Building trust in intergenerational financial planning

Becca Timmins
Becca Timmins

This is the first in a series of three posts, where I consider the challenges of intergenerational conversations and how we can facilitate them more effectively for better outcomes. Links to the other two posts can be found at the end.


The baby boomers are nearly all retired! 

That retiring generation that has been the basis of business for many Financial Planning firms for nearly 20 years have nearly all retired. With the youngest now 60, and the oldest nearing 80, any firm with their eye on the future is considering two things:

  • How to attract new clients whose needs are very different, and add value for them;
  • How to build relationships with the next generation of existing clients, in the hope of looking after the family into the future.

When working with any clients, building a foundation of trust is essential for effective financial planning conversations. But this can be challenging when you are at a very different life stage to them. Generational differences in communication styles, life experiences, and worldviews can create barriers if not addressed with care.

But if we can learn to listen without judgement. Listen with interest, and to learn more, an understanding and empathy can emerge that could be the key to developing these new relationships and facilitating better conversations between the generations too.

Where to start?

One key element is psychological safety – creating an environment where all parties feel able to be fully open and authentic. 

It’s easy to say, but much harder to do. 

I have found that learning about the Thinking Environment® has been a great place to start.

The Ten Components of the Thinking Environment are a system of behaviours that foster psychological safety and this can be game changing. (Here’s a longer read about that or come along to one of my programmes to find out more!)

This way of being is at its core, deeply respectful, and can help us to recognise generational and other differences without judgement. 

By demonstrating empathy for these varying perspectives yourself, you set the tone for mutual understanding both between couples and potentially between generations.

Who’s the expert?

The title “Financial Adviser” can lead us down an ego fuelled path. “I’m the Adviser – I know best!” could be the undertone. Financial Planner is much better in this regard, but I think the legacy still remains for many.

But the truth is, while you might be the expert on financial products, investments, tax planning etc. your client is the expert on them.
So, another critical factor is positioning the client relationship as one of equality, where you see your clients as the ultimate experts on their own lives, values and goals. 

Your role as the financial planner is then to serve as the authority on planning strategies to help them achieve their collective goals. This balanced dynamic empowers clients and makes them more likely to openly share insights that inform tailored solutions.

If you can get multiple generations of a family together and facilitate that kind of equality as well (and yes it IS possible!) your value to that family will be immeasurable.

The real game changer – the promise of no interruption

To enable all of this, getting really good at uninterrupted listening is essential.

To be interrupted is bad. To get lucky and not be interrupted is better. To KNOW that we are not going to be interrupted frees us to truly think for ourselves.

Nancy Kline, Time to Think

Can you let go of your reply while listening and give someone your full attention? Staying deeply interested in where they will go next with their thinking. If you can, you’ll pick up on nuances and underlying interests that might otherwise go unnoticed. Follow-up questions can then probe with genuine curiosity.

“What more do you think about that”

“What might you be assuming about that situation?”

“What is most important to you about *insert any scenario they might be talking about*?”

An experiment

I would like to invite you to try an experiment.

Agree to a promise of no interruptions at the outset of your next client meeting and see what happens. If you’ve got a couple (or even an intergenerational family) there together, ask them not to interrupt each other either and go to each of them in turn to answer your questions. See what happens. 

Then ask them at the end “What did you find most valuable about our meeting today?”.

And finally, get comfortable with silence

This TED talk puts it far better than I can and is well worth a 10-minute watch.

Asking a question, and then staying silent for as long as it takes for someone to answer fully. Not jumping in to finish their sentence, or as soon as they pause. Get as comfortable with silence as an FBI hostage negotiator!

When we learn to facilitate open and judgement-free dialogue, people shine a light on their own blind spots. We clear the way for breakthrough “aha” moments and new thoughts and ideas emerge that we’ve not thought before. 

Clients will feel truly heard and understood. In turn, this fosters the trust and mutual respect that paves the way for long term financial planning across the generations.


If you are interested in learning more, and developing your skills in this area, the Unlocking Excellence programme could be for you. With a one day introduction and a full programme leading to a qualification to choose from, you can select the level of commitment that is right for you. You can find out more here, and if you would like to discuss it further, book in here for a chat.

This is the first in a series of three posts on the topic of intergenerational conversations. Links to the others are below.

Succession planning across generations

When assumptions stop helping

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

Becca Timmins

Becca is an accredited Time to Think Consultant, Coach and Facilitator. She has extensive experience coaching and developing people within a Thinking Environment framework, working with individuals and teams at all levels, primarily within financial planning businesses.
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Becca Timmins

Becca is an accredited Time to Think Consultant, Coach and Facilitator. She has extensive experience coaching and developing people within a Thinking Environment framework, working with individuals and teams at all levels, primarily within financial planning businesses.
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