“Compassionate” isn’t necessarily the first word that springs to mind when you think about the traditional financial planning model. But that’s just another way that the old model is outdated. The shift in our industry from Return on Investment to Return on Life requires a new conversation between advisors and clients. Understanding your clients as people — their goals, their fears, their perspectives, where they come from, where they want to go — is the new step one in the discovery process. My guest today, Kurt Rossi, another “40 under 40” honoree by Investment News, has already transformed his practice by adopting this new model. Kurt is a CFP and the founder of Independent Wealth Management out of Wahl, New Jersey. He’s also an award-winning financial columnist for the Times of Trenton and nj.com. His column, Financial Focus, can be read every other Sunday in the business section. Kurt also blogs at his website, bringyourfinancestolife.com, where he uses this compassionate approach to financial writing and planning to empower his readers.

5 Insights from Kurt Rossi on Compassionate Financial Advising

1. “Our process is definitely a little more touchy-feely than most. We have a focus on advising our clients on not just their money, but on how their money integrates with their life. We want to help them make better decisions, and have financial clarity. It’s less about just the numbers and more about helping them to focus on what their ‘Why’ is in life, and how we get their portfolio in alignment with their life.”

2. “Life planning is the only way to do financial planning. I think that’s what clients really need. I think that’s the way to have an impact on clients’ lives. It’s not about what was their rate of return in this quarter. It’s about what are they doing to pursue what’s most important to them in their lives. As advisors, I think there’s no question that’s where we add the most value. Probably five years ago, I really recognized that it was those crossroads-type conversations that I was having with clients, where they’re making major decisions in their lives — those moments were the most powerful. And that’s where I said, Why don’t I spend the bulk of my time and our time as a company on those areas? Because that’s really where we help people.”

Kurt Rossi: I’ve written about virtually everything financial because I’m just incredibly passionate about financial education and literacy and empowering our readers and people in general.

3. “We are in constant discussions to figure out the most effective way to price our services. I think financial planning is under-priced. There’s no question about it. But we do charge for financial planning separate. So we do have an AUM fee. And we also have a financial planning fee that we charge, which is really a minimal charge to engage in the process. We don’t view the financial planning fees as a profit center at this point. We look at it as a way to cover a lot of the cost of the time that’s involved in the process, and we do have that AUM fee combined with that. I think more of our compensation will come from the financial planning side in the future. But the one thing that we do as well is we keep our financial planning fees more reasonable and more palatable for the client.”

4. “I kind of try to ‘Madden-ize’ the financial planning process. We do charge our fees every year. My 11-year-old son has the ‘Madden’ Football video game. And ‘Madden’ football comes out each and every year with a new version. And they’ve done a great job of helping consumers to understand that purchasing ‘Madden’ football is not a one-time thing. That there’s gonna be new statistics, new features, and so-on. So for us, our clients understand that the financial planning is something we do every year. So we’re going to let you know, ‘Here’s your financial life guide for 2017. Here are the steps we need to take this year to propel you to where you want to be in the future. And we will revisit this next year.’ So the investment in our services is not a one-time thing on the planning side.”

5. “The number one focus that I have when hiring is to find somebody who is compassionate. That’s the number one goal. Somebody who is a good person. Because if somebody’s intelligent and they care about other people, you can train them to do anything. But you can’t train somebody to care about people. You can’t train somebody to have some selflessness in the way that they carry themselves and the way they live their lives. I’m trying to find those people who are compelled to give back, who have a fire inside to do that. So our interview process is designed to get to know prospective hires as people, versus just their technical skills. I’ve been fortunate because I have an amazing team around me and every single one of the members of our team falls into that category where they are super compassionate, they care about our clients, and our clients consistently tell us that they feel like they’re part of our family here. That’s something that I’m very proud of in the way that we do business with our clients.”


Independent Wealth Management Visit Kurt and his team online.

Bring Your Finances to Life Read Kurt’s blog.

“Financial Focus” From the Times of Trenton and nj.com Read Kurt’s column.

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” Kurt recommends Dale Carnegie’s classic as a means “for finding the path of least resistance when you’re interacting with someone.”

Values Clarification Toolkit Click here to download this FREE tool and start living your values.