The very first client meeting is one of the most intimate and comprehensive meetings you’ll probably have with them. This beginning stage of gathering all the information is when your client begins to trust in you and disclose extremely personal matters. So what subjects should you be discussing at the beginning of the financial planning process? (For more, see: Advisors: Preparing for an Initial Client Meeting.)

1. Your Client's Future

Begin by focusing your client on their future by asking where they see themselves in five years, 10 years, etc.

2. Your Goal to Bring Clarity to Their Life

Ask them what opportunities and challenges they see in their lives now and in the future. You may hear details that they aren’t aware of.

3. Their Relationships

What type of relationships does your client have with their children, parents, loved ones and pets? This will help you see who they have financial obligations towards such as elderly parents, children, etc.

4. Their Financial Goals

What are all the accomplishments your client wishes to achieve?

5. Their Values

What are your client’s values and what is their core ideology? For example: “Provide for the financial future of our children." (For more, see: Vital Questions Advisors Should Ask New Clients.)

6. What Are Their Current Assets and Debts

Collecting and organizing all of your client’s assets may be spread out over a couple week period as they gather all the necessary documentation. Some specifics to ask about might be:

  • Personal Assets
  • Homes
  • IRAs
  • 401(k)
  • Pension
  • Salary
  • Stock Options
  • Savings
  • Other Accounts
  • Debt

7. The Advising Process

How do your clients prefer to interact with you? For example, do they want a hands-off approach so they can focus on work and family, or a more involved approach? (For more, see: Want to Impress Clients? Show Your Due Diligence.)

8. Current Advisors

What type of advisors do they currently use? Some specifics to ask about:

  • CPA
  • Attorney
  • Broker

9. Financial Issues

What types of financial issues do you see? For example: 

  • Excessive cash positions
  • Unmanageable number of accounts and holdings
  • Concentrated stock position
  • Improper account titling
  • Imbalance of family resources between owners

10. Other Issues

Some examples may include:

  • Unfunded revocable living trusts
  • No coordinated retirement account beneficiary planning
  • Large liability exposure personally and with real estate
  • Goals and resources misaligned     
  • Long-term care exposure

By truly getting to know your clients in almost every aspect of their life, you can better serve them as their financial advisor. Once you organize their financial details and begin to piece together what you’ve heard, your client will appreciate the organization of their financial picture. They’ll also begin to see their future goals align with their present actions as you start to make behavioral adjustments. (For more, see: How to Impress Clients: The First Meeting.)

Patrick Tucker is CEO of True Measure Wealth.