There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness, and truth are absent,” wrote Leo Tolstoy in his anything-but-simple 19th century novel War and Peace, which in my Penguin Books edition runs 1,470 pages and introduces more than 500 characters. The double irony was that Tolstoy could preach the virtues of simplicity and self-consciously attempt to live a simple, rural life because he had tons of dough: He was a member of the Russian nobility who lived the simple life on a massive estate.
Tolstoy comes to mind because this edition of Investment Advisor focuses on the important issue of how advisors can make life simple for their clients. As many of you have told me over the years, the main service you provide to clients is peace of mind: You worry about the details of their investments, estate plans, retirement accounts, and so forth so clients don’t have to fret the small stuff. That service allows clients to instead focus on the work and pastimes they value and that their wealth allows them to enjoy. Three articles this month address how advisors put that service goal into action. In our cover story (page 56), we tell the tale of a planner in Pennsylvania Dutch country who specializes in meeting the financial needs of his Amish and Mennonite neighbors. Himself a Mennonite, Paul Nolt was reluctant to share his story with us and even worried about the style of photography we’d employ in profiling him, because of the inherent aversion to publicity that these simple people exhibit. Luckily for us, Assistant Managing Editor Karen Hansen Weese convinced him to talk, however, which he agreed to partly out of a desire to increase understanding of these apparently old-fashioned Americans who nevertheless face some familiar challenges in managing their accumulated worldly goods for their welfare and that of their families and wider communities.
In our second “simplification” article this month, practitioner Frank Patzke tells an emotional story (page 64) of the difficulties he faces in understanding and implementing the strategies for what he argues should be the sixth core competency of advisors: endlife planning. It’s one thing to help clients draw up an estate plan. It’s quite another, Patzke found, to handle the financial, legal, medical, familial, and especially emotional issues associated with that stage of life when a loved one becomes ill or otherwise unable to care for herself. Patzke’s tale is quite personal, but just as he did in a well-received article in our July 2004 issue when he provided practical pointers for helping a wife or husband in the dark days after their spouse dies, Patzke lists specific steps your clients should take when they’re still hale and hearty to make their lives –and those of their loved ones–easier in that future time of trouble that many of us will face.