In every consultation, Certified Financial Planner Erik Kroll rolls out a road-like map that visually presents what's important financially to his client.
“We discuss how their progress is coming along with their goals, which brings them back to the positive emotions they had in our first consult and sets a good tone for the rest of the meeting,” Kroll said.
Based in Milwaukee, Kroll is among financial advisors nationwide who are increasingly embracing positive psychology methods in their practice. They borrow from The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and Martin Seligman's Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationship, Meaning and Accomplishment (PERMA) model.
“Financial advisors need not only be technically competent but also demonstrate strong empathy and care in working with each client,” said Jason Reiman, a certified financial planner based in Arizona.
Reiman is committed to a daily morning routine that includes reading from The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, a book that advocates quiet time, affirming, visualizing, exercise, reading and writing.
“Setting time aside each day to focus inward allows for a much stronger presence and ability to effectively serve clients,” Reiman said.
The language of positive psychology includes words and behaviors such as intention, affirmation, visualization, vision mapping, flow, meaning and achievement.
“The very first step financial advisors can take to implement positive psychology in their daily practice is to become very familiar with the terminology and tools used in the world of positive thinking,” said David Essel, the Florida-based author of Positive Thinking Will Never Change Your Life But This Book Will! The Myth of Positive Thinking, The Reality of Success.
Setting an intention, for example, can be employed to help clients achieve financial goals related to increasing their income, decreasing debt and expenses, and creating a future plan for retirement.
“Part of a financial advisor’s job is to help their clients understand the positivity of their potentially negative financial situation,” said Katie Gampietro Burke, a certified financial planer in Jacksonville, Fla.
Because positive psychology is the study of how happiness is improved and affected, including a metric for achievement that is within the advisors control other than a stock’s or mutual fund’s performance can be beneficial.
“They cannot control how assets or markets will perform, so there needs to be something that makes them feel good about their work even when they are managing tough circumstances,” said Amanda Clayman, a certified financial social worker who teaches PERMA.
With some self-awareness, advisors can recognize opportunities to increase or be more present in those aspects of the work they like best, according to Clayman.
“Consider the parts of the planning and analysis work or the client engagement work where one experiences positive emotions, flow, good relationships, meaning and achievement,” Clayman explained.
Burke, for example, aims for positive thoughts at the start of the day, in addition to crafting pep talks for her clients.
“I encourage them to view past financial failures as a learning opportunity rather than the end of the world,” Burke said.
Founder of Northwoods Financial Planning in Oakdale, Minn., Corey Purkat takes the idea of positive psychology one step further by working with a licensed psychologist to raise his client’s awareness of money patterns. Those patterns are often established in childhood and those beliefs can follow a client into adulthood.
“Incorporating behaviorial changes over a period of time with the collaboration of a psychologist can increase the likelihood of financial success for a client because we are able to identify early on what issues are truly affecting their money decisions,” Purkat said.
Juliette Fairley is a business and finance journalist who has written four personal finance books for John Wiley & Sons and has written for major news organizations, such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and the New York Financial Writers Association and a graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Juliette can be reached at email@example.com.
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