The Letter Advisors Will Never Get from Their Clients’ Kids

Mar 22, 2016

The letter advisors will never get from their clients’ kids via @SEIMissyP Click To TweetDear-advisorDear Advisor,
It’s me, Missy – Do you remember me? You probably wouldn’t, because we’ve never actually met. You might’ve heard my name come up in meetings with my parents, like when they were putting away money for my college fund or talking about me in their will. I thought I was an important part of their financial picture, but since I’ve never heard from you, I’m assuming I’m not even a blip on your radar.

But now that I finally have your attention, I wanted to share my list of all the things I wish you had done to include me in my parents’ financial planning process.

I wish you had introduced yourself (even just once).

Nothing fancy; just an email with your photo and background, a connection on LinkedIn, a holiday card with your team’s picture, or even a one-time meet-and-greet. I mean, I lived with my parents for the better part of my life, so I couldn’t have been too difficult to get ahold of. They had my contact information and they knew my schedule – all you had to do was ask. And even if I was too young to really grasp the importance of your role in my life at that time, at least then I could recognize your face, your name or even your firm’s brand. I don’t even know if you’re male or female! You are a complete stranger to me, which is unfortunate, because I likely won’t hear from you unless there’s an emergency that requires some really sensitive and personal discussions.

I wish you had included me in the estate planning process.

I don’t think my parents would have had any issue with allowing me some view into their long-term plan in case something was to happen. I mean, my mom has worked in insurance her entire life; she definitely understands the need to have a plan (and all the stakeholders in place) in case of emergencies. What documents have my name on them? What responsibilities would be on my plate? How would this affect me and my siblings? Could it cause us to fight over their money? How do I know how my parents would want me to handle things? I know I sound morbid, but these are all the questions that run through my head that I don’t have the answers to. All it would’ve taken is one meeting to brief me on the plan and put me at ease.

I wish you had made me more aware of how I affected their financial plan.

I know my parents wanted to pay for my education, because it was something their families weren’t able to do for them. It was an invaluable gift that I am forever grateful for… today. But years ago, when I was choosing my college, I had no idea what the impact was of me choosing University of Maryland (out-of-state) over Penn State University (in-state). I remember my Dad asking me if I really liked it 3 times as much, because well…it cost 3 times as much to go there. But I wish someone had made me realize what 3 times as much actually looked like and how impactful that is to anyone’s finances, especially in 2008 at the onset of the financial crisis.

I wish you had talked to our family about my Dad’s business.

I’m not sure if it was ever truly in the cards for me to someday work at my Dad’s business and potentially be his succession plan. However, I think that’s because I never ever truly understood what that could look like. Look at my Dad and Uncle’s very successful business today – none of my siblings or cousins have taken a real interest in it. Perhaps if someone had sat us all down to paint a picture of what a multi-generational family business could look like and what the benefits of that would be, things would be different. Perhaps that could’ve been you.

I wish you had proven you were a trustworthy resource.

Part of this has to do with the misperception of the financial services industry, and part of this might have to do with the fact that I’m hyperaware from working in the industry. But most of it has to do with the fact that I just don’t know you. How do I know you truly have my parents’ best interests in mind? I lived through the financial crisis and saw the financial institutions who failed my parents – was that you? I’ve had sales representatives approach me after college, trying to sell me life insurance just to make a commission – were you one of those? You call yourself a financial advisor, but I have no idea what role you actually play in my parents’ lives. By never giving me the opportunity to meet you and explain yourself, you’ve taken away the opportunity to establish any sense of trust at all.

I know I might not look like your ideal client today – I’m not old enough to have developed real wealth, I’m not looking to retire in the next 10-15 years, and I don’t have a ton of financial complexity in my life (yet). However, I think you really made a mistake here. Consider all the opportunities you’re missing out on:

  • Sustainability of your business – Bringing in younger clients as your other clients age
  • Comprehensive planning services – For a deeper relationship and wallet share with my parents
  • Asset retention – Keeping some of those assets my parents will be distributing to me
  • Continuity planning – For both you and my parents, in case something were to happen to them

So consider this letter my gift – things every kid would tell their parents’ financial advisor if they could, but probably never will. Learn from this and maybe you can change this awful statistic that 90-95% of kids will fire their parents’ advisor after receiving their inheritance.

Sincerely,
Missy
(Your Clients’ Kid)

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Missy Pohlig

Missy Pohlig

Missy Pohlig is the millennial contributor for Practically Speaking and also serves as Program Manager for the Solutions Team in the SEI Advisor Network.

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