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11 Ways to Get Clients to Change Their Habits


Whether you're helping a client plan their financial future or file their taxes, bad habits can throw a monkey wrench in things. Financial guru Bryce Sanders lists 11 tried-and-tested ways to get clients to change those little missteps that are negatively impacting them.

Jan 4th 2021
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It’s a new year, but old habits die hard. Clients get comfortable, which can create inefficiencies. As their accountant, this can manifest itself at tax time or in a financial planning meeting. You likely make a few suggestions. Here’s a larger list. You might even convert it into newsletter content or a printed list of client suggestions.

1. Clearly Separate Business and Personal Spending: Many people have a business on the side. They might sell on eBay or do consulting. For simplicity’s sake they might run both their business and personal lives out of the same pocket. This becomes an issue if they suddenly need the protection of the corporate veil.

Action: Regardless of the size of the business, it needs separate bank accounts, credit cards and a retirement account. Clients should save receipts. Daily envelopes are a low tech solution that has withstood the test of time. Regularly tally those business expenses.

2. Track Mileage When Using Your Car for Business: Personal cars are used for business in many occupations. Mileage connected to business is usually a reimbursable expense. This should be tracked. 

Action: The business should have a separate business insurance policy covering times the personal car is used for business purposes. The fine print in their current policy likely covers personal use only. When tallying daily expenditures, tally mileage, too. It’s easier if you have calculate set distance for the places you usually visit.

3. Draw Up a Document When You Lend Personal Money to Your Business: This is another “running things from the same pocket” that can get clients into trouble. Your client might need to lend their business money. There needs to be a paper trail.

Action: This is easy. Before writing a check or making a transfer, compose a simple letter between yourself and the business detailing the amount and date of the loan. Include the check or transfer confirmation number. Keep a file of these letters.

4. Organize Monthly Statements and Bills Upon Arrival: Many taxpayers go through piles of credit card and bank statements, assembling yet another pile to send to their accountant. Something is always missing. There’s got to be a better way.

Action: There is a better way  Each month, start a file folder for that month’s bills. When you have paid a bill, put the statements or a printed record into the folder. Start a new folder each month. As tax time approaches, you have 12 folders with bank and credit card statements. Other bills too.

5. Pay Personal Bills Upon Receipt: It seems to take longer and longer for companies to acknowledge receipt of payments. Maybe the mail is slow. They are excellent at applying late charges the moment you exceed the grace period. 

Action: Just pay those bills the day they arrive. Some larger bills, like property taxes, offer a small discount if you pay in advance. Bearing in mind bank accounts are paying close to zero in interest, that 2 percent early payment savings can be a great deal.

6. Review Your Credit Card Statements Every Month: Everyone knows they should do it. Few people save receipts. Here’s a wake up call for your client. Fraudsters know you will notice a $500 dubious charge. It makes sense for them to try passing through tiny charges, one per month. They increase month to month. It lets them know who doesn’t check their statements. Then comes the big charge!

Action: Review your statement for unknown or out of the ordinary charges. The overseas car rental that took place while you were locked down in the US. Call your credit card company and report the dubious charge.

7. Know What You are Paying Your Broker: Ask for a discount. Take the time to tally the fees your pay your financial advisor. If you are getting good service, it’s often money well spent. It’s important to know the amount.

Action: If you feel the amount is excessive, politely ask for a discount. You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. It’s often easier to retain a current client compared to finding a new one. If you feel you are being taken for a ride, start shopping around.

8. Compare Monthly Bills vs. the Previous Month: Companies raise fees, but they usually don’t blow a trumpet. You might have made your move because of an attractive “introductory rate.” You need to know when the introduction is over.

Action: Know your options by doing some research beforehand. Call your provider. Reference the higher fee and ask for an explanation. Quote the competitor’s rate. Ask if there is anything they can do. You might be surprised to see your rate go down. 

9. Shop Around for Health Insurance: It’s a big expense. It usually rises much faster than inflation. It’s easy to stick with your current provider. Inertia is powerful.

Action: Shop around. Consumer magazines should provide comparisons and recommended selections. You need independent advice. 

10. Pay in Cash or with a Debit Card When Possible: Many people are surprised by the cumulative total of their monthly credit card spending. They pay the minimum, rolling over the balance at a 15 percent or higher interest rate.

Action: Try paying in cash for groceries, coffee, lunch, cocktails and gasoline. Another alternative is using your debit card. You know how much you have available  This should act as a natural brake on spending.

11. Treat Your Service Providers Like Your Company Treats Vendors: Your firm reviews vendor relationships. They put out Requests for Proposal (RFPs). Companies know they must compete for the business. 

Action: You buy services too. Examples are personal insurance and wireless services.  At least once a year, check out the competition. There are people who want to win your business.

Inertia is powerful. It’s also expensive. Showing your client how they can save money enhances the value you bring to the relationship.

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