As the coronavirus consumes our attention and conversations, the prudent financial advisor becomes cognizant of the opportunity to help clients and their families at their actual point of need.
The Frantic Phone Call
I can vividly recall the day when my daughter started driving. She had been waiting, quite impatiently, to receive her license. She loved her cute Chevette and wanted to show it off. She couldn’t have been more excited as she drove off that morning.
And she couldn’t have been more upset that afternoon when she called me from the roadside. Between tears I heard, “Dad, I had an accident. I’m okay, but my bumper is bent, and the hood doesn’t close.” We called a tow truck, and a few weeks later the car was back on the road.
As it turned out, her fender bender was a good thing. To this day, she is a cautious driver who is very aware of the uncertainties of roads and other drivers.
Coronavirus, Vulnerability and Mindfulness
It took a shocking experience for my daughter to become mindful of the risks of driving—unlike your typical successful clients, who are attentive and thoughtful about the risks of investing. Many are fascinated by the activities in their portfolio and stimulated by exciting opportunities and market dynamics.
Unfortunately, much of the wealth-management advice and many of the important solutions that you provide are neither exciting nor stimulating. And it’s easy to put off boring or painful topics. This is especially true when markets are trending upward and life in general is pleasant.
But a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic forces a conscious awareness (i.e., mindfulness) of our vulnerability. Few things activate fear more than a mysterious disease that could suddenly incapacitate you or someone you love. In situations like we have today, most people are scanning the environment and wondering where the threat might come from and how to protect themselves. Awareness of vulnerability galvanizes attention and the desire to act.
Don’t Just Do Something; Sit There!
However, when it comes to making prudent decisions about investing during volatile markets, the best advice to clients (and occasionally to advisors) is: “Don’t just do something; sit there!” Impulsivity and action simply for the sake of action are not good when it comes to making investment decisions.
On the flip side, a crisis can be a good time to take mindful action. When feelings of vulnerability are high and the future is uncertain, the prudent advisor can step in, organize a family’s financial affairs, deliver reassurance and be a calming presence while completing tasks that may have been neglected. Clients may heed their advisor’s advice and make thoughtful wealth-management decisions or follow through on unfinished strategies. Importantly, because the virus is especially dangerous for the elderly, it could be a good time to remind older clients to complete their financial plan and put solutions in place to ensure that their intentions are fulfilled. It could also be worthwhile to connect with middle-aged clients who have living parents and may be concerned that aspects of their parents’ financial plan have been neglected.
To support advisors in developing a thorough financial plan, the AllianceBernstein Advisor Institute has developed a unique tool: the Eldercare Checklist. This resource provides a reference for an advisor to use to organize a client’s thinking.
Using the Checklist
The Eldercare Checklist can be used with existing clients. It can also help your clients’ parents, thereby protecting multiple generations, building a stronger bond with your middle-aged clients and potentially growing your business. Advisors often neglect to think about moving “upstream” within a family and instead pay attention only to their clients’ children and grandchildren. Yet experience over the past three decades has revealed that the parents of middle-aged clients tend to have more investable wealth than those clients’ children.
The checklist provides the opportunity to tell clients, “In times like these, taking action and checking off the few remaining issues within a financial strategy can be extremely comforting and potentially beneficial across several generations. Therefore, we developed this checklist to help ensure that nothing in your financial plan is missing that could hurt you or that you should take advantage of.”
In addition to the Eldercare Checklist, the AB Advisor Institute has developed other age-related and situational checklists as well as our practice-management guidance on designing a Standard of Care for your clients. To receive a copy of any of these materials, call (800) 247 4154 or request more information here.
The views expressed herein do not constitute research, investment advice or trade recommendations, do not necessarily represent the views of all AB portfolio-management teams, and are subject to revision over time.