Financial advisers need to know a lot about you so they can provide suitable advice.
This means asking lots of personal questions, a process referred to in regulatory terms as ‘know your customer’.
These personal questions will, obviously, focus on financial matters; how much you have, how much you owe and how much you need.
The questions will also stray into areas including relationships, aspirations and health.
This is all done with the goal of making recommendations that are right for you.
Discussing our health with someone can be difficult. It’s not much fun to chat about health conditions with someone else, even with a medical professional, let alone a financial adviser!
And if you think it’s awkward for you, spare a thought for your adviser!
Some new research carried out by insurer Standard Life has found that 34% of advisers feel very comfortable talking about underlying health conditions with their clients.
The research, carried out in partnership with Endometriosis UK, also found that 8% of advisers admitted to feeling uncomfortable when discussing potential health issues with their clients.
This was mainly the case when the health issues at stake were considered ‘invisible’. These health conditions are not immediately apparent.
An example of an invisible illness is endometriosis.
This is a long-term condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other parts of the body, often causing unrelenting pain and infertility.
Endometriosis impacts the lives of sufferers every single day, and on average results in the loss of £40,000 of earnings during the average seven-year-long wait for a diagnosis.
It’s a big deal because endometriosis affects an estimated 1.5 million women in the UK.
Despite such large numbers of women living with the condition, awareness of endometriosis is relatively low, even within the medical profession.
Standard Life found that it takes an average of 7.5 years for women in the UK to receive a diagnosis of endometriosis.
Their research found that 40% of women living with endometriosis had ten or more GP appointments before being referred to a specialist.
Within the financial advice profession, there is some knowledge of the condition, but 22% of advisers admitted to never having heard of endometriosis.
A further 24% of financial advisers didn’t know whether an invisible illness like endometriosis could have an impact on how their client approached financial planning.
And a further 10% thought endometriosis didn’t have any financial or physical consequences for sufferers.
This last finding was particularly interesting because 87% of women with endometriosis believe the condition has hurt their long-term financial position.
Research presented at the recent Endometriosis UK Conference found that more than half of women with endometriosis saw their earnings reduced as a result.
44% of women living with endometriosis felt unable to save money for the future, and 28% depleted their cash savings as a direct result of the condition.
This led to the loss of earnings and the inability to save for the future being described as two significant concerns for women with endometriosis.
With the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) placing more attention on how the financial services sector treats vulnerable customers, those living with invisible illnesses need to be assured of good outcomes.
Barry O’Dwyer, CEO of Standard Life Savings, said:
“Invisible illnesses shouldn’t be a taboo and we must do more to understand why that barrier exists, as it can have such far-reaching impact on planning and advice.
“One in ten women in the UK suffers from endometriosis, many of whom struggle with their long-term financial planning, and it’s vital that we as an industry do more to support them. For many, planning for the future is challenging enough without the added complication of an invisible illness.”
It’s good to see Standard Life presenting this research and encouraging financial advisers (and their clients) to get more comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations.
When speaking with your financial adviser, please do share what you might consider being irrelevant information about your health.
Advisers don’t ask personal questions for fun; there is always a purpose behind any questions they ask so the best possible advice can be delivered.