Financial stress is a problem for many Canadians, and self-sabotaging behaviours are a contributing factor. Kelley Keehn, FP Canada’s consumer advocate, offered tips to help manage clients’ behaviour when she spoke at the Independent Financial Brokers of Canada’s virtual summit on Wednesday.
One negative behaviour she described was falling prey to availability error. When emotions are running high, “we look at available information to make decisions, which is not always accurate,” Keehn said.
For example, motivated by unrelenting negative headlines, a client may buy accidental death coverage while ignoring the greater risk of not having critical illness coverage. Or they may decide to sell their investments because of persistent media coverage of market volatility.
Keehn suggested advisors reorient clients by creating a financial calendar, which alerts clients to consider certain topics at certain times of the year, including wills, powers of attorney, insurance and RRSPs. You can let clients know you’ll be available to discuss each topic as it arises, she said.
Clients can also succumb to poor financial decisions when they run out of will power — an exhaustible resource.
To help align behaviour with goals, Keehn suggested clients automate their savings or make spending less convenient by removing credit card information from shopping sites.
She also said breaking complicated decisions or strategies down into easy steps over time allows clients to better receive your advice and avoid apathy.
Advisor tools promote mental health
Another session at the IFB summit highlighted mental health issues.
Carol Lynde, president and CEO at Bridgehouse Asset Managers, referenced her firm’s 2017 survey in which 72% of advisors said anxiety had negatively impacted clients’ financial decisions, and 64% said diminished financial capacity has done so.
Further, 85% of advisors said they spend more time with clients who have mental health issues than with other clients.
Since 2017, Bridgehouse has run a program, Mental Health and the Financial Advice Relationship, to provide advisors with tools to better serve clients with mental health issues, including information on establishing trusted contact persons and powers of attorney.
As entrepreneurs, advisors can also be impeded by mental health. A 2019 survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association found that 46% of entrepreneur-respondents said they felt mental health issues interfered with their ability to work.
Lynde said advisor burnout has been a popular topic in Bridgehouse’s program. Serving clients with rational detachment helps.That means being clear about your role, responsibilities and boundaries, knowing how to escalate mental health issues within your firm and taking time to care for yourself.
More research on mental health and tools for advisors are forthcoming from Bridgehouse, Lynde said.