Is It My Job to Save a Client from Himself?
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.
I have a client who is struggling with whether or not to retire. He has had a couple of friends contract COVID-19 and knows two other people, through friends of friends, who have died from the virus. He isn’t a religious guy, but he told me this experience has given him soul-searching time and he is wondering if he is making a difference in his work or if he should just quit and, “do something good.”
He isn’t a wealthy man – a total of about $1.5 million in liquid assets and a home paid off worth about $550k. He is only 62-years old and he will be making a big financial mistake to do this. However, I am trapped because his reasoning is somewhat spiritual and deep. He is thinking about his mortality and determining what he wants to do and be in life. But, if he doesn’t find ways to make money and his lives a long time, he could easily run out of funds.
I’m neither a therapist nor a counselor. I do not feel equipped to deal with this and effectively guide him. I have my own biases because I am an investment person and so I look at the financial equation. But I don’t want him going to some life coach who will tell him to follow his heart and then he winds up broke and homeless.
How caring of you to be concerned about meeting the varied needs of your client. And yes, one of the things I hear most frequently from my advisor clients is the push-pull between having plenty of money for future goals (the biggest being retirement), but wanting to spend now on the things they care about, be it for altruistic reasons or to enjoy their money while they can. It can sometimes feel like a balancing act to figure out the right juxtaposition between these too. It’s especially hard when a client does not have vast resources. The choices they make matter a lot about how their future will look.
You are right to believe you need to play a life-coach and a financial-expert role. Helping your client to think through really matters and what’s most important to him is a key part of what he has hired you to do. Your client could be reacting to what’s happening and responding without fully considering the impact so you must help think about this from a variety of angles.