For an advisor, working with clients during the happy, prosperous times is great. When the future looks rosy, creating a solid retirement plan can feel easy. But life isn’t always smooth and a major life event that can throw a client’s finances into turmoil is always lurking just around the corner. Sometimes, things beyond our control throw a serious spanner in the works. A marriage breakdown or divorce, a major health event, being forced to care for elderly parents, or having a child decide to they want to go to university (or move back home after university); all have the potential to throw a client’s plan into disarray.
“The number one thing an advisor can do is to ensure a client has some form of a written financial plan that has contingencies for these different types of events,” explains Darren Ulmer, an advisor at Sun Life Financial. “Advisors should help create holistic financial plans that can be adjusted should a client fall ill, get divorced, or if the market changes.”
Ulmer knows from personal experience how big an impact an expected event can have: at the age of 42, he was diagnosed with cancer. “When I went through my cancer diagnosis, although I was the one who was sick, it affected my whole family including my parents,” Ulmer says. “That’s why it’s important for advisors to not just take care of people financially but to also provide them with resources. Advisors should be there as a confidant and not just a person who deals with the money.”
Ulmer also encourages advisors to focus on what a client needs their money to achieve. Is that client prepared to go through a divorce and pay for two households and alimony? Are they ready to coordinate government benefits, disability coverage and long term-care insurance if they suffer a health issue? A client should have a plan in place that not only enables them to navigate these tough times, but also allows them to live the life they desire in retirement.
“Advisors should focus on the whole person; conversations shouldn’t solely be around the money, it’s about people” Ulmer says. “We become not just a financial advisor, but a family consultant. An advisor can become important to the entire family, not only the client who is going through the event.”
Adopting a consultative approach has enabled Ulmer to expand his business. When he works with a client going through tough times, their family and friends recognize the value he brings and are likely to enlist his services when they need help planning for their own future. “We need to remember that we are here to serve clients and we need to listen, look for alternatives and focus on their wellbeing,” Ulmer says. “It’s about the whole person and their family.
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