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Kitces & Carl Ep 127: Creating Value Through Presence (And The 50 Fires Podcast)

In the world of financial advisors, tradition often emphasizes technical numbers, structure, and a firm focus on solving financial problems. However, in practice, forging a human connection – such as sitting around a fire and having a conversation, digging into emotions, feelings, fears, and things that really matter – and tying it to a client’s mindset surrounding their financial priorities and goals can be a powerful way to encourage individuals to explore and reassess their perspectives on finances.

In our 127th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards delve into Carl’s latest project – the “50 Fires” podcast. This project, in partnership with the creative team behind “The Big Bang Theory” and featured on Chip & Joanna Gaines’s Magnolia Network, centers on ‘campfire conversations’. In these sessions, Carl engages in heartfelt discussions with his guests about their personal relationships with money, with the goal of providing financial advisors with ideas for integrating meaningful communication prompts into their own client meetings.

While conversations between financial advisors and their clients often focus on the quantitative aspects of a client’s financial life (e.g., balance sheets, investment portfolios, and retirement projections), “50 Fires” aspires to demonstrate how the qualitative aspects of a person’s relationship with money can reveal personal values and priorities that provide an advisor with important situational context of a client’s financial goals. Through these discussions, Carl explores the stories and wisdom embedded in religious beliefs and family practices, uncovering poignant experiences from recognizing one’s socioeconomic status in junior high school because they only owned 1 pair of jeans, to symbolic moments like cherishing an unopened can of Coke because of its representation of financial prosperity in India. These narratives not only shed light on the root of a person’s financial mindset but also help to understand their financial behaviors, revealing the deeper lessons learned from these experiences.

Additionally, these conversations underscore an important takeaway: clients often value the personal connections formed with their financial advisors that are based on discussions that go beyond sharing just financial concerns. While these intangible personal connections may be challenging to market, the ability to guide clients into meaningful conversations to identify the big goals and values they have regarding money is universally appreciated. Everyone has financial concerns and yearns for genuine connections with others, even when they may not be consciously aware of these things. And experiencing such a connection with a financial advisor can significantly enhance a client’s willingness to engage in the financial planning process.

Ultimately, the key point is that the ability to successfully connect with prospects and clients on an emotional level, using soft skills to navigate their relationship with money, is crucial to build trust and develop stronger relationships with clients. Carl envisions “50 Fires” as a catalyst, providing the spark to ignite millions of genuine discussions about money around the world. This initiative aims to normalize everyday conversations about money while facilitating deeper connections with clients, potentially influencing not only their thought process around finances but also shaping the financial outlook of future generations!

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