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Is Your Financial Adviser Comfortable Discussing Your Personal Needs?

Joan and Stanley went to visit their financial adviser, with the express intent of getting all their financial questions answered. Headed towards their late 70s, and facing a possible further two decades (or maybe more), they were concerned that their investments might not support them for this length of time.

“Now,” said Joan, after the adviser had told them about percentage changes in their various investments, “what about if I am left alone after Stanley dies? We know this is the most likely scenario, and we want to make sure that I will have enough money.”

The adviser squirmed. This was a difficult one – here was the kind of question his own wife had been asking him, and he simply could not contemplate it. It meant facing his own mortality, and while he dealt with planning ahead for the most part really well, when it came to more personal questions like this, that touched on his own life, he couldn’t really cope.

“You’ll be fine,” he stuttered, “let me come back to you later in the week on the fine details. In the meantime, have you seen how ___ company is performing?”

This is not an uncommon situation, even with professionals whom you might think would be perfectly placed to discuss this kind of thing.

But if someone is not at peace with their own death; if they have not addressed their own situation with an open heart plus the pragmatism needed to create a proper end of life plan, then how can they possibly help you?

Here are 3 important questions to ask your financial adviser (or prospective one) to discover if they really can help you with the more personal side of financial planning:

How Have You Dealt with This for Yourself?

This question can be applied to any situation, for instance, if you are trying to decide how to split up theoretical financial sums between your spouse and your children upon your death.

If your adviser is at all uncomfortable about their own situation, whether it applies or not, you will find yourself being fobbed off, or at best with an unsatisfactory answer. At the very least, they are unlikely to have done the necessary research to be able to advise you well.

What Would You Advise in Light of a Recent Early Onset Alzheimer’s Diagnosis?

Another really difficult one, for everyone concerned. But your adviser needs to be at least relatively comfortable with the topic, and discussing it in this personal situation, to be able to do their job properly.

If they haven’t thought about this for themselves and their family, then it will limit their ability to advise you – it is entirely possible that they wouldn’t even know about the costs involved in various nursing home situations, simply because it is too painful to confront for their own situation.

What Is Your Advice as to How Best to Budget for a Live-In Carer?

Again, this invites the obvious, which is that we are all aging, and it is very likely that at least one person in the room is going to need extra care at home. Especially if your adviser is a lot younger, it might be hard for them to contemplate this, not just for themselves and their own parents, but for their clients as a result.

All these scenarios bring the fact of aging in a deteriorating body into full view. It may be unpalatable for some, but it is a fact that, if ignored, can bring some really drastic consequences, which are entirely preventable – if only everyone involved is willing to talk about a potentially emotive subject with a practical head on.

How to get that practical head on? The easiest way I know is to prepare well in advance for later life by making sure all this is taken care of while aging is still at a ‘theoretical’ stage, so to speak. In other words, find out now what you need to constitute a good end-of-life plan for yourself and take the actions necessary to put it in place.

Have you been planning for end-of-life scenarios? How involved is your financial adviser? Are they comfortable discussing end-of-life issues in relation to financial planning?

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The Author

Jane Duncan Rogers, author of Before I Go: The Essential Guide to Creating a Good End of Life Plan, is founder of not-for-profit www.beforeigosolutions.com. They run an online Licensed End of Life Plan Facilitators training program, and provide products and courses to help people make a good end of life plan.

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