Get a Con­fi­dence Boost

It’s not un­com­mon to feel un­sure, but there are many things you can do — and peo­ple you can lean on, Dave Grant says.

Financial Planning - - CONTENT - By Dave Grant

It’s not un­com­mon to feel un­sure, but there are many things you can do — and peo­ple you can lean on.

A LACK OF CON­FI­DENCE ISN’T LIM­ITED to the first few years in the plan­ning busi­ness. Even the most sea­soned pro­fes­sion­als oc­ca­sion­ally have the wind taken out of their sails.

But for many new plan­ners, ques­tions like “How do I get to that place of com­plete con­fi­dence?” or “Will I ever feel so strong that if I hear ‘No’ from col­leagues and clients, it won’t faze me?” are es­pe­cially acute.

These are just two of the com­mon themes I found when I spoke with mem­bers of the XY Plan­ning Net­work who had less than 10 years of ex­pe­ri­ence.


Even be­fore I reached out to those new­bies, I re­flected on what has made me more self­as­sured over the years. Ob­vi­ously, it has taken years to build up enough con­fi­dence to be un­fazed when a prospect says no. I’m now se­cure enough in my philoso­phies, price struc­ture and abil­i­ties that I know the right clients will be at­tracted to me.

Serendip­i­tously, since I have adopted that mind­set, my client num­bers have grown and new busi­ness re­la­tion­ships have formed nat­u­rally.

But con­fi­dence came only af­ter I had worked for a num­ber of years with a va­ri­ety of clients at my own prac­tice.

When I worked at other firms, there were some things that I wasn’t com­pletely on board with. It didn’t al­low me to be as con­fi­dent as I am now. Whether it was in­vest­ment phi­los­o­phy, use of tech­nol­ogy or the plan­ning process it­self, this lack of con­gru­ence caused me to doubt we were the right choice for some clients. But I couldn’t turn them down when they wanted to work with us be­cause it wasn’t my com­pany.

Ad­di­tion­ally, if I didn’t fully be­lieve that the firm was serv­ing clients to its fullest po­ten­tial, I couldn’t bring the best ser­vice to my clients. Con­fi­dence seems to come easier now that I’m on my own. I now be­lieve I am pro­vid­ing the best value to my clients.

Many new plan­ners feel their suc­cess is not due to their own abil­i­ties. This feel­ing is com­monly known as the im­pos­tor syn­drome.


One thing I heard from many plan­ners is that con­fi­dence starts at home. If you have a sup­port­ive fam­ily who agrees with your ca­reer choice, it makes it so much easier to show up to work every day. The plan­ners also said that hav­ing a spouse, par­ent or other loved one be­lieve in them pro­vided enough fuel to make it through the rough­est days.

The no­tion that a sup­port­ive spouse made a big dif­fer­ence was cham­pi­oned by new RIA own­ers more than those who were em­ploy­ees. In start­ing a new ven­ture, many plan­ners needed a lot of sup­port and en­cour­age­ment to keep go­ing.

The en­cour­age­ment of friends can give a boost to new plan­ners, whether these ac­quain­tances are pat­ting you on the back or hir­ing you as their ad­viser.

When I spoke with less-ex­pe­ri­enced pro-

fes­sion­als, I learned that those who were just com­ing out of a col­lege pro­gram sec­ondguessed them­selves more fre­quently. They had book knowl­edge, but a lack of client­fac­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Some ad­vis­ers I spoke to were ca­reer chang­ers from other in­dus­tries who earned their master’s de­grees in fi­nan­cial plan­ning. Sur­pris­ingly, one said she was more knowl­edge­able than other mem­bers at lo­cal FPA and other af­fil­i­ate group meet­ings. As a re­sult, she felt more con­fi­dent in her abil­i­ties and went back to grow­ing her ros­ter of clients, know­ing she could com­pete with sea­soned ad­vis­ers.


Many new plan­ners be­lieve their suc­cess is not due to their own abil­i­ties. This feel­ing is com­monly known as im­pos­tor syn­drome.

These young plan­ners say their con­cerns are am­pli­fied be­cause they found them­selves pro­vid­ing ad­vice on re­tire­ment in­come strate­gies while still rent­ing their first apart­ment and pay­ing off stu­dent loans. Many were not far re­moved from col­lege. While their ad­vice was ac­cu­rate, there was no con­gru­ence be­tween their own fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion and their clients’.

This feel­ing goes away only with time — I felt the same way and I have no col­lege back­ground in fi­nance. By con­tin­u­ally study­ing and work­ing on var­i­ous client sit­u­a­tions, the fear of be­ing outed as a fraud dis­ap­pears as con­fi­dence takes over. It gets easier to feel con­fi­dent in giv­ing ad­vice when you re­al­ize that it has worked for other clients.

When I founded NAPFA Gen­e­sis, I re­al­ized that new plan­ners had many ques­tions that would be best an­swered by peers. Seek­ing peer ad­vice can build a sense of ca­ma­raderie. By es­tab­lish­ing the group, I found that in ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing a space to brain­storm ideas, the en­ergy from that ca­ma­raderie fu­els plan­ners’ con­fi­dence. Ad­vis­ers in the group re­ceive val­i­da­tion for their good ideas — and if an idea needs tweak­ing, they are glad for the in­put of others be­fore pre­sent­ing it to a client.

As plan­ners progress in their ca­reers, hav­ing a small mas­ter­mind group of peers is price­less. This in­ti­macy can fos­ter sup­port­ive re­la­tion­ships with­out any feel­ings of com­pe­ti­tion or one-up­man­ship.


It’s com­mon to feel that you need to be clos­ing every prospect into a pay­ing client when you’re start­ing out. You may feel you need to prove some­thing to your­self or you may be wor­ried about keep­ing your doors open.

That said, when the wrong type of client signs on, the re­la­tion­ship of­ten re­quires far more work and ef­fort than an ap­pro­pri­ate ad­viser-client con­nec­tion.

Chang­ing my own mind­set re­gard­ing this is­sue has worked as a con­fi­dence booster. It helps to re­mem­ber there are plenty of clients in the world that you can work with — and they will find you.

In you act from a scarcity mind­set and as­sume every client could be your last, you are in­flu­enc­ing not only how you feel, but also how you run your prac­tice.

I have suc­cumbed to a scarcity out­look at var­i­ous points of my ca­reer and it’s drain­ing. But in con­ver­sa­tions with ad­vis­ers and clients, I re­al­ized that my long-term prob­lem wasn’t find­ing clients to work with. The real strug­gle is find­ing the right type of clients.

By of­fer­ing fee-only ser­vices on a va­ri­ety of models, the main prob­lem an ad­viser will face is get­ting the word out. As­sum­ing that job is well done, you may end up hav­ing to turn away prospec­tive clients.

Think­ing that there will be too much busi­ness to han­dle is not easy when you are start­ing out or when a slow pe­riod hits, but that mind­set is cru­cial to pre­vent build­ing the wrong type of busi­ness.

For fidu­ciary ad­vis­ers, it should be nat­u­ral to as­sume there’s a wealth of clients out there be­cause it lends it­self to an at­trac­tive busi­ness model. In­stead of act­ing as if each client is your last, be sure to ac­cept only those clients whom you can en­vi­sion work­ing with in 20 years. Then, con­fi­dence will come nat­u­rally.

If you act from a scarcity mind­set and as­sume every client could be your last, you are in­flu­enc­ing not only how you feel, but also how you run your prac­tice.

Dave Grant, a Fi­nan­cial Plan­ning colum­nist, is founder of the plan­ning firm Re­tire­ment Mat­ters in Cary, Illi­nois. He is also the founder of NAPFA Gen­e­sis, a net­work­ing group for young, fee-only plan­ners. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @dav­e­g­rant82.

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