More than money: Financial advisors shift to life coaching as Americans redefine wealth

Liam Gibson, Wealth of Geeks

Will financial advisors replace therapists in the coming years as Americans seek guidance on how to lead more fulfilling lives? eMoney reports that in 2022, 46% of advisors now offer 10 or more services to their clients as holistic financial planners.

The days of financial advisors simply helping clients manage their investment portfolios are gone. Holistic financial planning services offered by advisors now encompass everything from strategies to saving for college to tax optimization techniques.

More recently, more advisors have ventured beyond their clients’ finances to offer coaching services toward achieving their life’s dreams and goals. As financial advisor and author, Tim Maurer prophetically quipped in 2011, “Personal finance is more personal than it is finance.” Those words appear truer now than ever.

“In essence, the difference between life-centered and traditional financial planning is simply that a lifestyle planner takes into account the client’s own money story, histories, and values,” says Brian K. Peterson, founder of Endurance Financial Group.

“This is all about discovering what makes each client tick, as this helps me give advice that they will actually take and feel good about. Plus, it helps bring couples together. In contrast, financial planning is numbers focused.”


New frontier

Industry players see the pivot toward life coaching from the client and advisor sides of the market.

When asked what is driving the trend, certified financial planner and consultancy founder Brian Plain says it’s an evolving definition of success.

“More people are realizing that having ‘enough’ isn’t a dollar figure,” Plain says. “Life planning moves beyond your money … It’s about aligning your time, money, and energy with what uniquely matters most to you.”

“While money might buy you happiness, it certainly will not buy you fulfillment,” adds C Garrett Moore, retirement & investment advisor at Moore Financial Management. “Helping clients dig a little deeper into the ‘why’ behind their goals can help save them a lot of pain due to the arrival fallacy.”

As Americans’ needs change amid challenging economic times, demand for financial advisors remains high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, there were 330,000 financial advisors in the U.S. in 2022. The bureau predicts these employment figures will climb by 13% through the 2030s, adding more than 25,000 new advisors yearly. This growth rate outpaces that of other occupations. In this saturated market, life coaching helps advisors stand out.

“This is an area for financial advisors to differentiate, and it makes sense to engage your clients at a deeper level than just their financial matters,” says Chris Ward, owner and senior wealth advisor at EntryPoint Wealth Management. “I seek the most stressful events my clients are dealing with and provide an opportunity to help.”

“As traditional investment management has become more commoditized, advisors have focused on where they can have the most impact with clients,” adds Chris Kimmet, founder of Steady Climb Financial Planning. “Understanding the deeper ‘why’ that drives a client’s goals and providing them with the guidance and planning to achieve them.”


Licensed for ‘life’?

While financial planning is a rule-bound sector, the concept of life planning is much more recent and less regulated. Unlike mental health professionals or family counselors, life coaches can practice without meeting stringent qualifications. Clients may understandably question a financial planner’s suitability to coach on matters beyond dollars and cents.

“Advisors can pursue any number of life planning programs, including Money Quotient, The Financial Transitionist Institute, and Kinder Institute of Life Planning, to name three big players in this space,” says Brenna Baucum, founder of Collective Wealth Planning. “Since the CFP Board added psychology to its curriculum, this area has continued to grow and evolve, with creative new resources, programs, and software popping up regularly.”

While formal training isn’t required, certification does establish credibility. Advisors can earn designations like the Kinder Institute’s Registered Life Planner (RLP) to help them become better life planners.

“I think it’s very important for an advisor to go through the training to experience and understand the magic of life planning,” says Justin Castelli, life planner & founder of RLS Wealth. “But, technically, an advisor just needs to be an empathic listener, able to put their views to the side, act as a guide to help their client discover the life they truly desire, and accept that they are not the hero of the story–the client is. Then, the advisor can put their financial advisor hat back on and get to the numbers.”

As the financial planning industry transitions to a more holistic concept of consultation, there is potential for further evolution without impacting the cost of hiring an advisor. Ongoing dialogue among clients and advisors plays a critical role in improved outcomes.

“To me, success for my clients means they are living life to the fullest,” says Zack Swad, president of Swad Wealth Management. “They aren’t worried about running out of money, and they feel confident that they can live their life dreams in the best way possible for them.”

Financial professionals encourage potential clients to ask the right questions about their advisor’s priorities and lifestyle, whether in their working years or in retirement.

“The best life planners are those who walk the talk,” says Ryan Furlong, wealth advisor at PurposePath Capital. “They’re living their ideal life and are passionate about guiding others to do the same.
Beyond being a financial guide, they’re accountability partners who make sure you’re taking the steps needed to turn your dream life into your real life.”

Inventive advisors — those marrying new elements from adjacent fields and pursuing a client-centric approach — could see a profound uptick in client interest. This evolution reflects a broader societal shift toward redefining success beyond monetary metrics, emphasizing aligning financial resources with personal fulfillment.