Financial advisors often handle getting their clients’ affairs in order in case they die, but when it comes to succession planning for their own practices, that is often another matter entirely.

Many financial advisors put off forming a concrete succession plan because of the fear of what they will do next, Denise Federer, a consultant, coach and psychologist, with Federer Performance Management Group, told an audience of about 100 female financial advisors at the Women Advisors Forum in Newport Beach, Calif., on Thursday.

“By not making a plan you are being selfish,” Federer said. “You are not considering your clients and what’s best for them.”

Financial advisors who have not yet formed a succession plan need to ask themselves if they died today, would their family benefit from their business? Would their clients see a smooth transition? And the answer to those questions is likely no, according to Federer.

“If you care about your clients and your family the way you say you do and I know you do, it’s time,” Federer said.

To start, financial advisors who have put off succession planning need to look at what fears have held them back, their “transition terrors,” Federer said. That could include not wanting to lose control or not knowing what career move to make next.

Next, financial advisors can start to form a plan by writing it down. That includes forming a personal mission statement, coming up with definite goals and then specific behavioral steps to take to reach those ambitions.

Deciding what direction to head next from a financial advisory practice does not have to be an all or nothing decision, Federer said.

“How do you know when do go? And do you have to go all at once? I don’t think so in this industry,” Federer said. “I think there’s a role for you to be a consultant and do other things in the industry, if you choose to.”

One thing that that next step should definitely include: the passion that all financial advisors bring to their practices and their clients today.

“When you think about this next phase of your life, I’d like to think there’s joy in it,” Federer said, “that for most of you, what you do is passionate.”

Shannon Ryan, a financial advisor with Ryan & Associates at Ameriprise Financial, who also spoke at the Women Advisors Forum, said she has been on both sides of succession planning during her career.

Ryan sold her first financial advisory practice in 1999, when she went into management in Dallas and subsequently Southern California, working to hire and train hundreds of financial advisors. But after years of leadership, Ryan said she began wondering if she still had the ability to manage a financial advisory practice.

That led Ryan to purchase a $56 million practice from a retiring financial advisor three and a half years ago. Now, Ryan said, her Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based team has managed to keep 99% of that advisor’s clients while also growing that book of business by more than $100 million in assets.

Ryan credits those transitions for giving her the flexibility to pursue her own personal passions. Earlier this year, Ryan published “The Heavy Purse,” a series of children’s books aimed at promoting financial literacy.

“This is a passion for me. I did not publish books to make money,” Ryan said. “My purpose is I am so driven and so committed that we need to start teaching children early about money.”

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