Build Your Story’s Character

Leave a comment

Ed SaxonMoney is emotional.

In fact, Academy Award-winning producer Ed Saxon said that the “e” in eMoney Advisor, the company sponsoring his talk at the Financial Planning Association’s Retreat 2016, is for “emotion.”

Saxon tells stories through movies—like Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia—for a living, and he says the mark of a good story is one that is emotional.

“I know I’ve succeeded if we’ve made people feel something,” Saxon told a room full of Retreat attendees at the Wigwam Resort Monday night.

As planners, you are uniquely positioned to move peoples’ emotional stories with money from the horror genre to a genre that evokes more positive feelings. The way to do that is to help eradicate the stereotype of financial planners, embrace technology to help clients feel more comfortable, and to help clients see that life is full of problems and we need to anticipate and address them.

Telling an effective story starts with developing the character: you. You have to “communicate the reality of your character by acknowledging the stereotype” of planners, Saxon said.

He said the public has misconceptions about planners—they see planners more as the glasses-wearing, number-crunching, people-avoiding CPAs or the money-grubbing, playboy types they see in movies. In reality, Saxon said, planners are more like the Star Wars Jedi master Obie-Wan Kenobi.

But your role is to tell that story—make your clients feel like they are your Luke Skywalker, arm them with the tools to slay their money problems.

One way to do this is to embrace technology. Know now that client relationships are no longer one-on-one, rather they are more like a pyramid, one point belonging to the client, one to technology and the last to you, the planner.

According to Saxon, there are five points to successfully collaborating with your team to tell the story that your clients will hear, that will help them feel welcome and empowered:

  1. Keep people safe. Try not to judge your clients, even if they make simple money mistakes. Start by praising the things they’re doing right and then move into discussing the changes they need to make.
  2. Treat problems like kids. There are always going to be problems, so don’t create a sense that everything is always going to go smoothly. Help the client to understand that there are going to be bumps but there is going to be a way forward.
  3. Be present in tough times. Let clients know things are going to be alright when the going gets tough.
  4. Encourage community. Create social situations that make your clients feel like they are part of your community. Show them who you are, let them show you who they are.
  5. Play! All of these things only work if you allow your clients to encourage their urge to play. For example, when they want to purchase a second summer home (and that may not be the best financial decision), say that’s a great idea, but gently suggest Airbnb.

Your story, Saxon said, “is no good unless you share it.”

Did you miss Retreat this year, or just want to register for 2017 early? Join us next year at Château Élan in North Atlanta, Georgia April 24-27, 2017. Use this code (PARET17) for $100 off if you register before May 31, 2016.


Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.

Leave a Reply