The recent market roller-coaster ride was a shock to the system for many investors. But for practitioners of goals-based wealth management, the volatility provided reassurance and confirmation that a strategy emphasizing client goals, rather than beating market benchmarks, works under harsh conditions.

"Clients don't tend to think of themselves in terms of accounts, performance and investments, but rather in terms of their own goals, dreams and aspirations," says Zar Toolan, Wells Fargo's director of advice quality. "The industry has had to make a shift from trying to compete on pure performance to working more with clients around their individual goals. Those are the benchmarks that clients are striving for."

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