Give me the tools and explain to me how to queue them up for my client, how to interpret them. So I'm presuming then I'm going to get another set of tools and questionnaires for Engage, and another set of tools and questionnaires for envision that I'm doing with my clients in each step of this process.
Amy: Right. Yeah. Yes. And so, the library of resources that we have is pretty big. And part of what we do with advisors in our consulting program that we have is we essentially take a look at their practice. We look at their particular clientele, we look at the software programs they use, we look at any other resources that they want to use in their process. And we help them decide on which tools they want to use or integrate to create their own unique client experience. And so there's a number of tools that are designed to meet the objectives of each of these stages. But there are choices that the advisor can make to which tools, specifically, that they'd like to use. And, of course, we provide our recommendations based on, when we get to know their firm, their individual firm, then we can share with them what our suggestions would be based on that information.
So you do have a set of tools for each stage. And I think when advisors hear that, they start to get nervous because they think clients are not going to want to fill out forms and clients don't want to do this...
Michael: I was just wondering, is there some point where my clients are just going to questionnaired out? Like, “Good news. Since it's time for the next stage of the financial planning process, here are two more questionnaires. I'll bet you didn't see this coming.” Do clients get questionnaire fatigue? Is this a problem or is this is going to be one of those you're imagining. It's a problem in your head, your clients are actually told you that.
Amy: You're imagining. It's a problem in your head.
Amy: So, the truth of the matter is that all of that has been taken into consideration when we designed it. So, like I said, with a prospect we want them to be very quick and simple and high-level so they don't feel intimidated, and that there's not a lot of work for them to do prior to coming in. So each stage of the process really takes all of that into consideration and makes sure that we're not creating any sort of “form fatigue”. However, I will say, also, clients really enjoy this process it's not like we're asking them to fill out the quantitative data gathering forms. That can get tedious and is not fun to go through. So advisors are very used to having their clients not get excited about completing those forms. And they often get frustrated that they haven't been completed. This is a much more enjoyable process and it also tends to really engage the partner in a couple that has not ever really been engaged in the financial conversations before. So it can really help to bring them together and make sure that that unengaged partner feels as though this financial plan includes their concerns and their interests as well.
Michael: And when we are getting into this stage of meetings, the earlier one, I was struck the actual tools were, here are some questionnaires clients are going to do beforehand to make your meeting more productive when the clients actually come in. So, when you get to this next stage now, are we still in a realm of, “I'm giving clients some tools and some questionnaires before the actual data gathering meeting, and then that's going to make our conversation more productive in the data gathering meeting in a similar manner? Or are we now getting into tools that I'm literally going to use in the meeting itself?”
Amy: All of the above.
So, some of the tools actually provide questions that the advisor will ask verbally as a part of just a casual conversation, but provides them with effectively worded questions. And so that would mean that the client is not actually completing any sort of form for that exercise. Then there's some exercises that we recommend the advisor has the client do, actually, in the office during the meeting. And those were always going to be real quick exercises, but something that will prompt their thinking and help to navigate the next important conversation. Other exercises we recommend that be provided as homework because we want the client to really think about the questions and articulate their answers in more of a paragraph or something. Those are the deepest level tools.
And those are typically reserved for further in the process when the client has... It's like we're creating this glide path to deeper thinking and deeper clarity. So it goes from super fast, super easy, surface-level type questions, and it slowly gets a little bit more specific and a little bit more specific. That happens to also align with the building of the relationship. So it never feels to the client as though you're delving into really deep information quickly. It should never feel that way. It doesn't feel that way. So it's a nice easy progression to both clarity and deeper thinking.
Michael: Okay. Okay. And so, now I think we're getting the flow, but talk to us at least a little bit about the Enlighten and Empower stages just so we understand how this comes to fruition at the end.
So the Enlighten stage is when the advisor is going to be presenting their recommendations. And at that stage, we suggest that the advisor starts by providing a summary of what they've learned about the clients. And we actually provide a method for doing that. It's a deliverable for the qualitative data gathering piece. And it allows the advisor to say, “This is what I've learned about your values, this is what I've learned about the transitions that you have on the horizon, this is what I've learned about the concerns you have, and the vision that you have for your future, and also the specific goals that you're excited about. Have I heard you correctly, because this is what I'm basing my recommendations on?”
So that moment, when you have summarized everything you learned and it's on one page is a really powerful moment for the client. It is something that is not easily describable, but the advisors who go through our training, we have them go through the process for themselves as if they were a client, and when they get to that part and they have their advisor, essentially, in the training providing them the summary of what they've learned, they are always really amazed at how it feels to feel as though somebody really knows you, feel that you've really been heard. It's quite an exhilarating part of the process. And again, builds that strong quality of motivation to move forward within the recommendations that the advisor is going to give right after going through this summary.
So then, after reviewing that summary, we also have another piece that the advisor can use to directly connect the things that they've heard from the client to specific recommendations that they're making. So we've got this cool chart that allows the advisor to, essentially, create, like an executive summary of their recommendations saying, because you said this is a strong value of yours, and this is a goal that you have, and you have concerns about this, we are recommending you do this.
And this is another thing that I feel is embedded into the profession that is not helping advisors be as successful. I think there's always this assumption that clients can clearly see why the advisor is making specific recommendations. And the truth of the matter is that a lot of times, they don't see how, what you're saying, with all your financial jargon, and with all the things that they don't understand, how that is connecting to my personal life or my personal goals and things. So we assume that they see it, but it is oftentimes not a direct connection in the client's mind. So when you have some deliverable that clearly makes that connection for the client, it is that much more likely that they are going to move forward and implement that strategy.
Michael: And then, how does the Empower stage work? I'm assuming now we're basically down to implementation.
Amy: Right. Exactly. So Empower is all about implementation. And basically, the role of the advisor during this stage is helping them put it in place, keeping them motivated, helping to build their resilience as well. So if there's any unexpected obstacles that come along the way the advisor can help them to move around it and help them to be accountable.
So there are different things that we teach in our training about the stages of change. What are the things that adults go through in order to make change for themselves? And what role can the advisor play in a partner in that or a guide in that? And so there's a number of strategies or tips or things that advisors could be doing to make that implementation part more successful as well.
How Advisors Can Learn The Money Quotient Process [1:02:31]
Michael: And so, for advisors that want to learn this, that want to try this, that want to do this. How does Money Quotients work? Like just, you're a business, you made these tools, you teach some cool stuff. But if an advisor actually wants to do this, and learn this, and use the tools and go through it, how does it actually work?
Amy: Yeah. So actually, the way that we set up our process of working with advisors is quite similar to how we recommend advisors work with their clients, which is cool, because they get to experience an example of that, essentially. So we have getting-acquainted meetings ourselves. And we have a couple of questionnaires that we send out to an advisor who is interested in learning more about Money Quotient and seeing if it's a good fit for them. One of which I was thinking I would give to you, Michael, to share with your listeners. It's called the client relationship and experience survey. Basically, it allows the advisor to think about different aspects of their client relationships, and also the process they've created for their clients to go through. And they can rate their level of satisfaction with these various aspects of their relationships.
So anywhere from, are they happy with the way that they're communicating their value proposition to their prospects? And are they satisfied with their discovery process and their getting-acquainted meeting with those prospects? And then what's their conversion rate? Are they satisfied with their conversion rate? And then moving into the onboarding process of a new client, and looking at the different aspects of that, and whether they're satisfied with it.
And then also, in terms of long-term relationships, what is their retention rate? Do they feel as though their clients retain an understanding of the breadth of services that they provide once you get to year three, or year five, or do they just view you as an investment management person?
So there's all these different aspects of the client relationship, and also the process they've set up. This allows them to think about themselves. Actually, it's a great strategic planning tool because you can identify this stuff is really honed in well. “I'm happy with this stuff. But this stuff I would really like to work on and improve.” So it can be a great way to zero in on that. While it also helps them to understand the breadth of what we teach about in our training and in our consulting and what our tools help them to do.
Michael: It's almost as though you’re awareness-building. I’ve heard that's a thing now in the early part of the client relationship process. So for those who are listening and interested, this is Episode 224. So if you go to kitces.com/224, we'll have a link out for the client relationship and experience survey, if you want to check this out and just see what one of these questionnaires are like and what it's like to go through it.
Amy: Yeah, so we'll put that one up there. And they can just use it for their own self-assessment. But if they have an interest in talking with me about it, we can set up a getting-acquainted meeting and we can talk about their practice as well.
The other survey that we have an advisor complete for this meeting is a financial planning practice transition survey. So this has a range of different transitions that they might go through within their own firm. Business transitions and human capital transitions and marketing and all kinds of different things. And the reason that we like to take a look at that is for two reasons. One is if they are interested in coming on board as a Money Quotient partner and work through our program, then it's really good for them to be thinking about timing of doing that because we really want advisors to get the most out of what we have to offer. So if they're able to get through maybe some things that are currently on their plate and actually create a little bit of space to fully engage, they're going to get a lot more out of it if they have the time and space to do that.
So we talk about timing, and we also talk about the other transitions that are on the survey that we may be able to offer some suggestions or observations around. So we work with hundreds of firms, but we've seen different models, different processes, different fee structures, all kinds of things. And if they are approaching a transition, such as they're thinking about changing their fee structure, we could share with them our observations of the different fee structures that the advisors within our community have used and the pros and cons of those fee structures. And we can also provide our special Money Quotient perspective, which is we take a real psychological perspective on these different things, helping them to look at it from a client's perspective, and how are they reading the value from how your fee structure is set up? So we just provide some thoughts and ideas that might influence their decisions.
Speaking of fee structures, in general, there's pros and cons to just about everyone out there. But at least they can look at it from a lot of different perspectives. And that might help them to zero in on one that is most appropriate for the type of work that they want to do, the type of clients they want to reach. All of that. So, yeah.
Michael: And so, we go through an initial questionnaire, we've a get-acquainted meeting, should be very familiar for what we tend to do on the other end, as advisors with our clients, so then, what comes next? Or how to how do advisors engage? If they're like, yeah, I'm still interested, I'm liking the training. How does this work?
Amy: Yes. So, our fundamentals of true wealth planning training is the first step to coming on board as a Money Quotient partner. And this is, well, if it's an in-person training, which we haven't done in a while, it would be a three-day experience. But we have a virtual option available now, which is a five-half-day experience that is done by Zoom. And it's incredibly interactive. We do small group discussions, paired work, we have short little lectures and different things. So it's really interactive and pretty intensive. We go through a lot. It's also worth 24 CE credits. So there's a bonus.
And so we require this training for any advisor who wants to utilize our tools and our model in their practice. So that's step number one. And then after the training... Oh, I will say, besides going through the process as if you were a client, so you have an understanding from the client's perspective, we also provide the opportunity for the advisor to facilitate the process for another participant in the training. So they also come away from it with an understanding of what it's like to be the facilitator and how that works. And then they also have the ability to see the whole library of tools, how exactly they're sequenced, all of that good stuff, and learn about the foundational research as well that was integrated into the design of the whole process.
And then after the training, they will decide what package of tools, resources, and consulting feels most appropriate for their firms. So we have about four different options. And at that point, we start the implementation consulting program. And that's where we work with each, either individual advisor if they are an independent or individual IRA or if it's a firm that's coming on board, then we'll take the firm through the implementation and consulting program. But essentially, during this consulting program, we walk them through thinking about and planning what their ideal client experience would look like. We have a whole structured process for helping them plan out every part of it.
So the goals at the end of the process are for them to have a fully fleshed out client experience. I'm talking meeting agendas, client email templates, a solid value proposition that they can talk to their prospects about. So they can really do a good job of setting expectations upfront and helping them clearly understand the benefits of the process. And we talk about the roles and responsibilities of each of the staff members on their team and help them in figuring out how they're going to use their various technologies to make it work as well. So we encourage them to build out workflows and their CRM systems, and particularly, if they're independent advisors, really thinking about how can I automate certain parts of this to make their life easier, essentially, too, but there's that whole practice management piece that we help them fully flesh out. While at the same time, we're helping them to practice using some of the tools, getting a really deep understanding of the purpose of the tool, and practice with identifying the relevant information that underlies client answers and stuff. So there's the skill building as well.
It's like when you're learning to play a musical instrument. The agendas, and templates, and all of those pieces are kind of like the sheet music if you will. And then practicing using and navigating the conversations around the tools are like learning how to play that music. And eventually, it becomes second nature for the advisor,. They're really not full thinking about it as much as they do when they first start, like when you're learning to ride a bike too
Michael: Right. I'm imagining how the unconscious and competence and the conscious and competence of the conscience competency and you move up the scale. There's a point where you don't even know you're not that good at this. And then you start learning and just realize you're not good at this. But there's so much stuff going on, but you can't figure out how to actually get control of all of it. And then, you build and practice the skill sets and it gets more comfortable. And you get to the point where you can focus on one piece at a time and actually make it better because you've got the core skills down.
Amy: Exactly. Yes.
Michael: And just what is the cost? I mean, how does this work? And what does it cost for advisors that want to engage and go through this?
Amy: Let's see. Our initial training, our early-bird rate is $1,850. And that's for 24 CE credits, which is a really good deal. I will also add in the fact because I do know that some of your listeners are NAPFA members, we do have a little bit of a discount on our fundamentals training for NAPFA members.
Michael: That helps cover your NAPFA membership. So, cool.
Amy: And then, in terms of the different packages of tools and consulting, there's an upfront fee for the implementation consulting program. And depending on the package you choose, it ranges from $3,000 to $6,000, I believe. And there's an ongoing subscription fee for having continued access and unlimited use of the tools and materials and also engage in our ongoing learning opportunities. And that ranges from $70 to $175.
Michael: Okay. So, as robust as it is, and that's certainly not a small number, to me, I tend to the these to the realm of like, so basically, I need to do this and get “A Client” that I wouldn't have had before. And one client pretty much covers me here.
Amy: I would think so. Yes.
Michael: From just a business ROI perspective.
So, just having gone through this and done this over the years with all the advisors that you guys have trained in this, what surprised you the most in trying to teach this process and system to the advisor community?
What Surprised Amy The Most About Teaching Her Process To The Advisor Community [1:15:23]
Amy: I think what surprises me the most, I suppose are some of the obstacles that get in the way from advisors feeling confident in doing something new. What I've...
Michael: Not confident in doing something new?
Amy: The process is all there. It's actually quite simple when you lay it out. But the thing that tends to get in the way for advisors with their implementation is literally, that fear of doing something new for the first time. And so, we try and work with the advisors to practice with people that they know and feel comfortable with or pick out some of their favorite clients that they're really close to, and they can say to them, Hey, I'm super excited about these new resources, I just did this training, I would love to try them with you and have...
Michael: We've all got that subset of clients that just you know they're fine being the guinea pig. They like doing new things. So if you just say, Hey, I'm trying a new process thing. Can we do this together in the next meeting? They will totally be up for it and be eager for it.
Amy: I think they feel honored to be asked.
Amy: Yeah. And also, if you're doing new things with your clients, I think it just shows them that you as an advisor are growing and evolving and always trying to improve on how you're serving them as well. So I think it should be something to be proud of. To proudly show your clients that you're always looking to improve and do as best as you can for them. So these little sorts of things can help. What we have found is once they get past that initial fear, there is this just real shock and surprise about how effective it is.
The funniest part of my job is when I get these calls from these advisors that I've been doing consulting with for a while, and I'm trying and trying and trying to encourage, just try it, just try it. And they finally do, and they're like, Oh, my God, that was so amazing. And they want to tell me all about the meeting that they just had. And then once they've crossed that line, or they've got past that barrier, then the rest of the implementation for their process just happens really quickly, because then that initial fear is gone. But it is a hurdle. It's a hurdle for a lot of advisors.
Michael: Yeah. It's one of the conversations I have with a lot of coaches and trainers. And even these days, a lot of technology companies and tools trying to sell new systems, new stuff to advisors. Just like, do not underestimate the unwillingness of an advisor to have a conversation we're not comfortable having. That makes us feel like we're in an awkward position with a client. I will not agree to do a process or a thing or whatever it is if I'm not going to feel comfortable and confident in front of the client. I just won't put myself in that position. And then we don't adopt the tool or the technology or the software or whatever it is.
I find so many just don't do enough to think about how hard and challenging this is sitting across from a client and just, it doesn't feel good to feel like you're out there walking on a tightrope with no net of like, I know I don't really know what I'm doing with this conversation. And I really don't want to get fired from my clients for blowing it up or failing it. And it's hard to get over that leap. So kudos to you guys trying to figure out how to ease us into that conversation to try it for the first time.
Amy: Yeah, we've really tried to make it as easy as possible and to help the advisors understand, really, this is a real practical process with the intention of having practical outcomes too. We're really wanting to understand what's important to the client, we're wanting to understand what goals they want to achieve. All practical outcomes. I honestly believe by doing an in-depth data gathering process like this is representing or is showing that you are being a fiduciary. It's demonstrating your fiduciary duty.
Michael: Right. By actually going that deep to get into clients...
Amy: You are literally working to understand the client's best interest.
The Low Point(s) On Amy’s Journey [1:20:00]
Michael: So what's been the low point for you on just the journey of building and developing this program, this platform, this offering for the advisor community?
Amy: Well, it has been a lot of ups and downs in the last 20 years. There's two, probably big, are we going to survive moments of the last 20 years. One was actually pretty early on in the life of Money Quotient. Carol actually started the company with a co-owner, and that relationship went sour fairly quickly and was very frustrating. And that was only like, two years, really, into the beginning of Money Quotient. And I think Carol would have preferred to just go back to her research and writing company that she had where she had a bit more solitude and could work on individual projects. But I wouldn't let her do it, to be honest.
I was so amazed at what she had created. I was also just blown away by how, in those first few trainings that we had, the process personally affected the advisors in the training, and they left there just so motivated and enthused and wanting to go home and make changes in their personal lives and build more balanced lives. And it just was like, “Whoa, my mom created this?” Like, my mom did this. And I just could not let her put it aside.
It was really quite shocking to me that a financial planner could provide their financial advice without having this sort of information first. It was just like, “Whoa.” And I think it got me super excited about the idea of potentially being a part of the evolution of this profession in a direction that is so inspiring and healthy. And so I just got super excited about the whole thing and I would not let her put it down.
And so then, yeah, my role evolved over the years. And as I continued to learn exactly what we were teaching and how and why it worked, Carol and I started to conduct the trainings as co-trainers. She really does not like to be up in front of people. And I didn't know this about myself before but it turns out I'm plenty okay up in front of people. So I ended up starting to take over running the training myself.
Michael: And so then, what was the second low point along the way?
Amy: Yeah. The second low point actually happened when the recession hit in 2008, 2009. Actually, we didn't feel the effects on our business until later in 2009. And it seemed to hit the financial planning profession in a similar way, and we were already running things on a super thin line. And so then we started getting calls from advisors saying, either they needed to cancel their license because they had to cut back on expenses or they were informing us that they don't plan to do any traveling or any conferences this year, again for budgeting reasons. So we had to cancel some of our events. And it just really hit us hard. And at that time, we also had a physical office, and I want to say we had a total staff of like seven people, I think, at the time. So we had to lay off a good portion of our employees. And we also had to give up our office space. And we just were depressed. We thought that it was such a step backwards. And we definitely had conversations of do we go on at that time. I've never been ready to give up.
I think, for me, it's always been, let's just go a little longer. Let's just go a little longer. Let's see what happens. Even though it was very taxing on us. And it felt like a big blow. But as what generally happens with all of these upsets that we experience, then you begin to realize the silver lining afterwards. And we felt that it was a big step backwards to have to give up our physical office. And once we turned into a 100% virtual business, we realized the amount of freedom that it gives us to do trainings wherever we wanted to. And really cuts down our expenses, that frees up money for new development and projects that we want to focus on. And it just has blown us away how much better it is that we are now, and have been since 2010, have been a completely a virtual business this whole time.
What Success Means To Amy [1:25:48]
Michael: So, as we come to the end, this is a podcast about success. And one of the themes that always comes up is just the word success means different things to different people. Sometimes different things to the same person at different stages of life. So, you're on this wonderful success and growth track for Money Quotient and building the business. How do you define success for yourself at this point?
Amy: I would say that for me personally, it's really important to me that I am doing meaningful work. Work that is making an impact in some way. I also really want to be in a position that I have the freedom to explore topics and create things that are of interest to me.
In this regard, I feel like there's already a level of success that I have. Because I'm very fortunate to have a lot of those freedoms to explore the topics and create things. I would love to see the work at Money Quotient continue to make a bigger and bigger impact on the clients' lives individually, but also on the profession at large. And I would also really love to see that financial planning begins to serve more of the underserved population. These are areas of interest that I want to continue pushing towards. And I would love to see that Money Quotient actually makes an impact in some of these areas.
I don't need to be the biggest organization. None of that really is inspiring to me. I would prefer to work with advisors who are really passionate about making a difference in their clients' lives and are dedicated to this kind of work. So it's not like Money Quotient will work with anybody who comes to our getting-acquainted meeting. But I do want to focus on what is really actually going to move the needle forward and help to create a financially healthier society that we live in. But I must admit, it wouldn't be terrible if Oprah Winfrey suggested that people work with advisors who are trained by Money Quotient or recommends educational programs created by Money Quotient. That wouldn't be so bad. That would...
Michael: So if Oprah happens to be listening to this one, we've been trying to encourage you to be a regular listener. Well, hopefully, she'll get the shout-out and appreciate the help on that here.
Well, thank you so much, Amy, for joining us and sharing your story on the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Amy: Thank you so much for having me. It was really fun.
Michael: My pleasure. Thank you.