What is holistic financial planning and how can it help financial advisors and their clients?

How can advisors deepen client relationships, attract and retain more clients, and grow their revenues all at once? By integrating holistic financial planning into their practice.

Holistic financial planning isn’t just about staying competitive in a world filled with roboadvisors and AI. It’s a client-centered approach that goes beyond optimizing investment portfolios. It’s about stepping into the role of a Total Wealth Advisor who prioritizes holistic advice over selling products and truly helps clients achieve their life’s most cherished goals and dreams.

Although there’s a lot of talk about goals-based planning in the industry, it can be hard to know what it means to be a truly holistic financial advisor, the benefits it brings, and the services this role might entail. Here, we provide the answers to these questions and share ideas on integrating this approach into your financial advisory services.

What is holistic financial planning?

Holistic financial planning is a comprehensive approach to managing a client’s finances that takes into account all aspects of their financial and personal life. Instead of solely focusing on investment recommendations, a holistic financial advisor guides a client in uncovering their most important life goals and advises on the best ways to utilize their financial resources to achieve these goals.

A holistic approach to financial planning considers how different aspects of a client’s life are interconnected. Doing so helps prevent potential problems that might arise if only a single aspect of their wealth is considered. Someone who focuses on holistic advice will take an approach that considers the clients’ total wealth – today and in the future. That’s why we like to call this emerging breed of client-focused advisors Total Wealth Advisors.

To illustrate how a Total Wealth Advisor might provide holistic financial planning, consider Nick, a middle-aged executive with a wife and two young children who is diligently saving for retirement through his 401k, IRA, and investment accounts. A more “traditional” advisor may only be focused on helping Nick optimize his IRA and investment portfolio for higher risk-adjusted returns. But a Total Wealth Advisor will go even further to help Nick ensure that he’s also protecting his family in case of his death or incapacity with a solid estate plan, insurance, and other contingency planning that aligns with his personal goals.

Without taking a client’s whole life into account, any given piece of their financial life can be rendered meaningless in a moment. Holistic financial planning breathes a deeper meaning to wealth by ensuring that all financial components work together to support a client’s personal objectives.

Goals as the foundation for holistic financial planning

What is a holistic financial advisor without doing a full assessment of a client’s goals and life situation? In order to help clients on a deeper level, holistic financial planning must always start with understanding a client’s current circumstances and objectives. This step in itself can provide tremendous value to clients who haven’t yet thought about or articulated their big-picture life goals.

Understanding the client’s circumstances and helping them identify and select goals are so vital that they are considered the first two steps in the 7-step financial planning process outlined by the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) Board. These goals shape the types of services and advice you will provide.

The CFP board provides a helpful list of qualitative and quantitative data that advisors can ask a client so they can get the insights needed to determine the types of services they will need to provide to help them bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be.

What services should a holistic financial advisor provide?

The services you provide as a holistic financial advisor may be different for every client, depending on their current life stage, goals, and needs. Here’s an overview of some of the most common ways in which holistic or Total Wealth Advisors serve their clients:

Investment and portfolio management

While investment management was once the core of financial advisory, it has become highly commoditized, making it even more important for advisors to integrate a client’s overall situation into the investment planning process. This means matching a client’s risk tolerance, time horizon, and allocation to their unique goals while taking into account all of their assets, liabilities, and needs. 

Retirement planning

Understanding a client’s holistic life goals makes it easier to help them estimate their retirement income needs and create a tailored retirement savings plan. This includes optimizing Social Security options, pension plans, and strategies for reducing taxes and maximizing retirement income.

Estate planning

No financial plan is complete without considering what could happen with a client’s assets in the case of their incapacity or passing.  A holistic financial advisor also becomes an estate advisory, guiding estate planning conversations and helping clients decide on necessary documents such as wills and trusts to distribute assets, reduce taxes, and ensure a smooth wealth transfer to heirs. 

Advisors who go beyond the basics of wealth management and offer clients more sophisticated estate planning strategies gain an edge because they create deeper connections with clients and help them manage wealth over several generations, serving as a Total Wealth Advisor.

Tax planning

To help clients keep more of their money, holistic financial planners typically offer tax planning advice year-round. This can include tax-aware investment strategies, guidance on changes in tax law, helping clients save for retirement more tax-efficiently, or guiding them with estate tax planning strategies to minimize estate tax liability. 

Risk management and insurance

A holistic financial plan should help clients mitigate potential risks, including health, disability, and long-term care insurance. You may even offer guidance on property and business insurance while also considering the role of insurance in the client’s estate planning strategy.

Debt management 

Maximizing a client’s net worth involves not just looking at the aset side of the balance sheet, but also addressing the liabilities. When providing holistic financial planning, consider exploring a client’s debt on real estate, property, or business interests to identify cost-saving opportunities and optimize asset use.

Education planning 

As a holistic financial advisor, you’ll want to offer solutions for college savings, private schooling, tax-advantaged accounts, and investment options to help clients achieve education goals for their children, grandchildren, or other loved ones.

Other holistic financial services

Holistic financial management can also encompass cash management, business guidance, and even banking and loans, if these services are within the advisor’s suite of offerings. Some advisors may even address emotional and psychological aspects of money management, like money beliefs and investment biases. Some also offer guidance to help clients align their social and value goals, such as impact and sustainability, with their investments. Again, the whole point is to offer an approach that looks at anything that touches the client’s total wealth and personal goals.

How holistic financial planning benefits advisors

Stronger client-advisor relationships and greater fulfillment

As a financial advisor, going holistic isn’t just about numbers; it’s about making a real impact on your clients’ lives. You’ll get to see the big picture, helping them connect the dots between their wealth and their dreams. This deeper understanding leads to stronger relationships, more referrals, and opportunities to serve multiple generations within a family. If you view your work as a calling to help others, it’s immensely fulfilling to be a client’s trusted advisor for life.

Increased retention and revenue

Holistic financial advisors can expand their business in various ways by offering a range of services beyond investments. This diversification leads to increased revenue streams and, importantly, better client retention. When you provide a holistic experience, clients have fewer reasons to seek advice elsewhere, fostering long-lasting relationships.

A greater competitive edge

According to Accenture’s 2021 Wealth Management Consumer Report, 79% of investors want holistic advice, including insurance, banking, and other services to meet their needs. By integrating holistic financial planning into your practice, you stand out in the industry. You’re offering what clients want, but not every advisor can deliver.

Reduced regulatory risk

With ever-increasing regulations emphasizing the need for advisors to act as fiduciaries, holistic financial planning is a logical next step in the future of financial advice. Holistic financial advisors are more likely to be aligned with the fiduciary standard and act in a client’s best interests, offering personalized guidance and recommendations without conflict of interest.

How clients benefit from working with a holistic financial advisor

When clients work with a holistic financial advisor, they gain peace of mind knowing their wealth is working to achieve their life goals. They make better financial decisions and save time, stress, and money by not having to shop around at different providers.

Engaging in holistic financial planning allows clients to discover and focus on goals they might have considered unattainable. This process empowers them to make the most of their wealth during their lifetime and pass on their legacy in a way that aligns with their values.

Clients working with a holistic financial advisor can have a  better understanding of the likelihood of achieving their various life goals so they can make adjustments as needed and move towards their goals faster.

How can advisors start offering holistic financial planning advice?

If you’re ready to become a truly holistic financial advisor who guards a client’s total wealth, here are some practical steps to get you started today.

1. Ask the right questions to uncover deeper motivations

When meeting with prospects or clients, focus on asking questions that dig deeper into their motivations. A best practice from top advisory teams is creating a meeting agenda that encompasses critical life topics, such as finances, family, health, career, retirement, and estate planning. This approach ensures you don’t forget to inquire about essential details that can help you uncover important information. 

For a powerful starting point in understanding a client’s underlying desires, turn to George Kinder’s three questions for financial life planning in this video to guide clients through uncovering the values and desires that mean the most to them.

2. Stay in touch at pivotal moments of their life

Great advisors meet with their clients regularly to review their progress toward financial and life goals. But a lot can happen in between meetings. Encourage your clients to keep you updated about life changes, ensuring that you revisit their holistic financial plan during moments of transition, such as marriage, divorce, job changes, relocations, health issues, or the loss of loved ones. 

Rather than waiting for clients to call you, be proactive by using opportunities throughout the year to stay in touch with them, especially on significant life occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and other meaningful events they share with you.

Use your CRM software to keep track of these dates and create a system to ensure that you or your team members reach out to clients during these times.

3. Integrate estate planning into client conversations

Another great way to help clients on a more holistic level right away is to start integrating estate advisory into client conversations. Not sure how? Use our estate planning checklist to ask the right questions and help clients gain clarity on how they can achieve their legacy and wealth transfer goals through the right estate planning tools and techniques.

With the federal estate tax exemption sunset approaching in 2026, this is a critical time to help high net worth clients preserve their hard-earned wealth without being burdened by substantial estate tax bills that may hinder their heirs’ goals. Through facilitating these conversations, you’re no longer simply the individual who helps your clients find the right investment. You’ve now become a Total Wealth Advisor who looks after and cares for your client’s dreams and goals.

To support your clients in these estate planning discussions, consider using an estate planning software that clearly shows clients what might happen to their assets if they were to pass away today. With Vanilla, you can make holistic financial planning a cornerstone of your practice by creating customized estate planning reports for your clients today.


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