Spendthrift clients often don’t know where their assets are, the amounts they are actually spending, or what they’re spending money on, say financial advisors.
Sometimes the situation is so complicated and the problems are so long-standing that the advisor will refer the client to a “daily money manager” for detailed assistance. Then, when the client gets the financials under control, the client returns to the advisor to do the big picture planning, investing, and related activities.
What is a “daily money manager?” It’s a financial professional who works on helping people put their daily finances in order.
For example, Katherine DeWitt, owner of Personal Money Matters, LLC, a daily money management firm in Reston, Va., makes regular visits to clients to help them handle bills, statements, budgeting, financial records and other financial activities. She fleshes out problems, recommends changes, and monitors implementation of adjustments.
Not everyone whom DeWitt serves is a spendthrift. Some are people who need financial assistance due to unusual situations such as moving, hospital or rehab stays, and estate settlement, she points out. They include individuals, couples, entrepreneurs and corporate clients, whether of moderate or high net worth.
“The spendthrifts include retired boomers who are running through their assets faster than they should. They may have had a high income while working, and their lifestyle has not changed, so it requires a lot of spending to maintain.
“Some are younger boomers, too–people who are not accumulating and who are over-spending. Their problems can be due to inattention or lack of knowledge about how to navigate financially.”
DeWitt has noticed the marketplace often reinforces the spending behavior. She sees clients who have refinanced their homes several times and who routinely put things on credit and then shift balances to new credit cards.
A lot of times, “they don’t know where their money is going.”
The spending isn’t always because the person is negligent, DeWitt emphasizes.
“Sometimes, the clients are boomers with comfortable incomes who suddenly hit the sandwich, squeezed by needs of elderly parents and college bound children.
“Others have experienced a death in the family, a career change or other loss that causes things to derail and pile up. They don’t know where to start.
“Still others just want to want retool. They want an expert third party to help because they don’t feel financial management is their forte…or because they are overwhelmed by the complexity of today’s financial world.
“And some are boomers who now see retirement more concretely. They want to focus on preparing for it.”
DeWitt says she routinely gets calls from people who say, “We need help; we don’t know what to do.” Or the planner will call, asking DeWitt to step in and straighten things out. “Management of short-term finances is not what most planners do,” she explains. “That’s what daily money managers do.”
The challenge, she adds, is getting the spendthrift to identify discretionary and mandatory spending. “Generally, people don’t overspend on essential expenses. The conflicts occur over discretionary expenses, such as entertainment and dining out.”
From there, she works with clients to set priorities and a budget, identify who owns the responsibility for it, and establish how the plan will be monitored.
Rather than set limits on people, especially the high net worth, she shows consequences–e.g., the consequences of having dinner out 5 nights a week instead of once a week. “I say, ‘Are the consequences for spending on this worth the impact on your long-term goals? If not, what are you going to give up?’”
Some boomers are thrilled by this, she says. “They say, ‘Ah, that’s were the money’s been going.’ It’s an ‘aha’ moment.”
But others are not so receptive.
“No one can stop someone from over-spending,” DeWitt reasons. “What I can do is take them down the road and show them where they need to be, and could be. But they have to live with the plan, and with the reality: that they have to spend less.”