Neal Frankle
Neal Frankle
Should You Help Your Clients Motivate Their Children?

Do your clients have children who need to get fired up before they get to work on improving their financial situation? Are your clients paying the price?

August 20, 2009
by Neal Frankle, CFP

Here's a better idea: Tell you clients to fire the kids instead.

I know that this can be a very tough thing to do.

I recently met a friend whose daughter pulled a boomerang on them.

After my friend and his wife spent over $125,000 helping their little princess Cindy earn a degree in business, she came back home. Turns out she couldn't get off the couch and find work. Instead, Cindy spent her time racking up credit card debt on the Internet — and exhausting my friend's potato chip supply.

Cindy and her parents visited me recently and we found ourselves having a very open and direct conversation about the situation.

I asked Cindy what her ultimate goals were.

She told me that she wanted to travel and have freedom. She told me she wanted to travel to Spain and learn Spanish. She spoke about her traveling dreams in great detail and painted a wonderful picture for all of us.

I asked Cindy what was holding her back from living her dream.

She told me that she didn't have any money and then she told me about the debt she had accumulated. She explained that she was bored and just spent her time buying jewelry on the Internet.

She told me that she tried to stop those behaviors but found herself going back to her Internet buying habit every single time.

I asked her if she'd ever be able to travel to those wonderful places if she continued that behavior.

Cindy acknowledged that if she continued her spending behavior, she'd never be able to afford bus fair to Burbank let alone a trip to Spain.

At that point, I shared an idea that I'd heard several years earlier.

"Cindy, your best thinking got you where you are today. Your best thoughts have you firing up the computer and spending money you don't have. Your best thoughts got you to rack up $7000 in credit card debt. Your best thoughts are keeping you on the couch rather than looking for work."

I asked her to consider "firing herself" and getting to Debtors Anonymous.

She didn't lack the knowledge and knew exactly what to do. She also didn't lack skill — she was a very smart and talented young woman. Her problem wasn't even motivation. She had a voice in her head that told her that she really should stop spending money and she really should look for work.

Her problem was that she listened to the other little voice inside her head. You know … the one that told her to get her act together starting tomorrow.

My experience tells me tomorrow never comes and that the messages we get from that little destructive voice inside doesn't change and doesn't go away.

Cindy's problem was herself. She had to fire herself and start taking direction from another source.

In Cindy's case, I suggested that she attend Debtors Anonymous meetings. My sense is that Cindy needed an attitude adjustment more than a job. Once she got her head on straight, she would be able to find some kind of work.

I don't know if Cindy took action, but I also had a few ideas for her parents:

  • When parents don't like their children's behavior, they should not stand for it.
  • Parents should advise their children to attend a certain number of DA meetings each week and if they don't, the parents would ask the kids to leave the house.

Would you ever be this blunt with a client and/or their children? Do you think speaking this way might end your relationship with the client? Let Neal know what you think.

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Neal Frankle, CFP, is the author of Why Smart People Lose a Fortune: 5 Steps to Restoring Your Wealth and Sanity.

* The material in this article is general information and not meant to provide specific investment, tax or legal advice. Investing in the stock market involves risk.