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How to Keep Clients Motivated on Their Financial Journey


Lack of motivation can be a serious threat to client retention. You may have worked with your clients to identify their goals and the action steps they need to complete to achieve them, but if their heads—or hearts—aren’t in it, they may be less likely to remain your client for the long term. Understanding the role financial motivators play can help you keep your clients focused on what matters most as they work toward their goals.

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What Are Financial Motivators?

Financial motivators are monetary incentives or drivers that influence human behavior. The term “financial motivation” is often used in the context of workplace productivity. Annual bonuses and pay raises are two examples of financial motivators that employers may use to encourage retention and boost morale among employees.

In financial planning, financial motivation takes on a slightly different meaning. Financial motivators are a tool for encouraging clients to stay on course and not lose sight of the bigger picture.

There’s a dual benefit for both clients and advisors. Motivated clients are better equipped to achieve the results they desire regarding their financial plans. Advisors, meanwhile, benefit from building lasting relationships with clients that contribute to the overall sustainability of their businesses.

Types of Financial Motivators

When you’re discussing financial motivation, you’re essentially talking about behavioral finance. Behavioral finance is concerned with how psychology influences investor decision-making and behavior.

From a psychological perspective, there are two main categories of motivators: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation derives from within and is driven by a sense or feeling of satisfaction that goes along with achievement. The emphasis is on the process and outcomes are not necessarily centered on a tangible reward.

Examples of intrinsic financial motivators can include the desire to:

  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Invest in a way that aligns with personal values
  • Do meaningful work
  • Increase one’s knowledge of investing and personal finance
  • Feel more confident with decision-making
  • Reduce anxiety or stress surrounding finances
  • Develop healthier financial habits
  • Enjoy a sense of financial security and safety

These types of motivators don’t have a specific financial payoff that can be measured quantitatively. Extrinsic motivators, on the other hand, typically do.

Extrinsic motivation is driven by one thing: external rewards. Examples of extrinsic financial motivators include:

  • Increasing annual income by a set percentage each year
  • Saving a specific amount of money for retirement or college expenses
  • Reaching a certain net worth
  • Achieving a particular level of returns from investments

With these types of motivators, you’re working toward a measurable outcome. Understanding the distinction between the two is important because if clients become disconnected from their intrinsic financial motivators, it becomes more difficult for them to act.

Why Do Clients Lose Motivation?

Advisors reviewing a client motivation strategy.

There are several reasons why clients may become less motivated over time. Some of them may center on the client.

For instance, their goals may shift, or they might experience life changes that make their goals seem less achievable. Or they may simply be afraid to take the next steps that will help them get closer to their goals.

In other cases, loss of motivation can be traced back to decreased levels of satisfaction with the service they’re receiving.

A client who is frustrated with an advisor’s response times, for example, may feel less inclined to continue working with that advisor. Clients may value autonomy when deciding how to proceed financially but they don’t want to feel that they’ve been left alone to navigate the process on their own.

If ambivalence or apathy sets in that can be detrimental to the client and your relationship. A client who is demotivated may come to feel there’s no point in pursuing their goals. Or they may be less responsive to the advice you’re giving.

That can strain your working relationship and in the worst-case scenario, lead them to look elsewhere for financial advice.

How to Revive Client Motivation

When you have clients who are stuck in their financial journey, it’s important to first identify the reasoning behind it. At your next meeting, you might open with something like this: “I’ve noticed you seem less enthusiastic about the financial plan we’ve put together. Tell me what’s changed for you so I can better understand how you’re feeling.”

This kind of question is designed to get the conversation flowing. Assuming that your client is willing to talk, you should have a framework for deciding what to do next.

If the client’s lack of motivation is related to something you’re doing (or not doing), you’ll have to decide how to address that going forward. But if the issue lies with the client, you’ll need to pinpoint what needs to be addressed for them to regain motivation.

Here are some tips that can help.

  • Ask open-ended questions. There are plenty of questions great financial advisors ask and they all have the same thing in common. Rather than requiring a yes/no answer, they gently nudge clients to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences. How they answer the questions you ask can help you identify what intrinsic or extrinsic financial motivators are at work.
  • Clarify and reinforce. Clients want to feel they’re being heard, and you can offer reassurance that you’re actively listening by asking questions at appropriate times and restating what they’ve said back to them. This helps to ensure that what they’ve said reflects what they’re feeling or thinking and that you understand the message they’re trying to communicate.
  • Let the client lead. Once you’ve put together a list of action steps, give the client room to choose where they want to begin. Some clients may choose the one that feels the most difficult first, while others may prefer to start with something easier. Regardless, giving them the power to choose can motivate them to move forward.
  • Bridge the gap. It’s one thing to tell a client that they need to do ABC; it’s another to explain why they need to do it. Clients may resist acting because they don’t see the point. It’s your job to help them see that if they do ABC, it’s so that they can realize XYZ result and how that relates to their overall goal.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some financial motivators?

Examples of extrinsic financial motivators include getting a pay raise at work, earning a bonus or commission or getting a promotion. Examples of intrinsic financial motivators include the satisfaction that comes from achieving a better work/life balance, giving to causes that matter and enjoying a lifestyle that’s free from financial stress.

What is motivational interviewing?

Motivational interviewing is a technique financial advisors can use to identify the intrinsic motivators that are needed to encourage a client to make positive changes. This strategy is designed to get clients thinking about what changes need to be made, prepare themselves to make the change and take the necessary action steps to do so.

Why do advisors need to understand financial motivators?

Understanding the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators impacting your clients can help you make sense of their behaviors and decision-making. If a client has stalled in their progress toward their goals or seems dissatisfied with your services, gleaning insight into their lack of motivation can help you decide how to address the situation.

Bottom Line

An advisor using financial motivators to serve his clients' needs.

Motivation or lack thereof can have a significant impact on clients’ financial outlooks. Being attuned to the various types of financial motivators allows you to better serve your clients’ needs, which can help instill loyalty and drive retention.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business

  • If behavioral finance feels like unfamiliar territory for you, reading books on the subject can help expand your knowledge. You may even go so far as to earn a behavioral finance advisor (BFA) designation. Earning this designation or another psychology certification could give you a competitive advantage as you work on growing your client base.
  • Psychology plays a part in marketing and something as simple as the colors you use on your advisor website can make a difference in your ability to attract new clients. If improving your marketing strategy is one of your goals, you might consider partnering with an expert. SmartAsset AMP (Advisor Marketing Platform) is our holistic marketing service financial advisors can use for client lead generation and automated marketing. Sign up for a free demo to explore how SmartAsset AMP can help you expand your practice’s marketing operation. Get started today.

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