Great Fact-Finding Questions To Engage Clients About Retirement

People often ask me whether I miss being out in the field now that I am a full time trainer and speaker. My answer is always the same: I love what I do now, but the one thing I miss most is executing the fact-finder interview with a new prospective client.

Some times in the industry this is called a data-gathering meeting or an information-gathering meeting. I happen to refer to it as a fact-finder meeting, but they all mean the same thing.

I truly believe that being able to connect with a client over a fact-finder meeting is a gift, although it comes with the highest level of responsibility. The gift is the fact that we really get to see an intimate relationship being formed.

We get to ask clients questions that even their best friends and other family members don’t get to ask them. We get to learn about the inner person. I really enjoy this part of the business.

While there are a number of key aspects to conducting a successful fact-finding meeting, here we’ll focus on one: great questions to kick off the retirement planning section.

What’s Your Mindset

Before I share these questions, I want to tell you that the most important thing advisors can do during the fact-finder is leave their needs at the door. Far too often I see financial advisors using the fact-finder meeting as an excuse to manipulate the client.

So many times, reps focus on what they need to say and the questions they need to ask to land the client. They try to convince their lead that he or she needs whatever the rep most wants to sell. This could not be a worse mistake.

This misguided and dangerous technique is one of the single largest reasons our industry gets a bad reputation. With this in mind, before you walk into the fact-finder meeting with a new client, you must leave your needs outside that door and remain totally focused on the client’s needs.

To truly focus on the client’s needs, we must work on developing our skill sets around being completely present in the meeting. Don’t let your mind wander to earlier events, tasks you still need to get done before going to your next meeting, or whatever is going on in your personal life.

You need to give this person the gift of your presence. It’s one of the most precious gifts you can give anyone, as it makes him or her feel as if they were the only person that exists on the planet during the hour that you were with them.

Truly listen by truly trying to understand everything they say. This is the mindset we want when we go in. The reason being, other than the fact that it is the right thing to do, is that you’ll really understand where they need your help.

Almost 100% of the clients in the more than 3,000 fact-finder interviews I did in the first decade of my career had financial problems and needs. This is consistent with everybody in our country. Understanding this is important so you don’t try to manipulate people into working with you. All you need is to be genuine and listen to your client. They will tell you what they need.

Great Fact Finding Questions On Retirement

What I enjoy most about discussing retirement with my clients is that everybody has a story. Depending on a client’s age, it could be about their grandma and grandpa, or mom and dad, or even in-laws.

Your clients have a perspective on planning appropriately for retirement from older family members. They probably also have an idea of what it’s like to be inappropriately prepared, as well as the consequences of not preparing for retirement.

Motivate your clients to discuss retirement by asking them about their parents’ situation. The first thing questions I would ask would include things like:

Are Mom and Dad still living?
Are they retired?
Can you tell me about their retirement?
How financially comfortable are they?
If they are comfortable, what do you think contributed to that?
If they’re not comfortable, why is that?
What did you learn from your parents?
What is it that your parents did financially that you’d like to do?
What are some financial decisions that your parents made that you want to avoid?

Urging your clients to tell the stories about how they’ve been impacted by witnessing older family members will help you understand them better and will also give them the gift of starting to think about the importance of retirement planning.

Continuing the Retirement Fact-Finding Section

Let’s face it, to be financially successful in retirement you must learn how to make self-sacrifices and embrace delayed gratification. Most Americans have no clue what that’s like. Your client’s ability to touch those emotional purse strings through this process will be the greatest impact you can have on their lives.

Once you have Mr. or Mrs. Prospect talking about and seriously thinking about retirement, now you’re in a great position to continue the fact-finding session on this topic. You’ll want to get the answers to more typical retirement planning questions, such as their current financial situation and their retirement goals, ask many additional thought-provoking questions to really understand their story, and then close the meeting with great intentionality.


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