March 11, 2021
How Can Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) Be Integrated Into Financial Planning?   

Finances are an essential part of anyone’s life. For Julie Fortin, she fell in love with intimately working with others to help them make decisions about their finances. After earning her master’s degree and working in the institutional side of financial planning as a CFP® she searched for local firms that advise via a fee. From there she shifted to a firm with advisors that were mostly women. “When I was studying for the CFP® exam I had a young child at home and was a little isolated professionally,” she said.  Fortin has found much empowerment and pride in working at a women’s firm that mostly helps other women.  

What is Interpersonal Neurobiology?

Fortin explained that interpersonal neurobiology has been evolving research since the 1990s. It is an interdisciplinary framework that includes research from over a dozen different and unrelated scientific disciplines. These patterns of unrelated scientific disciplines are studied. The neuroscience aspect looks at the way the brain changes and how it is influenced by different relationships. The clinically-based evidence looks at the way the brain grows and it is focused on well-being relevant to industries with relationships, well-being, and leadership/coaching explained Fortin. “It really does a great job of translating neuroscience into approaches and a framework that we can use with clients in financial planning,” she said. 

A Shift In Work 

There are four main concepts of Interpersonal Neurobiology; Integration, Neuroplasticity, Attunement, and Micro Awareness. In recent years, Fortin has observed a shift from financial products and sales into the realm of quality of life. A shift I think a lot of industries are currently experiencing due to the pandemic and many working from home. Fortin described the shift as the technicality and the quality of life merging together. 

To develop a greater quality of life Fortin suggests developing deeper client relationships and connections. This is beneficial for the client as they will have someone they trust in the condition of an uncertain change. “At the end of the day it’s really not about the client having more assets in their account or on paper, it’s about what they feel those assets are going to be able to provide for them or allow them to do,” she said. 

The Importance of Clients Being Financially Integrated

Fortin describes integration as the fundamental process of well-being. In order to achieve a sense of well-being, Fortin said it must be first recognized where clients are not integrated with their financial lives. Having this unique ability and relationship with clients will help them move towards a financially integrated space. Therefore giving the clients the opportunity to think about the future and have those conversations that they might not be having. An important and beneficial part of financial planning is being able to reflect on current practices and have the opportunity to think and discuss them out loud. 

“Without knowing what somebody wants and what their values and goals are the plan can’t be built. If someone is coming into the office and you’re not going deeper on about what they desire they will probably say what they’ve heard about, like retirement,” Fortin said. Therefore it is important to develop a relationship with one another and build trust to then put numbers to paper.  

What is Attunement?

Attunement is the ability of the brain to rewire itself in response to interpersonal and intrapersonal, said Fortin. Therefore it is being able to understand deeply when in a moment to know how we are feeling while being present with another person. 

Interpersonal is the client and yourself. It is hard to detect another’s emotions that aren’t your own. Intrapersonal is about yourself. It is important to reset your frame of mind before meeting a client. Having a clear mind and being centered helps to talk to the client. Like most things, you must be present and use emotional intelligence to detect and understand what is happening in front of you. 

Being Stressed is Unavoidable

Stress is going to be present in a lot of meetings, every day. By staying attuned to the client’s emotions you can acknowledge if something has shifted or what the client may be feeling. When with a client Fortin believes is 75% listening and 25% talking. “Financial planners train to give advice and answers. Sometimes it takes a lot of self-control to not say something when you want to, it’s part of the practice,” she said. 

Her advice is to get comfortable with silence. Pause and wait in case the client wants to say something, ‘The whole point of the process is to get the client clarity for themselves. It will give them calm and control again,” she said. When this happens Fortin suggests reflecting back to them when they talk. She encourages planners and advisors to use open-ended questions using how and what, as well as encouraging the client to self-understand. “I don’t think there’s going to be one size fits all like many things. I think the integration into financial planning will look different depending on the type of firm,” she said. 

Parting Advice to Younger Planners

Fortin’s parting advice was focused on younger planners, “I think it’s such an exciting time in our industry. I’m excited for younger planners that are just coming into the industry. I can’t imagine a better time as there are so many options now,” she said. She further spoke about growth in the presence of women in the industry with new young, female professionals. On the whole, Fortin believes that many women innately have the skills that are required for a non-technical job of being a financial advisor. Lastly, her advice guided towards anyone said, “Focus on what aspects of financial planning really excite you and explore that more.”

Fortin 1400x1400About Julie Fortin:

Julie Fortin, CFP®, FBS®, CeFT®, is a Partner and Wealth Manager at Northstar Financial Planning, a women-owned, holistic, financial planning firm dedicated to enriching the lives of women and couples by helping them use their money to achieve their life, family, and legacy goals. Julie holds an MS in Finance degree from Suffolk University and a graduate certificate in Financial Psychology and Behavioral Finance from Creighton University. She is a Certified Financial Planner professional®, a Certified Financial Behavior Specialist®, and a Certified Financial Transitionist®. She has been quoted in publications including the New York Times and Nerdwallet and published in the Journal of Financial Planning. Julie volunteers with the programs Junior Achievement and Invest in Girls. She serves on the board of the Financial Therapy Association.

Chia-Li Chien, PhD, CFP®, PMP®About the Host:

Dr. Chia-Li Chien is a succession program director at Value Growth Institute, a succession consulting practice dedicated to helping business owners increase their firms’ equity value. Before her private consulting practice, she held several senior management positions in Fortune 500 companies. Dr. Chien is a director of the financial planning program at the School of Management at California Lutheran University. Dr. Chien is a frequent speaker about succession and retirement planning at national conferences and has published three award-winning books, including her most recent publication, “Enhancing Retirement Success Rates in the United States.” Dr. Chien serves on the boards of various national financial service associations. She holds a doctorate in financial planning and is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) as well as Project Management Professional (PMP®).

Rosie BakerAbout the Author:

Rosie Baker is an undergraduate student at California Lutheran University, graduating in May 2021. She is studying Communication with an emphasis in PR and Advertising and has a minor in Creative Writing. In July 2020, she published her first book, Mirrors & Windows: Unlocking a New Framework to Envision Your Success, with New Degree Press.



Dr. Chien interviewed Julie Fortin, CFP®, FBS®, CeFT®, on “How Can Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) Be Integrated Into Financial Planning?” on March 11, 2021, at 11 am PST

Financial planning is not just about increasing and safeguarding the client’s wealth but also their overall well-being.  In this session, we will discuss the following questions:

  • What is Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB)?
  • Why can integrating Interpersonal Neurobiology into the financial planning approach improve the client’s overall net worth and quality of life?
  • How to integrate IPNB techniques into the financial planning process?
  • When planners sense the client’s stress, what are the steps the planner can follow to change the narrative?
  • What is attunement: knowing oneself and others?
  • How to integrate IPNB into the financial planning business model?

Register now, and you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. This is a webinar you won’t want to miss!


Fortin, J., Jansen, M., & Klontz, B. T. (2020). Integrating interpersonal neurobiology into financial planning: practical applications to facilitate well-being. Journal of Financial Planning, 33(5), 46–47.

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