In Robert Gignac’s bestselling book on personal finance, Rich is a State of Mind, the character of the financial planner states: “When it comes to personal finance and money, people don’t want to be lectured to, at least that is what I have learned. The best learning comes out of sharing information and having fun in the process.”
“From a top-level view, I want Canadians to understand that personal finance isn’t as complex as they may think,” he says.
As well as being an author, Robert is a sought-after speaker at financial industry seminars and client events. His message centers on personal finance, motivation, setting goals and creating a healthy relationship with your money.
He wrote his book from the perspective of clients, not the advisor – and that was on the advice of advisors. Robert makes a point of emphasizing that he, like you, is a financial services client. He's not an advisor and has never worked for a financial services company.
The way Robert sees it, what makes for a better-educated client is the foundation of a better client-advisor relationship.
Creating a sense of empowerment
He aims to empower, since financial planning is so much about communication, knowledge, and confidence.
“The concept of personal finance, money and investing, seems to be this thing that scares people,” he says. “It's often baffling. They're concerned they're not smart enough. And the flip side is many of them are doing things they maybe shouldn’t be doing, because they are not working with somebody."
It’s a balancing act. Robert notes how important it is to bridge two differing perspectives – what you're thinking when it comes to your own financial goals and planning, versus how advisors would like you to think. His objective is to find ways to clear up miscommunication and tear down any walls of intimidation. In the end it’s all about helping everyone attain their goals.
“As clients, we don’t know what we don’t know, but we act like we do know,” he says. It causes us to create unnecessary problems for ourselves. “If we had only asked for some advice up front, we probably could have saved ourselves a lot of angst,” says Robert.
When you really get down to it, there’s a shared understanding and sense of purpose between clients and advisors. Helping advisors improve their client relationships, in turn helps increase their business. By better understanding where clients are coming from, advisors can better help clients attain their financial goals.
Debunking money myths
Robert likes to debunk some of the myths of “financial happiness”:
- Money will make you happy
- More money will solve your problems
- Social media is the "real world"
- Saying “no” makes me a bad person (the more you say “no” to people or “no” to impulses to buy fancy new things, the better off you will be financially)
- There’s a “magic bullet”—I just need to find it
“In this era of social media over-sharing, the one thing I try to drive home is social media is not the real world,” says Robert. “What you see there is everyone’s best day and only their best day. You never see pictures of them lying awake at four in the morning because they have $48,000 in credit card debt. The stuff that looks awesome convinces most of us that we're not keeping up.”
Examining your “current reality”
Robert recommends stepping back and considering some key points when it comes to financial planning and the client-advisor relationship.
1. Evaluate your “current reality”
How do you determine what you know and don’t know, and how do you create a baseline for moving forward toward a successful financial future? Understand that the media is not your friend as it relates to personal finance, and you can have a terrific financial future even without decent math skills. We all have to be more comfortable about what the concept of money or “being rich” means to us.
2. Picture your “richly imagined future”
Where are you now? Where do you want to go? How do you want to get there? How do you create goals to achieve the future you desire?
3. Embrace an attitude for “disruption”
Do you understand what is in your bucket? How many holes are in your bucket? How can we change self-defeating financial behaviours? We all need to change or tweak something to make better financial decisions.
4. The power of “choice”
In order to make better life choices, you’ll have to understand the power of choice (Hopefully those around you are already leading by example). Understanding that “Was it all worth it?” might be the most important question you’ll ever ask.
"Many people are reluctant to ask for help", says Robert. "And media is screaming at you, telling you financial planning is something you can do all by yourself. But, with all the financial planning options available, compounded by everything going on in our day-to-day lives – where is the leftover time to work on your own financial planning?"
“If you go and seek help from a financial advisor, they can help you understand things you may never have found on your own,” he says. “In many cases, you'll get reassurance that you may not be as bad off as you thought you were.”
"You need to be open with your advisor about your financial situation", says Robert. It starts with that. The advisor needs to see your entire financial picture.
“Sometimes people don’t want a single person to see everything,” he says.
The reality is advisors can’t make good decisions for you in a vacuum where they don’t have all the facts. Advisors are not judging you when they ask questions about your finances. Their objective is to guide you with relevant advice so you can make better choices about your money.
“A great benefit of building a strong relationship with an advisor is it removes the emotional barrier around talking about your money,” says Robert. “When we take the emotion out and understand what your money can do for you — the security and enjoyment it can provide — that’s the key.”