Financial Planning – for an Individual or a Household?

I get the feeling we suffer from a false sense of certainty that we’re speaking to the people that really matter when doing Financial Planning. Because we see clients, mostly as individuals, we’re leaving out critical pieces of how decisions are made in any household. Marketers figured this out a long time ago, the difference between the ones who “influence” and those who “pay”. This scenario plays out most vividly, when walking through a supermarket with a child. There’s a whole bunch of stuff aimed at the kids, as influencers, rather than the adults, as payers. It usually has bright colours, a ton of sugar and is neatly positioned within tiny-arm’s reach of the children’s trolley seat. If you have kids, I think you’d be foolish to agree that the child has no part in the financial transaction that is about to take place.   

Similarly, Financial Planners that speak to me as the only decision-maker, have me figured out all wrong. Even if I think I’m the one who’s in charge, practically, the flow of money in our household happens through the actions of more than one party. As much as I make commitments for my (our) money so too does my wife. Both the big and small stuff passes through a series of actions, either accepting and shirking responsibilities between the family memebrs. My mother-in law even makes a dent when she comes to vacation for a few days. 

On reflection, I realise that Financial Planning conversations that happen with one person, is like trying to get commitment from half a head. Even if I make a promise, that good intention will be immediately undermined the moment the other half of my brain / marriage gets caught up in a hedonistic act of retail therapy. We struggle enough keeping even our own emotions in check. Being the support structure for one person struggling to satisfy their greed and run from their fears is difficult enough. Add a spouse. Some children. A business partner. And things get messy.

It’s time to start sitting around the table with everyone present. The fact that one person signs the contract doesn’t make the off-screen shenanigans any less real. 

And just maybe we’ll increase the chances to add more value. And earn more fees.


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