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Who needs financial planning advice? Realistically, everyone, no matter their income level, can benefit from financial planning advice – so why not make financial planning more accessible, even to people who aren’t necessarily in higher income ranges? That’s what Shannon Lee Simmons set out to do.

Shannon is recognized as a trailblazer in the financial planning industry. She is a Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Investment Manager, and founder of the New School of Finance. She is also an author. Her book Worry-Free Money is a national bestseller. Shannon has built her career around helping ordinary people navigate the economic climate. Listen to today’s episode to hear more about how Shannon arrived at her business model, why she believes emotions matter in financial planning, and her unique approach to referrals. 

Topics Discussed in This Episode:

  • What Shannon’s firm does and who they serve
  • What prompted Shannon to start a financial planning firm
  • How Shannon makes her business model work
  • Why emotions matter in financial planning
  • How to provide financial advice that takes emotion into account
  • How Shannon’s courses relate to her practice
  • What the client experience looks like for Shannon’s clients
  • Why Shannon doesn’t take referral arrangements
  • Shannon’s thoughts on paying down debt
  • Shannon’s upcoming book, Living Debt-free, coming out in January 2019
  • Upcoming projects that Shannon is excited about
  • Shannon’s words of wisdom for financial planners who want to grow their business

Links and Resources:

New School of Finance

Worry-free Money

 Quotes from Shannon:

“It’s easy for me to look back now and say “you can have it all, it’s a balance, blah, blah blah,” but I worked my butt off for a very long time working outrageous hours and evenings and doing free talks at every condo party room for a long time.”

“Never take any client – anything – for granted.”

“I think there’s nothing worse in the world than trying to get financial advice and then being priced away from it.”

Shannon is a known financial planning innovator, pursuing her own vision of what great financial planning advice looks like. Below we’ll share three highlights from our conversation with her:

  • How to profitably serve the cash-flow constrained client segment
  • Successfully diversifying your revenue streams
  • The emotion-driven side of financial planning

Don’t miss the full episode though ‒ click the link above or find the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher to listen.

How to profitably serve the cash-flow constrained client segment

Shannon became interested in serving her current demographic of clients in 2008. She noticed that while high-net-worth clients had access to excellent advice to help them navigate turbulent times, everyone else had… well, nothing.

But how can she remain profitable when she can’t charge her clients the rates that high-net-worth clients would pay? Shannon credits her success to two key elements:

  1. Great service: Shannon believes that word-of-mouth is the most powerful referral system there is. In fact, she estimates that 95% of her business comes through word of mouth. To take full advantage, she’s adamant that you should go above and beyond for every single client, every single time. She says to “provide excellent service every time, all the time, regardless of who the client is.” You might be having a bad day and they might not be your best client, but if treat every client like gold, you never know the opportunities they might bring your way.
  2. Innovation: It’s just a fact that one-on-one work isn’t really scalable. Shannon will always be limited in how many clients she can work with by the number of hours in a day. One way she was able to diversify her firm’s revenue and avoid this trap is by developing online courses and workshops, and writing books (her second, Living Debt-free, comes out next year). While these are not her business’ main source of income, she put in the work once, and now no matter how many people take her courses or read her book, she doesn’t have to put in additional time per student or reader.

Hint: In addition to exploring opportunities to diversify your offerings, think about how you can keep your costs low. Maybe you can go paperless (do you really need to print those 50-page reports?) or institute office-sharing to cut down on overhead.

Successfully diversifying your revenue streams

There are tons of resources out there to help people learn about personal or small business finance for free. So why are people willing to put down money for New School of Finance online courses?

It all comes down to the power of curated content resulting in trust.

Many of the students are Shannon’s current clients who want to complement the advice she provides one on one or they just can’t physically come in for an appointment. Others are referred by friends or found her through her blog, but they can’t afford her services.

The common factor here is that anyone who takes the New School of Finance courses learned one way or another than Shannon is someone they can trust. They saw or heard that she knows what she’s talking about, and they’re eager to learn from a trusted authority figure.

Hint: If you’re thinking about selling educational products like courses or books, your reputation as a trustworthy expert has to be stellar. Remember what Shannon was saying about word of mouth?

The emotion-driven side of financial planning

Everyone knows the basics of personal or business finance: spend less than you earn. In theory ‒ simple.

But according to Shannon, “money has nothing to do with math. I think that it’s all emotional.”

All the information in the world won’t do clients any good if they simply don’t have the money to put it into practice or if their financial decisions are driven by emotion.

The main emotions that Shannon sees come up in money talks?

Guilt and inadequacy.

Shannon always calls them out when she sees them (and she’s always on the lookout), hoping to help clients understand where those feelings are coming from.

“My job is 80% life coaching … and 20% a spreadsheet,” she jokes. Seriously though, Shannon sees the coaching aspect as so valuable that she’s actually a certified life coach.

Hint: You don’t need to be a certified life coach to succeed as a financial planner, but you do need to understand a bit about why clients behave the way they do when it comes to their finances.

No matter how many robo-advisors come onto the market, “the human capacity to understand how another human being is feeling and work within that emotional space is still where we provide value.”

If you want to hear more of what Shannon has to say, including her approach to referrals, tips for helping clients get out of debt, and more, catch the full episode on iTunes, Stitcher, or here on this page. And to ensure you never miss an episode, subscribe and sign up below to get an email notification every time an episode goes live.