Although it never hurts to sit down with clients and review the year past, it can be even more fruitful to set the stage for the year ahead. By initiating forward-looking conversations, you can manage expectations and uncover needs that could make your advice more timely and valuable than ever.
Being proactive about the headlines of the day – especially the potentially negative ones – can help reduce client anxiety and increase trust. This can lead to stronger relationships and natural referral opportunities. After working through some of the issues of the day, it’s easy to ask clients if they have friends or family members who are also concerned about where the world is heading in 2022.
Here are five timely topics to consider raising as we kick off the new year:
The first thing clients might be wondering is what exactly inflation means and how it could affect them (although many are probably already noticing it in their day-to-day lives). Simply addressing their questions is a good place to start. From a financial planning point of view, an inflationary environment can lead to higher living expenses from the grocery store to the gas pump. In some cases, it can also lead to more income as we see upward pressure on wages, which could impact clients who plan to change jobs in 2022.
With inflation trending higher, both the Bank of Canada and US Federal Reserve have indicated that interest rates could rise in 2022. Depending on a client’s current situation, higher rates could affect both sides of their household cashflow – in the form of rising payments on variable rate mortgages or lines of credit, and in the form of greater income from interest-bearing investments. Now is a good time to talk about how they are positioned and what actions they may need to consider in response to a higher interest rate environment.
Some observers believe the potential combination of higher inflation and rising rates could lead to a drop in the housing market. Of course, just as many observers believe that the combination of a growing population and relatively limited supply will keep Canadian real estate on a long-term upward trajectory. Whether we see a housing correction in 2022 or not, it’s worth talking to clients about their concerns and plans. If they are hoping to enter the market, is their strategy for saving a down payment on track? Are they prepared for potentially higher mortgage payments? And if they have benefitted from a sharp increase in the value of their home or investment property, do they have reasonable expectations around continued price appreciation?
The stock market has seen extraordinary price movement over the past couple of years. Many investors have enjoyed double-digit returns, especially measuring from the pandemic lows of early 2020. Will the market continue to rise in 2022? Of course, nobody knows. However, if history is any guide, it is safe to make a few assumptions – endless record highs are very unlikely, significant declines are normal, and stocks are likely to maintain a general upward trend over the long term. It’s never a bad time to review these time-tested beliefs and make sure that clients are realistic about what 2022 could bring.
The past year was unlike any other in terms of do-it-yourself investment speculation. From trading apps and meme stocks to cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), it has never been more tempting for everyday people to pursue the illusion of easy money. For many clients, the best way to approach this situation is to discuss which portion of their portfolio is earmarked for speculation, and which portion belongs in more conservative assets. Let clients have their “play money” while also understanding how important it is to protect their “serious money.”
No client should expect you to accurately predict inflation, interest rates, housing markets, stock prices, or DIY investing fads. And yet, you can provide them with a degree of knowledge and comfort simply by discussing these issues. It lets them know that you are monitoring the situation and have their best interests in mind. Then you can shift the focus to the things that are more readily in their control – such as managing their spending and borrowing, saving regularly, investing in a diversified portfolio, and staying focused on their long-term goals.