Man, You've Got This! Or Maybe Not

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If a recently widowed client hasn’t fired you, then you are among a lucky few. Here’s a thought experiment that illustrates the vulnerability advisors face when they don’t engage the female half of a couple:

For the past 15 years, you’ve been providing wealth management services to an affluent family. Your clients, Harry, a prominent local businessman, and Paula, a homemaker, have been married for 27 years. Their two adult children, Noah and Olivia, have completed college and have found good jobs.

You believe you have done an exceptional job for Harry and Paula. Over a long period of time, growth in Harry and Paula’s investment portfolio has outpaced the market. Based upon this history of excellent performance, you are confident in your relationship with this couple.

Your primary connection has always been with Harry. On investment matters, Harry has been the primary decision-maker. Over the years, however, Paula, has also participated in many of your meetings. You’ve observed that she tends to listen to what you say, and nod approvingly.

You awaken on a Sunday morning, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and pick up your local community newspaper. You are shocked to read a news report that Harry has suffered a heart attack and died. Unsure if you should immediately call Paula, you decide to wait until the next morning. In the morning, you realize that you only have Harry’s mobile phone number. You decide to write a note to express your condolences to Paula. You drive to their home and leave your note in the mailbox.

Eight months after Harry’s death, you receive a note from Paula thanking you for your past services and informing you that she has decided to place her investments with another advisor: “You should expect the transfer paperwork shortly.”