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Better Understanding Financial Planning Clients

Contact: Tony Owings, Certified Financial Planner, A.R. Owings Financial Strategies, an independent firm that works mostly on a fee-on-assets-under-management and offers securities through Raymond James Financial Services
Situation: It’s important for financial planners to understand their clients, including how they see and use money and what is happening in their lives.  Owings uses the Money Habitude cards to replace or augment the other discovery methods and techniques he utilizes to get to know his clients.  It was important to Owings to not be known as a “product pusher,” but an advisor.
Who: Individuals and couples seeking financial advise as well as people that attend financial workshops set up by the local chamber of commerce.

  • Wants a process that puts clients at ease, creates a positive environment, gets them to talk freely and helps them share information about how they approach and use money.
  • Wants to develop a trust between the clients and the planner
  • Establish a supportive framework with which to express their hopes, fears and motivations without the discovery process feeling antiseptic like a set of forms or confrontational like an interrogation.
  • Allows the sharing of information from clients that may correct a planner’s incorrect assumptions of the clients.


  • Owings uses Money Habitude cards as part of his six-step financial planning process.
  • He uses the cards for different reasons with different people and introduces them in the process at different times depending on the situation.
  • During the few minutes when clients are sorting the 54 cards, Owings will hang back.  Yet, he remains an active part of the process.


  • We have an obligation to know our client. And you can’t know your client unless you are talking to your client.  And you can’t talk to your client unless they’re willing to.  And the Money Habitudes cards break the ice.
  • When they’re doing the Money Habitudes cards, they’ll be talking about the questions or laughing. And if they pull something out and they’re like, ‘This is me!’ then I’m going to make a note of that and probably talk about that one first instead of starting from the top of the pile. You can tell which ones hit them more,” Owings says. The broadly applicable statement cards lend themselves to him asking non-invasive, open-ended questions like, “You said this; that’s interesting. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about it?
  • The discussion might also reveal what people want to achieve with their money; maybe it’s saving for a child’s education or for retirement – or being afraid they won’t have enough for these circumstances.
  • The discussion that follows using Money Habitudes can better illustrate how people truly feel about money beyond filling out a yes/no questionnaire or relying on a less methodical conversation.
  • Money Habitudes provides a better gauge when he gets to the conversation with clients about how to invest their money.  This is a tool that will help me be able to put them in the appropriate investments to meet their long-term goal.

Observations and Comments:

  • How can you relate this to your practice to turn it into better sales? Where I would position it is along the aspect of ‘Know your client’ and ‘A better way of understanding your client for better compliance’ because if I’ve gone through the Money Habitudes and I’ve documented this with the clients, I’ve done more due diligence with that client in the first sitting than probably most advisors do with a client they’ve had for 10 years.