My wife and I have had a personal financial planner for over 20 years now. I started with one advisor who was in a different part of the state and for the last few years, we have an advisor who is local.
When my clients learn that I have hired a personal financial planner, they do wonder and ask questions. Why would I need a financial planner for our family? I have had my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner certification for almost 30 years. I believe I have done everything I can for my family. I believe I have my estate in order, my retirement and non-retirement assets are invested properly and diversified, I have the proper amount of life insurance, disability insurance and long-term care insurance, I have set goals for my family, and I have made sure my kids are going to be ok when I am no longer here. Again, why would I, having been a financial planner myself for over 34 years, need to have a financial planner?
The first financial planner we hired, we did so because I did not have the confidence that I did indeed have everything taken care of. I needed a second pair of eyes to assess our situation. I also wanted to learn from him. I had my scheduled annual date night with my wife for over 5 years where we reviewed our assets, our insurance plans, where passwords were located, etc. This was our opportunity to pour a glass of wine, sit down around a table and talk about where we were as a couple and set our goals for the next 1, 5 and 10 years. So, while she appreciated my efforts, I am not sure she was as interested in this as I was. She assumed I had everything under control. Naturally, her world revolved around raising our three children and maintaining the home we had built for our family. She was a very busy mother and wife, and she knew we were ok.
Over time, I told her stories of my clients unexpectantly passing away, leaving widows “in the dark”. These are the same clients we had where I had tried to convince the spouses that they need to have that “second set of eyes”. At this point, I had been in the business for about 13-15 years. We then decided to hire our first financial planner.
Our first financial planner, David (and his wife), were friends of both of ours. I knew Michelle was comfortable with him. I hired him to “double check” what I have done and come up with suggestions to improve our situation. During the process, Michelle did admit that this type of talk didn’t excite her. She followed along with much of this, but she didn’t want to think about me not being here. She started to realize how important this was to me, and ultimately, she understood the need for this exercise.
Fast forward to 6-8 years ago. We decided to switch financial planners. Not because we were not happy with David, but we simply thought it was more important to have someone that was more local. Within our local office, we had MANY very qualified financial planners to choose from. I asked my wife, “If I wasn’t here, WHO would you be comfortable working with on a regular basis to make sure you and the kids would be ok?” It was important to me, but it should be more important to her to choose. She was going to be the one to work with him long term. I went through the entire process again with the new financial planner. Why? Again, I knew where we are, where we were going, but this new advisor didn’t. It would have not been fair for me, Michelle and our new advisor NOT to have conversations about what was important to both of us about our current situation and our dreams moving forward. He is “in the loop” on our financial decisions. He helped review our current living trust that we have in place. He was able to point out a couple points within the trust that we should re-think. He is someone that is as comfortable calling me to check in, as he is calling Michelle. Recently, he has asked to have Nick, our oldest child, involved in these planning meetings.
Again, having helped many of my clients over these years, I have had these conversations. I would like to meet the other spouse. I believe many are uncomfortable having someone look at what they have done in the planning. They may know there are holes that they need to fill and may be embarrassed to share that. I assure them that I have seen MANY clients, I doubt they will be the worst I have seen. I will continue to treat my trusted clients with the respect they deserve and move forward with steps that can help.
Sometimes, our clients just haven’t thought it would be much trouble if they leave their spouse with the current situation. They assume their situation is not too complicated. The spouse will work it out. That, in my opinion, is asking too much. Having helped so many clients AFTER the fact, I KNOW how difficult this is. Even the most “simple situations”. I also know as a financial planner coming into this late, I do not know what the deceased spouse’s thoughts were for their family, with many unanswered questions.
Honestly, one of the comments I hear that I am frustrated with is what the “trusting spouse” says about the “take charge spouse”; “they have it all under control”. Then when I ask the trusting spouse a couple basic questions, they cannot answer. It is hard to admit to myself that some just don’t want help, although I KNOW they need help.
I have resulted to asking my clients, if we are doing any work for them, for the opportunity to meet the spouse. Maybe you don’t need to hire a financial planner, but at least form a relationship with a trusted advisor that knows your family and your dreams. Having a second opinion on what you have already done will never be a waste of time. If nothing else, both of you should be able to sleep better knowing that the other spouse is going to be ok.
I will finish with a conversation I just had with one of my college friends. I have had this conversation MANY times. The husband, in this situation, took care of most of the finances for the family. I was sitting with both of them, and I told the husband he couldn’t talk….pretend he had passed away and the wife was now alone trying to figure things out. I start by asking questions to the wife. What is the first thing you do financially if he is gone? Are you staying in your current house (with the memories) or are you moving? Where would you move? Why? What money would you use to make this happen? Would you move closer to the kids? If not, are you planning on visiting the kids (and grandkids) periodically? How much will that cost? What about health insurance? Is current health insurance through husband’s employer? How much will that cost? Now fortunately, this is a very old friend, so she knows she would call me. Do you have a trusted third-party advisor that you can call?
This is my WHY. This is why I do what I do. I will tell you more about my younger life before college in a later blog, but I have seen many challenges. These are the challenges I am trying to help my friends/client avoid.
Find someone to do some “family planning” sooner rather than later.