The Biggest Risk in a Planner-Client Relationship

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When someone engages an “advice-only” financial planner, the relationship often lasts for the client’s life. I have experienced this with many clients over my 40-year career.

One of the main concerns many of my elderly clients express to me is a need to be sure my firm and I will be there for them when they can no longer “be there” for themselves. I have had clients say, “We want you to promise that you aren’t going anywhere.”

I have made that promise many times. For most clients, I have been able to keep it. I have helped them establish educational funds for their children, devise and carry out plans to accumulate wealth, and make the transition to retirement on a sustainable income that allowed them to afford the trips of their dreams in early retirement and cover long-term-health care to make their senior years comfortable. I have said my last goodbyes to them when they entered hospice care and have been there to help their executors carry out their final wishes.

However, in a few cases, I’ve been unable to keep my promise that I would always be there for clients. What neither of us anticipated was that one of the safeguards to protect them if they became unable to make decisions for themselves – drafting a power of attorney and naming an adult child to make financial decisions – would dismantle the plan it was meant to protect.