A Cautionary Tale: When a (Prospective) Client Doesn’t Fit From the Beginning

When the markets are turbulent, clients can get irrational: a real-life learning experience

Sometimes we encounter a person who is so suspicious, so distrusting that you almost begin to feel sorry for them. I recently had such an experience with someone I will call "Ms X." She found me on the Web  and called to schedule an appointment. During the first meeting her behavior gave me a few moments of pause, but I figured that I could get along with just about anyone. Even when a person's behavior is less than amiable, as long as I understand why they are acting in a particular manner, I can have compassion and understanding. 

Even though she began to exhibit signs of a person with trust issues we signed the financial planning agreement, I gave her a copy and said goodbye. The agreed-upon fee was a minimum of $1,500 and a maximum of $2,500. I was leaving for vacation in a few days and when I returned we had a three-day window before she was to leave to go out of town. It was during these three days that we agreed to meet to gather the necessary information to prepare her financial plan. We also agreed that I would prepare the plan while she was out of town and present it to her when she returned. We met as scheduled. While she was gone, the markets became very turbulent. My obligation was to meet with her when she returned and provide recommendations. I had assumed no responsibility over her investment portfolio. 

She sent me an email the following Friday to inform me that she was back in town. I replied and said I would call her the following Monday or Tuesday to schedule our appointment. I called but could not reach her and so I left a message. She called the following day and that's where the trouble became evident. 

In an apparently irrational manner, she became angry and assumed that since I didn't call her while she was out of town to advise her to sell some stocks and reduce her risk, that I didn't care. I was stunned! I assured her that not only did I care, but I was doing exactly what she had agreed upon. After I said that I was not a mind reader and couldn't possibly know she expected me to do this, she realized that she hadn't asked me to call her if the stock market went bad. She realized that our agreement did not place me in charge of her investment portfolio. Our agreement was to prepare a plan and provide recommendations. Maybe we were back on track, I thought. I began to have serious reservations about working with this person, but reiterated that she hired me to do a job and that was exactly what I intended to do. She agreed and we set the appointment to present the plan to her. The appointment was for the following Friday.

The meeting began cordially enough. She said she wanted to know the details, something I am very comfortable providing. In fact, to assure her that I was doing my best, I created one of my most through analyses ever. Multiple scenarios, specific recommendations, I held nothing back. Toward the end she began to act strangely....again. It got to the point where I finally said, "Ms X," I don't think we're going to be working together." I had made my mind up at that very moment to sever the relationship and send her on her way. 

I can safely say that I have never encountered anyone like her. I'm not a trained psychologist, but I am confident in saying that she has some sort of psychological malady. And that's my final answer...(I don't need to use one of my lifelines either!). 

Have a great week and thanks for reading!

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