I specialise in advising people on the financial aspects of their later lives. Many of my clients are aged in their fifties and upwards. Most of them come to their first consultation with their partners, if they have one, and I love to see that, but what I like even more is when an adult child or children come along too.
Because when the next generation is represented at the meeting it means things are going to come out into the open. My clients are going to be transparent, or more transparent, about their wishes, and that is a good thing. It’s one thing knowing what you want (and often people don’t) but when you do know, it’s important to make sure your loved ones know your mind too. This can be a weak link in the chain.
There are others.
It has become clear to me that there are five steps in the financial planning process regardless of the ‘problem’ that brings them to me. They are: Think, Talk, Tell, Record, Review.
There is the potential for the process to grind to a halt at each step. For example, if we never give ourselves the time to think about these important matters, we don’t even get to first base.
The value of someone like me is the ability to help my clients move through the steps to get to the end of the process despite the natural weaknesses.
Inviting adult children along to meetings is a great way to ensure my clients get from step two (Talk), to step three (Tell), and from three on to four, recording their wishes in a document, or even a simple will if they haven’t already made one.
I’ll share a couple of examples with you to show how this has worked in practice.
Tackling the Source of Anxiety
We tend to think that any anxiety over health or money as we grow older will arise only within ourselves and our partners. In fact, the children often feel a low-level anxiety too, which grows as their parents age.
A retired client of mine was working on succession planning with me. I suggested he invite his only child from a previous marriage to attend our session. He agreed and it emerged in the session that the son had been worried about whether his dad had enough money to comfortably cover any medical care he might need. He was also worried about where he stood vis-à-vis inheritance. When his father made his wishes known to the son, their relationship improved enormously. Everybody knew where they stood. The source of the son’s anxiety was gone. Had the son not come to the meeting, that ‘tell’ step may not have happened until my client’s will was read out, however many years hence.
Stuck in a Moment
Another client has a genuine interest in death as a philosophical and theological concept. He is more than happy to think about it and talk about it, but his wishes in the event of his mental or physical incapacity ran somewhat contrary to those of his wife and children. The meeting, which was attended by an adult child, was emotionally challenging, but the fact that I was there as a facilitator, an experienced third party, prevented it from becoming a free-for-all. We didn’t manage to record his wishes on that occasion, but, having allowed the dust to settle, it is my job to go back to that family and move them gently along to the ‘record’ step. I will remind them that the decisions recorded can always be changed in the future – the final step is ‘review’ after all – but it is important to note them now. Were that man to pass away tomorrow, his wife and son would know his wishes, but because he hadn’t got them down in a document with legal standing, there is no guarantee they’d be honoured.
Occasionally it is the adult child who engages me. In one case, a bankruptcy had left the parents vulnerable at a time when their earning potential was minimal, and two of their children took the initiative of stepping in to help. They used me as a sounding board. I brought the children through any consequences they might personally encounter from the course of action they were proposing, and we then explored the idea with the parents.
In this case, the children, being the ‘junior’ party, wanted the experience and knowledge of a qualified adviser on their side so they didn’t fall into the traditional parent-child roles. It gave their proposal a weight that was hard for the parents to ignore. The parents wanted to be sure that the children would not suffer any adverse effects from what they were proposing.
Two generations sitting around the table together, sharing their deepest thoughts about the things that even the people closest to us tend not to talk about, leads to better decisions, and better family relations. The adult children often say to me after a meeting with their parents, It’s such a relief to know what they want. It’s all out in the open. Nobody has to guess or speculate.
So that’s the number one benefit of children attending meetings with their parents – transparency.
Bob Quinn is a CFP and principal of ‘The Money Advisers’, a bespoke financial planning firm based in Ireland. The majority of clients are those transitioning to retirement and focused on succession and estate planning. Bob set up the business in late 2010 when there was an evident need for some straight talking in the financial services industry. As a single adviser firm, clients are advised by him and him alone on an ongoing basis. For more, see www.themoneyadvisers.ie.