Clients with Difficult Children
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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We have a client who wants us to work with his youngest son. This boy is 24 years old and has no interest in his family’s finances. The father is retired and more interested in traveling the world than being engaged with us. This boy will sometimes tell me when I call him, “You could have just texted me!” How do we help him become more interested in the family’s wealth and planning?
Jon B, Massachusetts
Like many questions I receive, yours has multiple facets to it. First off, I am going to recommend that you don’t refer to the 24-year-old son as “this boy.” It infers you think of him as “too young.” He is, in fact, an adult. He should be treated like one.
There are a couple of things to consider. It sounds like this individual is a product of his generation, which favors fast and easy communication via text or phone. You may be imposing your values and your style on him. For example, when you call, do you insist he listen to a long explanation of something, or do you get right to the point? He may be frustrated by the need to engage with topics he doesn’t deem important. Be sure you are seeking to understand his approach.
Is there a real problem with this family’s relationship with you? Are they making noises that they are unhappy with you, or are you feeling uncomfortable because you can’t connect the way you would like? The family may be perfectly happy with the situation. As long as you are able to work with them in the manner they need, while also staying true to what you need to do as a fiduciary and professional advisor, there may not be as much of a problem as you think. We sometimes assume that problems exist when in fact there are only style differences at work.
I suggest talking to the son and saying that you recognize he may prefer to receive communication at a certain time in a certain way. Try and probe with what he needs and wants. Explain that it is your goal to keep him informed and updated. Also explain that in the world of regulation and compliance, you may not be able to text certain information. See if you can reach a common ground on what works for both of you.
If you could meet him on his terms and ask for his guidance on how best to interact, you might win him over and – in doing so – make the father happy, too.