By Michael Snowdon, CFP
FPSB’s Financial Planner Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility creates the foundation for CFP professionals. Principle number 1 – Client First – is the cornerstone of that document. Here is what it says:
Place the client’s interest first. Placing the client’s interests first is a hallmark of professionalism, requiring the financial planning professional to act honestly and not place personal gain or advantage before the client’s interests.
Why am I bringing this up, when I’m supposed to be discussing how to spread financial literacy? The answer is in the first phrase of the second sentence: Placing the client’s interests first is a hallmark of professionalism . . . . An educated client is a better consumer, and if we, as financial planning professionals, intend to place the interests of our clients first, then part of fulfilling that mission has to include educating them.
This starts with promoting a mentoring or educating mindset in the office. If the firm’s principals regularly emphasize the need for and value of financial education, the rest of the office will start to catch on. This mindset will then begin to permeate the firm’s atmosphere.
Promoting Financial Literacy Through Your Website
So how, practically, can we carry out our mission to educate? Do you have a website? Why not search the internet for sites offering quality financial education and link to them. Many government agencies, universities, service organizations and the like can be good sources of quality information. Additionally, you could write short pieces on different aspects of financial planning and post them in the consumer education section of your website. Read a good financial planning book lately? You could write a review and include a link so people can purchase the book.
If you like writing, you could contribute to a blog (or start your own). Blogging is easy, quick, and costs little if any money. For topics, the opportunities are endless: current events, question and answer sessions, handling concerns you have experienced when working with clients, general education about various financial planning topics (e.g., planning for retirement, how to invest, budgeting and debt management). You get the idea. The more you do it, the better you will get, and the more people will want to read what you write. Some of them may even want to talk with the author who has written so brilliantly!
Monthly or Daily Newsletters
If you don’t put out a regular newsletter, you should consider doing so. It’s a great way to let current and potential clients know about what’s going on with you and your firm. At the same time, your newsletter provides a great platform for education. You don’t even have to write something new. If you wrote a blog, you can summarize the post and provide a link so people can continue reading it online. That book review you wrote – that’s perfect for your newsletter. You might even think about running a series of basic (or even advanced) financial planning articles (I called mine Financial Foundations. I also sent a weekly email to clients with financial and economic updates. It forced me to keep up on what was going on, and helped fulfill my financial literacy mission.)
As you write, blog, and educate clients, you may be given opportunities for public speaking. Local organizations often look for qualified speakers, and through your writing, you have shown them you know what you are talking about. If you get the opportunity, speaking engagements are great for educating the public, and they can also provide opportunities for you to get in front of potential new clients. I often took the opportunity to let existing clients know when I was speaking. It helped them to see me as a credible resource, and several of them expressed pride that their financial planner was speaking at a particular venue.
Workshops and Seminars
Many planners use workshops and seminars as business-building activities. It only takes a little shift in focus to turn these events into education opportunities. As attendees see your interest in educating them, they often start to see you as having the potential to be a trusted financial adviser.
Taking the time to focus on financial education not only benefits your clients and the general public. It also is a very good way for you to build your business. Studies have shown that people looking to work with a financial planner want to be able to trust that individual. By holding to FPSB’s Client First principle, and developing a financial education mindset, you provide potential clients with another reason to trust you. That may be just what they are looking for in their search for a financial planner. Good for them. Good for you. Good for the community. Promote financial literacy and everyone benefits.