In my first article, "Women-Centric Investing: Changing the Conversation to Attract and Keep Female Investors," I wrote that a large part of my mission in life, through giving speeches, writing books, and providing coaching, is to help people (many of whom are women) live lives that thrill and fulfill them.
What I've learned, as you no doubt have, too, is that women, unlike men, aren't interested in amassing money for its own sake (the familiar "whoever has the most stuff wins" game). Rather, women are captivated by what difference money can make and even what joy it can bring to others; in other words, what the money is for.
As mentioned in my first article, I have developed a simple visual device that anyone can use with female clients to ensure that they stay focused on achieving their financial goals. It helps them keep sight of what the money is for — and what difference it can make.
It's called "The Mountaintop." Picture a tall triangle. On one side your client can list their "wildest" dream at the top and then down the side all the steps necessary to accomplish it. On the other side, starting with a meeting with you at the bottom, she can identify the resources required for, and the steps associated with, reaching her goal. It's designed to enable you to encourage your female clients to answer the question, "If absolutely anything were possible, what would I love to make happen in my life?" And, then, to actually accomplish it.
Over the years I have used the Mountaintop technique to help women start businesses, earn graduate degrees, pay for their grandchildren's college educations, adopt babies — or simply have a wonderfully fulfilling life.
The good news is: It's actually fun to use. Here's how it works:
The Mountaintop tool gets your clients to start with the end goal and work backwards to their starting point. It works because it's easier to imagine that you've already achieved your goal and ask yourself, "How did I do it?!" and "How did I get there?" than it is to stand at the bottom of a mountain and try to figure out how to get to the top.
Together, you and your client will design a simple path that leads to her ultimate goal by using "hindsight vision" at the beginning of the process. She'll imagine what it's like to be there already, with her mission accomplished — and then she'll think backwards, step by step, to the present day, and ask herself, "How'd I do it?"
Reverse Engineering for Success
Start by asking your client to draw the tall triangle (the Mountaintop) on a piece of paper:
Step 1: At the peak of the Mountaintop, ask her to write her ultimate goal: the answer to the question, "If absolutely anything were possible, here's what I'd love to make happen..."
Step 2: Next to it, again at the top of the mountain, ask her to write down the estimated cost to make that happen, and by when (the exact date) she'd like to turn that dream into reality.
Step 3: At the bottom of the Mountaintop, ask her to write today's date: the day she decided to make that happen.
Here's an example: She writes at the peak of the Mountaintop: "Buy a vacation home in Tuscany for my entire family to enjoy." "Estimated cost: $1.2 million." "By when I'll buy it: 1/31/2021."
These statements represent exactly what she has decided to accomplish and by when. Encourage her to make it big, bold and exciting; that is, her wildest dream.
Then ask your client to think of herself as already having accomplished her goal. She's just bought the home in Tuscany. Now all she has to ask herself is, "How did I do it?"
Step 4: Ask her to answer the question, "Right before that [actually closing on the house], what did I do to allow that to happen?" Her probable answer: "I shopped around for the best interest rate on a mortgage and signed the closing paperwork." These words should be written on the left side of the triangle, right under the peak of the Mountaintop.
Step 5: Your client then makes her way down the mountainside, asking the questions, "What did I do to get me here? What was the prior step that enabled me to proceed?" The idea is to develop answers as you travel down the mountain. Elements she could add might include searching for the perfect home online, flying to Tuscany to meet with a real estate agent, or shopping for the perfect home furnishings.
Finally, making it as simple as she can, she moves all the way down to today's date: the day she decided to buy the house in Tuscany.
Step 6: Since we don't want to get stuck with only one way to bring the vision to life, it's important to do the same exercises on the resources side of the mountain (the right side), capturing the different steps back to the start. Flexibility and creativity are key. This is also where she should add the various steps for achieving her ultimate goal financially — with your guidance, of course.
Step 7: It's vital that she (and you) not be tempted to start at the bottom and work your way up. It's much harder and much less productive. Remember, the point is to act as if the goal has already been achieved. And keep asking that key question, "What happened one step earlier that enabled this to happen?"
Step 8: Finally, (and this is key) you and she together must list specific dates for exactly when you will accomplish each step you've listed down the mountain — and stick to them. That discipline and the vision of the goal actually achieved will keep you and your client focused and energized.
Now you and your client have specific goals up both sides of the mountain. It's time to execute it with boldness, joy, and the conviction that she will succeed.
Here's another idea: In last month's article I mentioned Wendy Brown, a financial advisor who holds monthly lunches for her female clients to celebrate birthdays and just connect with each other. Well, holding your own lunches would be wonderful opportunities for your female clients to share their Mountaintop plans, get coaching from each other (as well as from you), and celebrate their progress. And when a member of the team actually achieves her wildest dream, they can throw a special party in her honor.
Advising female clients requires some different skills and techniques than working with men, or even couples. This Mountaintop technique, albeit simple, is quite effective.
- Work with your female clients knowing that they are motivated less by simply accumulating wealth, and more by putting their money to good use.
- Invest the time and effort with them developing personalized Mountaintop plans so together you have specific goals and action steps to get from here to there.
- Celebrate minor and major accomplishments along the journey, ideally with other women who have their own Mountaintops to conquer.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. The information contained herein should not be construed as investment advice or a recommendation of any product or service nor should it be relied upon to, replace the advice of an investor's own professional legal, tax and financial advisors.
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