• 23/06/2024

Money Motivations – Alien to Clients, but Known to You

Susan Zimmerman | Mindful Asset Programs


Have you noticed that clients’ Emotions and Thoughts (ET) about money often seem like aliens from another planet? Most of them lie outside of their conscious awareness. Yet they’re powerful drivers of behavior. It makes sense to continue your efforts to help clients be more mindful with their money – that means being both aware (informed) and attentive (action). I call that getting the extraterrestrial of our clients’ money styles “back to earth” and able to make prosperous decisions.

In many cases, clients’ underlying motives and resulting actions are actually more mindless than mindful. Therapists have been known to say mindless is a form blindness. Thoughts, emotions, and cravings are often simply not seen. They’re automatic unconscious habits that have formed over many years. How do we as advisors find and discuss problem areas without alienating clients? Can they become more mindful by pairing awareness with attentiveness, resulting in modified actions when needed?

There are several keys to helping clients raise awareness and acceptance of their inner money motives. Natural resistance may occur when they deem their own inner motives to be negative, inferior, or unacceptable. The first step recognizes this natural tendency and provides an “All Okay” platform for understanding these common tendencies.

Clients participate in assessing several factors using a continuum or list that identifies eight common Money Styles. These are driven by two primary forms of motivation: “Avoiding and Seeking.” Clients identify their dominant “Seeking Styles” from eight neutral outcomes. These are then paired with the companion “Avoidance patterns,” to encourage making behavioral and psychological connections. Corresponding behavioral Drivers that propel action are linked next.

The Eight Money Motivations
Below are the eight money motivations we introduce to clients to help them heighten awareness of their historic style and preference with money. This information is now available as an online assessment that creates a customized report for clients. It summarizes these factors:
_____ Seek Prestige #___ (social esteem or distinction)
_____ Seek Spontaneity #___ (arising naturally and without constraint)
_____ Seek Peace # ___ (freedom from hostility; calm)
_____ Seek Simplicity #___ (easy to understand or do; clear and uncomplicated)
_____ Seek Virtue #___ (moral excellence)
_____ Seek Security #___ (protected; to make certain; freedom from worry)
_____ Seek Control #___ (power or authority to regulate or restrain)
_____ Seek Growth #___ (to increase, cultivate; ability to thrive)

Clients can assess the degree of dominance they perceive exists for them. The assessment questionnaire scores each of the eight, which adds client interest and commitment to integrating the information into their planning decisions.

What behavior is avoided or propelled forward, given core motives:

_____ Prestige motives
…tend to Avoid Mediocrity…which propels achievement orientation & affluent lifestyles
_____ Spontaneity motives
…tend to Avoid Discipline…which propels creative ideas & impulsive decisions
_____ Peace motives
…tend to Avoid Conflict…which propels cooperative compliance & inconsistent choices
_____ Simplicity motives
…tend to Avoid Details…which propels streamlined methods & procrastination
_____ Virtue motives
…tend to Avoid Greed…which propels charitable inclinations & modest lifestyles
_____ Security motives
…tend to Avoid Loss…which propels cautious contemplation & limiting choices
_____ Control motives
…tend to Avoid Chaos…which propels consistent savings and precise recordkeeping
_____ Growth motives
…tend to Avoid Low returns…which propels profit orientation and growth investing

Questions to Ask Clients
The lists and report nets high-communication. Guide clients with these questions and you’ll get rich information in return:

  1. Given your top two or three motives, what do you think has served you well in your financial decisions?
  2. Each of the motivations has strengths and challenge areas, which are summarized here, using “avoid and drive” actions. Can you comment on these when you reflect on your personal financial history?
  3. In the challenge areas of each, are there particular issues in which you’d like our guidance so that you can improve your satisfaction with your outcomes?

Summarize your clients’ wishes using their own words, and convey what you will do to help them improve. This helps clients balance their money motivations and drive their implementation of wise financial strategies. Their own desires and motivations will no longer be alien to them, nor will they be alienated by your extra attention. Instead, they’ll become your most loyal fans.


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