Several weeks ago, I was sitting down with a longtime client. And as we caught up with each other, he shared a story of a funny birthday picture he had posted on social media—a picture that received over 100 “likes” over the course of the afternoon.
As I watched him react to the peer validation that was being showered upon him, I couldn’t help but think how we humans, as a species, are hardwired to crave acceptance. No matter how old we get, the instincts that drive us to form social circles and relationships in our adult lives are the same ones behind the cliques we fostered—or feared—in our youth.
My client was beaming with excitement and it got me wondering how we, as practitioners, could help bring this kind of excitement and validation to financial planning—especially for millennials who are engaged so heavily in social media. In our era of social normalization where popularity and credibility are all about validation through likes and shares, a financial planner can help validate your financial success in his or her own distinct way.
Positive Reinforcement Through Your Plan
Your financial plan is a deeply personal matter, so you probably wouldn't share your achievements online with the hopes of generating dozens of likes, as you would with other content. That said, one person who should be in the know on your status and progress is your trusted adviser. He or she is there to guide you on your journey and congratulate you as you reach important milestones. A client who started out with $24,000 in her retirement account and just surpassed the $100,000 mark should celebrate that milestone, just as the client who reached her $3,000,000 retirement nest egg goal. An adviser's acknowledgement of your achievements can be a powerful form of reinforcement.
Regular Progress Updates
You and your adviser are taking this journey together. He or she is there to guide you and reassure you. Your adviser should provide you with updates both when the ship is sailing smoothly and when you hit some rough waters. He or she should speak up when you may need to change direction and congratulate you when you reach those exciting milestones. Not unlike the selfies and “pins” that permeate the social landscape, these regular updates and checkpoints should be the social prompts that help grow your relationship. You and your adviser can use them to define and refine your evolving personal financial profile.
Track Your Own Progress
Technology continues to revolutionize how we track and monitor so many aspects of our lives—our homes and pets, our weight and calorie intake, our daily physical activity, and even our sleep patterns at night. Your adviser should also provide you with an outlet or platform to monitor your progress on your own. Like other financial advisers, we offer clients a customized portal allowing them to track their net worth on a daily basis. They can see a breakdown of their assets and liabilities, monitor their goals, and set up alerts. They can do all of that with the very same tool they use to collect social validation: their smartphone.
I can’t think of a greater reward, social or financial, than reaching true financial independence and having the ability to retire, scale back your work schedule, pick up a new hobby or skill, or even start your own company. Whether you’re into pinning, posting, or tweeting…what better way to generate more buzz amongst friends and family than a picture of you enjoying your very first day of retirement?
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Joe O’Boyle is a financial adviser and retirement coach with Voya Financial Advisors. Based in Beverly Hills, Calif., O’Boyle provides personalized, full service financial and retirement planning to individual and corporate clients. O’Boyle focuses on the entertainment, legal and medical industries, with a particular interest in educating Gen Xers and Millennials about the benefits of early retirement planning.