Family Matters: 3 Ways Your Financial Advisor Can Help Yours Run Smoothly
As a financial advisor, I talk a lot with clients about their goals. It probably comes as no surprise that, more often than not, a client's goals are not just about him or her—but about family.
On any given day, for example, I might speak to ...
A parent planning how to pay for their child's future college education
An adult child handling finances for an aging parent
A grandparent helping to financially support a grandchild
A young couple juggling childcare with eldercare
A couple nearing retirement providing financial support to an adult child
Siblings settling the estate for a recently deceased parent
Rarely, it seems, do we make financial decisions that do not in some way touch or influence other family members across the generational spectrum. Although most people probably don't think about it when they hire a financial advisor, understanding these family relationships and their unique dynamics is an important and daily part of my job.
A financial advisor who knows and understands how your family works can be a valuable partner throughout all stages of life, during times of both stability and difficulty. Here are three examples of the different roles I can play to help ensure your family's financial life runs as smoothly as possible.
Facilitating Family Communication
When it comes to issues that can be difficult to discuss, money is right up there. According to a 2014 Wells Fargo study, 44% of those surveyed ranked personal as the toughest conversation topic—above death, politics and religion.
In another 2013 study by Merrill Lynch and consulting firm Age Wave, more than half (58%) of adults over the age of 50 had not discussed key financial issues with their children, such as retirement plans, estate plans or health directives.
As you can guess, there is a future cost to not addressing these topics sooner than later.
Whether or not money is a difficult topic in your family, I am available—at your request and direction—to help facilitate financial communication and engagement among family members. Examples may include:
Extending an initial hand of introduction to adult children (or other designated family members) before any need arises.
Keeping a spouse who does not typically handle the household finances informed and involved in the financial planning process
Inviting an adult child to sit in on a parent's financial review
Advising young adult children just starting the down path of financial independence
Helping family members navigate estate issues when someone dies
Of course, as your financial advisor, any communication with family members is conducted only with your permission and with the utmost concern for your privacy.
Preparing for Emergency
Do you have a plan if something happens to you unexpectedly—like illness, disability or worse? Hopefully, you have a will and other legal estate planning documents prepared. But even more immediate than dealing with those, there may be family members who will need to step in right away to help handle your financial affairs.
Letting me know now who those designated individuals may be (and likewise, letting them know about me) can be an enormous stress and time saver should an emergency ever arise.
You may also want to inform me about any individuals who do not have your permission to speak with me or act on your behalf.
I will keep all of this information confidential and in my files, ready if it should ever be needed.
Supporting the Aging Process
No one likes to think about it, but there may come a day for many of us when cognitive decline becomes a liability, and we can no longer manage our own personal finances.
As we age, we also become more vulnerable to financial scams or unethical con artists (sadly, often other family members) who prey on those with diminished mental capacity. I went through it with my mom—and know many families who have also faced this with an aging parent.
I can say from personal experience that there is no simple, one-size-fits-all prescription for determining when and how intervention may be necessary as we age. But open discussion about it among family, before the situation becomes dire, is important—as is having a durable power of attorney (and possibly a living trust) set up in advance.
We plan for many risks in life—and planning for the risk of dementia is increasingly becoming an important one. As a financial advisor, I can work with authorized family members should you ever reach this stage.
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Alex Haley, the author of Roots, writes: "In every conceivable manner, the family is a link to our past, a bridge to our future." I see every day how this plays out in my clients' financial lives.
If I am already working with you and your family, thank you for the trust you put in me as you navigate life's most important financial decisions. It is an honor and responsibility I take seriously.
If we have not yet had the opportunity to work together, I am always available for a consultation to discuss your family's financial goals and how I may be able to support your needs.
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