Last week I wrote a post titled “Switching Advisors at Retirement - Things to Consider“. It didn’t occur to me until after re-reading it that I realized I omitted one of the most important (and overlooked) things you should be looking for in your search. And that is, “Who is going to help your spouse if something happens to you?”
When considering switching advisors, the final decision regarding who to hire often resides with the person that handles the day-to-day finances and retirement planning. This is not surprising. But is your spouse in total agreement that person is the right fit?
If you are the primary decision maker, it’s natural to consider who you will work best with, but an even better candidate is someone that fits what you are looking for and someone your spouse would feel comfortable working independently with should the unexpected happen.
It might go without saying, but it’s important to remember that you are already comfortable with your finances. Your spouse may not be, especially when the lead financial role has been thrust upon them while dealing with the emotional roller coaster that he/she is already experiencing.
Understanding all that goes into managing even just the day-to-day financial affairs can be overwhelming at first, let alone the long-range retirement/estate planning. Regardless of how much you’ve accumulated, it’s likely that your spouse will be worried and perhaps even scared financially speaking. You’ll want an advisor that has the patience to work through this with them as this can be a year-long process or even longer at times.
This is where a truly great financial advisor and trusted partner can really help.
With this issue in mind, I felt a few more questions to ponder as you consider interviewing a retirement planner might help. All of these questions are with regard to how the prospective advisor will likely interact with your spouse should you pass before they do. Some are process oriented and others are just observations you and your spouse will need to make based on the demeanor of the advisor as to whether or not they’d feel comfortable with this person. The last thing you or your spouse would likely want is the added task of interviewing other advisors once you would pass. There is enough to deal with as it is. Anyhow, here goes:
- Does this prospective advisor have a demeanor and style that your spouse would want to continue working with independently?
- Does this advisor encourage conversation and input from the “non-financial” spouse?
- Do you believe this prospective advisor will take the time that your spouse would likely need to pick up all the pieces?
- Will they show unrestrained empathy?
- How do you think this advisor will deal with worried phone calls? Will they welcome these calls or view them as an inconvenience?
- Does it seem likely that they would be willing to sit at your kitchen table and help your spouse do the little things such as calling the utility companies, banks, credit card companies and so on to remove your name from the accounts if needed?
- What is the process they follow when/if something should happen to you?
- Will they walk your spouse through the process of what needs to be done immediately following your death?
This is an unfortunate reality to think about and discuss, but your spouse’s level of comfort associated with and faith in whoever you decide to shepherd you through retirement can’t be overstated. I’ve been on the receiving end of this scenario multiple times now.
I’ve been the sounding board regarding this new life reality while fighting tears back helping the widow (in all cases women to this point) get all the pieces of their financial life squared away. It is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. I always let clients know that if either spouse should pass away that I desire to be one of the first few calls they make so that I can immediately get to work on their behalf. It’s one of those “drop everything and help” moments in a relationship.
This is why I all but require that both spouses be present at most meetings. I realize that everyone isn’t interested in personal finance, but having a spouse that understands the financial plan plus feels a significant level of comfort and friendship is worth the time spent. And I would encourage couples to attend all meetings with their advisor together as just being present at each meeting can be one of the most important decisions you can make.
I hope this post adds some additional perspective to the discovery process and that you find these few additional questions helpful.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: Any opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.