How the Big Five Model Can Change Your Approach to Financial Advising

Financial advisors need to be able to talk to their clients about death. A major part of helping someone with their finances is guiding them through end-of-life and estate planning. Unfortunately, it’s not easy.

Every client has a unique personality, and that means that they will react to these subjects differently. Some clients may enthusiastically jump into working on their will. Others may need quite a bit of cajoling before they’ll begin to address anything related to their own mortality. C’est la vie… or c’est la mort.

A good financial advisor will understand how to present these topics in a way that minimizes stress for each client. One incredibly powerful tool that can help you do that is the Big Five. It’s a verified scientific model of personality that will allow you to understand your current and prospective clients on a deeper level.

The Five Traits Explained

The Big Five model breaks down personality into (you guessed it!) five unique traits. The five traits are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. You can think of them like this:


Big Five model trait 1: Openness


Big Five model trait 2: Conscientiousness


Big Five model trait 3: Extraversion


Trait 4: Agreeableness


Trait 5: Neuroticism

Using the Big Five Model to Your Advantage

How can you, as a financial advisor, take advantage of the Big Five? By tailoring your advice to match a client’s personality profile. Try to get a sense of where they fall on the spectrum of each trait — or have them take a Big Five personality quiz — and use that knowledge to guide your approach.

For example, if your client is high in openness, they will appreciate new, creative strategies. You can probably get them excited about estate planning by introducing them to a novel way of doing things. An example of this might be establishing a new type of trust or investment account.

Another example: if you know that a client is low in conscientiousness, that means that you are going to need to offer them much more “hand-holding” with their planning. You know they aren’t likely to do the work on their own, so you should set aside more time to help them finish their will or medical directives. 

It can even be useful to consider how Big Five traits interact with one another. For example, if a prospective client is both agreeable and introverted, they probably won’t immediately react negatively to an investment strategy that you present in a meeting — even if they think your strategy is a terrible idea. Instead, you’ll want to give that client time to think through those ideas on their own — and then give them plenty of space to offer an honest response to your suggestions.

The goal isn’t to break your client down into a series of numbers that will provide you with the optimal way of tackling hard subjects, though. Instead, you should aim to use the Big Five as a supplemental tool that lets you understand the person you’re working with. This can lead to more efficient client meetings and a better working relationship with your clients and their families.

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