Navigating a major life transition can be a very unsettling experience for any of us. If the change is unexpected and unwanted – the loss of a job or a sudden unexpected illness – the shock can be greater. We are out of our comfort zone as we face an unknown future.
I remember two defining moments in my career that involved working with clients who were going through life transitions. The two experiences of walking beside my clients during those transitions were very significant to me and affirmed my decision to work as a financial planner.
I remember my first meeting with a very distinguished attorney and his wife from the main line near Philadelphia. I could tell by his classic bow tie and suit, several sizes too big for him now, that he had enjoyed a successful career in law. But now when he spoke, he trembled. His wife finished for him. He was dying and afraid. He wanted to make sure that someone was there to help his wife keep her financial house in order when he was gone. He had spent his whole career serving others, now he needed a planner to care for his wife. He needed the assurance that all he had worked for would be managed properly.
I knew at that moment that managing a financial plan was much more than dollars and cents, it was also about managing people’s expectations and emotions. It was about serving people well by creating long-term plans that gave them comfort knowing that they and their loved ones would not have to stress later in life, but instead, be able to live fulfilling and productive lives until the end of their days.
Another defining moment came when a client was sensing that retirement was on the horizon. After creating an income plan to make sure he and his wife didn’t run out of money and become a burden on their family, they proposed having a family meeting with an attorney, their three children with their spouses, and me to talk through what life would look like after they were gone. The dinner meeting was a moving experience with plenty of laughing and crying. Imagine your parents saying, “This is what your Mom and I will be doing for you and your family after we are gone.” They articulated a clear plan to the next generation. The meeting was open, refreshing and left no room for interpretation.
Being present when a family needs you is an honor and a blessing. In these moments I am reminded of what a privilege it is to serve our clients that have entrusted us to help them in life’s major transitions.