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Outside voices and views for advisers

How to connect with your clients' adult beneficiaries

Advisers must deal with the harsh reality that they are getting older, and so are their clients

May 19, 2014 @ 8:35 am

By Mark Singer

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I am involved with a number of adviser forums, where we address some of the timely issues facing our respective firms. A consistent theme has been the desire to do a better job connecting with our clients' adult beneficiaries. The reason we are more concerned now than ever is that not only are we getting older, so are our clients. And with the anticipation that we will start to lose our clients at a more accelerated pace in a few years, the impact on our firms could be significant.

First, let me define who my peers are. They have been in this business for 25 to 30 years, have a lifestyle practice, are typically sole practitioners, and are planning some form of transition, or succession, in five to 15 years.

Second, industry statistics indicate that somewhere around 86% of assets leave the firm when the client dies. This could mean that at the time we are considering a form of retirement for ourselves, not only does our income go down, but the value of the firm, for transition purposes, goes down as well.

So I have decided to get much more proactive with our clients in an effort to reach out to their kids and make a better connection. Here is the five-step process we have created.

1. We packaged up all of the services we offer and titled it the Family Resource Center. We itemized all of the services we could provide to the rest of the family, including our proprietary financial literacy video library, our Financial Organizer System, our monthly newsletter, family meetings and more. All in all, we identified seven features that now reside in our Family Resource Center.

2. We created a Financial Checklist. This checklist identifies important financial tasks to consider throughout the year. With so much going on in all of our lives, it helps to organize all of the items one should be attending to.

3. In advance of conducting a review with a client, we send out an agenda. One item on the agenda is to make sure that they bring in any updated contact information for their adult beneficiaries.

4. In the review meeting, we explain what we are doing and why. I tell them about my 86-year-old dad, who is experiencing a problem with his stability and has fallen three times in the past six months, breaking his wrist and hip in the process. I explain that it has brought home for me how important it has become to make sure that everyone is on the same page, now that my dad is moving into the last chapter of his life. And the lesson of that story, I tell the client, is that I want to become more proactive in making sure that their kids know who I am and how to get in touch me.

5. With their approval, we send out an e-mail to the kids introducing ourselves to them and our services, and explaining that if they need to reach out to us, we are available for them. We send them the financial checklist and add them to the monthly newsletter, with their permission.

The response has been tremendous. The majority of our meetings with our clients have ended with them thanking us for taking the time to address this with their family. And the kids have e-mailed us back, thanking us for reaching out to them.

With this system in place, I know that I am now doing all I can to connect better with my clients and their beneficiaries, and hopefully I have improved the probability that more assets will stay with my firm in the future.

Mark Singer is a best-selling author, frequent speaker and founder of The Financial Literacy Toolbox. He can be reached at mark@financialliteracytoolbox.com.

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