How to help HNW clients score a financial planning touchdown

September 10, 2019 by Tom Burmeister

Tom Burmeister featured on

About the author

Tom Burmeister

Vice president, financial planning

As vice president of financial planning, Tom is an integral contributor to the strategic vision around our financial planning initiatives. Additionally, he is critically involved in all partner interactions, thought leadership contributions, and internal training programs.

In an article I recently wrote that was featured on, I show how the sport of football can shed light on some important lessons for advising high-net-worth clients.

Read the full article below:

How to help HNW clients score a financial planning touchdown

Football and finance: What could these two topics possibly have in common? 

As it turns out, quite a lot, thanks to HBO. The network’s hit show Ballers, which began airing its fifth season last month, focuses on two high-net-worth financial advisors who manage the wealth of National Football League (NFL) players and other affluent clients. The two worlds also collided late last summer when HBO’s documentary series Hard Knocks, which follows NFL teams through their off-season training camps, included a segment with Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Carl Nassib teaching his teammates about the power of compounding interest and smart spending.

The recent start of the current NFL season reminds us that, like the outcome of team matchups, life is unpredictable. No game victory or winning streak is certain, regardless of how hard players practice and train, or how much teams pay to recruit promising talent.

Even though they are earning a lot of money and command a high profile today, the time will come when NFL players step aside—either voluntarily through retirement, or nonvoluntarily as a result of a trade or career-ending injury.

NFL players, and all professional athletes (as well as high-net-worth individuals and families in general), need to plan ahead in order to prevent their wealth from disappearing. Financial advisors have an important role to “play” as coaches in the “game” of investing and managing wealth wisely.

Keeping Score & Seeing The Whole Picture

NFL players and other professional athletes need to know the score, and calculate the risks involved in plays and strategies to achieve victory, in order to make smarter decisions on the field—and quickly adapt as the scores, circumstances, and stakes change throughout the game. Advisors can use this concept to help their professional athlete clients strategize an effective long-term financial game plan.

When advisors provide pro athletes with a comprehensive picture of their overall wealth, as well as an understanding of the makeup of their portfolios and the possible risks/rewards attached to different asset classes and strategies, they can place them in a stronger position to achieve their financial, and life, goals—throughout bull and bear markets. Like a football coach, advisors can collaborate with athletes to construct detailed financial plans for winning the investment game, and update the plans as needed when market conditions or personal circumstances change. These financial plans should include strategies for increasing overall wealth; achieving financial goals such as homeownership, putting children through college, and saving enough for retirement; as well as budgets to ensure they develop healthy spending habits.

Unfortunately, too many NFL veterans don’t benefit from the insights and guidance of a trusted financial advisor/coach who understands their goals, and can assist them with saving and growing their income. Highlighting the gravity of the problem, Sports Illustrated reported a decade ago that 78% of NFL players either become bankrupt or experience serious financial stress within just two years of retirement. Ten years later, this startling statistic is still widely cited, and the situation shows no signs of improvement. For example, Warren Sapp, a former defensive tackle who played for 13 years in the NFL, filed for bankruptcy in the spring of 2012, just five years after retiring—despite having earned $82 million during his playing career, and continuing to be paid $116,000 per month as a TV commentator.

This phenomenon doesn’t only apply to retired NFL players. A 2017 study by the Williams Group Wealth Consultancy reported that 70% of wealthy families will lose their wealth by the second generation, and up to 90% will do so by the third generation.

One possible defense against this substantial loss of wealth is to create a close working relationship with clients, based on transparency and frequent communication. As a fiduciary, advisors should be transparent in their advice by comprehensively showing clients how their spending habits, or potential portfolio investments, may influence their overall wealth and financial situation going forward. Like any coach, advisors need to check in frequently with clients to ensure they have a firm handle on their financial situation, and understand—and stick to—the approved “game plan.”

Client-facing tools available to advisors in today’s marketplace, such as interactive client portals, can foster more meaningful, personalized, and convenient engagement with clients. Some client portals allow investors to check their goal progress and financial outlook in real time, from any location—and submit questions to advisors about anything they don’t understand—without setting up a meeting. They can also enable advisors to remotely demonstrate various scenarios for clients with cutting-edge presentation features, and show them how a wide variety of variables can potentially affect their ability to meet their financial goals (and how to prepare for unforeseen developments).

The Insider Mentality

The main character on Ballers, Spencer Strasmore (portrayed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), is a financial advisor who was recruited by his firm because of his experience playing in the NFL. His employer hoped Spencer’s background and personality would secure more professional athletes as clients.

Whether or not they are professional athletes, many high-net-worth investors choose advisors and wealth managers using this insider mentality. One of the most common questions that high-net-worth prospects have is: “Have you advised clients similar to me in the past?”

To build trust with prospects, advisors can ask satisfied clients to fill out surveys on an annual basis, and share positive comments from those clients who are similar to certain prospects (leaving out the respondent’s names, of course). Advisors can also present client success stories as anonymous case studies for prospects, to demonstrate how they have helped others in similar circumstances or careers improve outcomes and reach goals.

Manage All HNW Clients as Though They're NFL Players

Playing in the NFL is highly lucrative, but careers can be altered—or ended—in an instant by injuries, trades, or other sudden developments. Similarly, high-net-worth individuals and families can also experience surprises which have a serious impact on their financial well-being. While these situations may not be entirely preventable, advisors can model scenarios with clients in order to help them prepare.

Interactive financial planning and client engagement tools can empower advisors to manage high-net-worth clients as though they were NFL players—running through the possible impact of all sorts of variables on their financial picture, and ensuring they understand what plays to implement in the event of each scenario.

And just as crucially, advisors can coach high-net-worth clients to adopt better spending habits using innovative budgeting tools, and train them to protect and grow their wealth.

-- via, published on September 10, 2019.