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    What is Your Financial Advisor Doing For You?

    A few months ago I had the privilege of attending a weekend retreat sponsored by Money Quotient (moneyquotient.org), a non-profit organization focused on assisting financial advisors to take a life-centered approach to financial planning.

    My visit opened my eyes to the possibility that financial advisors don’t need to concentrate entirely on their client’s rates of return, asset allocation and retirement income targets to succeed. They can actually work with a client to discover their values and priorities and create a financial plan aligned with their life goals.

    You may have noticed that a number of so-called robo-advisors are popping everywhere. They claim that they can manage your money effectively using computer algorithms. All you have to do is complete their simple questionnaire and transfer your funds to them. For a fraction of the cost of traditional advisors, firms such as Betterment (www.betterment.com) and Wealthfront (www.wealthfront.com) will select a portfolio for you and manage it daily using tax-efficient strategies with their computers.

    Many of the major firms such as Schwab, Vanguard and Fidelity are now offering these low-cost services to be competitive (Schwab’s service is free).

    Investment management is now becoming a commodity.

    So now is the time to ask yourself a simple question, “What is your financial advisor doing for you?” Is he/she just managing your money? Or are they providing other services to meet your needs? Financial services industry consultant, Bob Veres, in his new book, The New Profession, has predicted that the traditional financial advisor who focuses his practice on building assets under management and charging a fee based on the total may soon start to lose market share.

    Veres states that “Professional Financial Planning is reaching the evolutionary stage where the individuals who genuinely care for and about their clients are capturing the public’s mindshare and market share.”  In the future, your financial advisor may look more like a financial coach or financial therapist.

    In recent advertising, the Hartford Funds took out a two-page ad describing their support of financial therapists. They state,” A new kind of financial advisor is helping couples deal with issues that bridge the interpersonal and financial spheres.” In the ad the Hartford states that “we believe in something we call human-centric investing, an approach that seeks a deeper understanding of investors and how emotions, experiences, life stage and psychology affect their views of investing and financial advisors.

    If you are looking strictly for an investment manager, perhaps the robo-advisors will best meet your needs. Or at least you will be able to reduce the costs of your investment management fees if you approach your existing advisor. But if your are looking for a more comprehensive partner who will integrate your investments with the rest of your life, it is time to look carefully at what your advisor is doing for you.

    Perhaps, as Money Quotient states, it is time to look for an advisor who is “putting money in the context of life.”

    What will you do with all your stuff?

    One of the greatest concerns I have noted among older couples is, “What will happen to all our stuff when we are gone?” I can remember having a family meeting with a couple in their 70s and their four adult children and noticed that mom was getting very anxious. At first I thought her anxiety was due to the fact that she was preparing to discuss her end of life planning with her children.

    But when I asked her what her concern was, she responded, “I don’t know what I am going to do with all my stuff! I have several beautiful collections and I don’t want my children fighting over the objects right after my funeral or just putting them out in the yard for a giant garage sale!”

    She admitted to me that she hadn’t slept for several nights thinking about this terrible possibility. She confided in me that her husband still wasn’t talking to his sister after 20 years because she had raided the house when their parents died and taken everything of value before he had even arrived. “I don’t want that happening in my family!” she proclaimed.

    So what did we do? I asked her to describe her valuable collections to her children at the family meeting. She then created a list of all the items and asked each child to review them. If they wanted an item they were asked to put their name next to it. If more than one wanted something, they both listed their names next to it and mom would decide who got it.

    Mom collected the lists after the family meeting, reviewed them over the next few weeks and then reported to her children who would get what. No one disputed her decisions. After all, the collections were hers and she could give them to charity if she chose. The next time I talked to her I noticed her anxiety level was significantly less. She told me that for the first time in a long time she was sleeping very soundly.

    If you are a parent, don’t do your children a disservice. Don’t leave it up to them to decide what to do with your stuff after you are gone. The loveliest relationships are often spoiled by siblings fighting over the silver forks. Meet with your children and tell them what you intend to do. If you are an adult child, strongly suggest to your parents that they follow the procedure my client did. It will save much grief and anxiety for the whole family.

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    Financial Advisors may reprint any articles from The Gift of Communication Blog in your own print or electronic newsletter. But please include the following paragraph:

    Reprinted from Bob Mauterstock’s The Gift of Communication Blog. Subscribe at http://www.GiftofCommunication.com  and receive Bob’s Family Meeting Checklist Guide.

    Share Your Wisdom With Your Children

    Did your parents share their wisdom with you? Did they make you aware of anything they learned from their own successes and failures? Was it helpful to you? Have you thought about sharing your wisdom with your own children?

    Susan Turnbull in her book, “The Wealth of Your Life” reminds us that “What you have learned is as valuable as what you have earned.” If you haven’t taken the time to share the important lessons you learned in life with your children, it’s important to do so now.

    Richard Lieder, a highly respected executive coach, wrote in his book, “Life Reimagined, Discovering Your New Life Possibilities”, “As we move through middle age, the uncertainty of the world moves us to focus on what matters; our own purpose and our connection to others”

    So where do you start? How do you pass on your legacy to the next generation? By writing them a “Legacy Letter”. It is a letter to your family that defines what has been important to you in your life and what you want to pass on.

    First decide whom you want to send the letter to; your children, your spouse, your brothers and sisters

    Second make some notes in the following areas:

    • Your values and the things you did in your life to act on your values
    • Something you learned from your grandparents/ parents/spouse/children
    • Something you learned from experience
    • A mistake that you made that you learned from.
    • Something you learned that you’re grateful for
    • Your hopes for the future

    Now take these notes and weave them into a letter that is addressed to the audience you want to letter to go to. Don’t forget to add stories from your personal life that expand the points you’re trying to make. And just like that you have created a Legacy Letter.

    Share it with your loved ones the next time you get together with them. And always remember, “The gift of communication is the greatest gift you can give your family.”

    Thank You, Hospice!

    In my last post I mentioned a conversation the medical director of my mom’s assisted living residence had with me. She suggested we enter mom into the hospice program. With some trepidation I agreed and met with the hospice nurse who very gently described to me the program that would follow.

    She informed me that a hospice aide would visit with my mom several days a week to help her in any way needed. She, as the assigned hospice nurse, would check in with mom weekly and give me an update. In addition Medicare would provide her with a much more comfortable wheelchair and mattress for her hospital bed.

    I stopped in to see my mother one day when the hospice aide was with her. The aide had gently combed her hair, put cream on her dry skin and dressed her in a lovely dress with matching scarf and earrings. She looked beautiful. The aide commented on what a lovely woman she was.

    After a number of visits in the following three weeks,I could see that my mother was failing. She had a hard time speaking a full sentence, was asleep most of the day and was becoming increasing unresponsive.

    On Sunday morning, November 30th I received a call from the residence that mom was totally unresponsive and was taking rapid short breaths. I called the hospice nurse, picked up my daughter, who was visiting with us, ( my wife was away at a conference) and rushed to the residence.

    The hospice nurse on call arrived before we did. He had given mom medication to ease her pain and make her more comfortable. He assured me that he would be available all day to help in any way needed. It was clear to me that the end was near.

    My daughter and I spent my mom’s last hours with her. She passed away in comfort, in her own bed, holding my hand. I could not have asked for better circumstances for my mother to leave this life.

    A few days later, I though about what would have happened if mom was not in hospice. She would have been transported to the emergency room in an ambulance. A number of nurses and doctors would probably go into action trying to keep her alive. She would die in strange circumstances amidst all the noise and activity of the emergency room, with my daughter and I witnessing her demise from the background.

    Thank you, Broad Reach Hospice for making the end of my mother’s life, gentle, loving and peaceful.

    High Tech Health Care for Boomers

    As I stated in my book, Passing the Torch, Critical Conversations with Your Adult Children, care for seniors will change dramatically as more and more baby boomers join the retiree ranks. Most boomers never want to go near a nursing home and are very averse to ultimately living in a traditional assisted living residence.

    Research has shown the boomers who will need long term care want to stay in their own homes. They don’t want to be shipped off to some institution. But the problem will be finding the people to provide the care for them at home. The pool of available family caregivers is decreasing as more families require two full time incomes to meet expenses. The daughter or daughter-in-law that you traditionally relied on to take care of mom or dad just can’t do it anymore. She is working full-time as as well as taking care of her own family.

    The alternative is to seek home care aides who work independently or through a home care agency. But these people are generally underpaid, not respected and aren’t rewarded for outstanding performance.

    But now the high tech industry is stepping in to provide a better solution. Seth Sternberg, with the help of Marc Andreessen, Apple stores creator Ron Johnson, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppleman, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin and a long, long list of notable Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors has created a firm called Honor.

    Honor will create an online marketplace. Caregivers will be able to list their qualifications, skills, hours they’re able to work and distances they’re willing travel. Seniors will specify the type of help they need, the hours they want and important personal details — that they only speak Mandarin, or that they have cats, or that they live in a multi-story unit. Honor will match caregivers and seniors accordingly, with final approval of the match in the hands of the seniors and their families.

    Honor will also give seniors a custom-built, easy-to-use touchscreen appliance where they will be able to update caregivers on any changes in their needs or condition, so the caregivers will be better prepared when they walk in the door. The devices will also be used to record what services seniors received and for how long, and to allow them to rate the quality of care. Authorized relatives will have access to the information, so they’ll be able to monitor the situation.

    The difficulty for Honor will be to recruit the right people to provide home care services and pay them a reasonable wage. Let’s face it, taking care of elderly, incapacitated people is not an easy job. Honor has brought in Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, a respected former labor organizer from the South Bay and CEO of an anti-poverty organization, to begin recruiting workers in the San Francisco area. We will keep an eye on this program to see how it develops.

    =======================
    PERMISSION TO REPRINT:
    =======================
    Financial Advisors may reprint any articles from The Gift of Communication Blog in your own print or electronic newsletter. But please include the following paragraph:

    Reprinted from Bob Mauterstock’s The Gift of Communication Blog. Subscribe at http://www.GiftofCommunication.com  and receive Bob’s Family Meeting Checklist Guide.