Amy Florian, CEO of Corgenius, was a 25-year-old with a 7-month-old baby when her husband John kissed her good-bye for the last time to go on a business trip.
A car hit his car and John died instantly.
Florian was devastated. She had money from a life insurance policy she needed to invest so she sought out a financial adviser. He did right by her in terms of investing her money well, but he just didn’t understand what she was going through. He sometimes made her feel like a number in a portfolio rather than a whole person.
“I stayed with him for some time because it was clear he knew how to invest my money,” Florian explained. But then she switched. She found a planner who made her feel more comfortable.
Widows oftentimes feel uncomfortable with financial planners as shown in the fact that more than 70 percent switch advisers after their husband’s death. It’s helpful for your clients for you have the skills to help them deal with their grief.
Helping Them Through
Baby boomers are getting older.
“We had a baby boom,” Florian said. “We’re in for a death boom and we’re not prepared.”
You are going to have to deal with your client’s grief at that first appointment with them after their partner dies. It’s going to be difficult.
“It’s awkward,” Florian explained. “It’s uncomfortable.”
But with these helpful grief support tips, you will help your clients. It is important, Florian said, to note that grief happens whenever there is a transition, whether it’s death or moving to a new city.
Ask open-ended, invitational questions. Some examples include: What happened? Who was with you? How did you find out? Then after a few months have passed: Last time we talked you said you felt a certain way, do you still feel that way now? Grieving people want somebody who will listen.
Stay away from the standard responses, “I’m sorry,” or “I know what you’re going through.”
Know that there are two main styles of grief: instrumental grievers, who focus more on their heads (things like logistics and specific events); and intuitive grievers, who focus more on their heart (the experience of everything, what they are feeling).
Have boxes of tissues everywhere, but never hand them a box of tissues when they are crying as doing so will send the message that you are making them uncomfortable and you want them to stop. Say, “You could use any of these tissues if you’d like, it’s up to you.”
Let them know that your office is a safe space and that they can cry. Encourage them to feel their grief, because that is the truly strong thing to do.
Have them write down their fears. Ask them what’s the worst thing they can imagine happening to them right now and have them write it down. Studies show that when you write down fears, you take away their power.
“I’m teaching you to do the right thing for your client,” Florian said. “It’s what we all should be doing, we just haven’t been taught.”
Journal of Financial Planning