There’s never been anything like it in the lives of most Americans. The wealth millions counted on to fund their lifestyles and fulfill their hopes for the future has been severely diminished. The fears and emotional state of every client mirror the unprecedented gyrations of the financial markets.
Some are shaking off the shock and coming to terms with what the new economy holds for them. Everything — from their work to their portfolios, retirement plans, financial goals, and their estates — is up for grabs. For the first time, security seems elusive to many.
Indeed, it has all happened so quickly that it’s more than some can cope with in such a short time. Looking back over the past year, we have gone through the most violent and wrenching changes in the economy most of us will ever experience.
Many have watched as their retirement plans and financial security evaporate with plunging stock and mutual fund valuations, not to mention the depressed real estate valuations.
When you add in very real employment concerns and the uncertainty surrounding personal business interests, the picture appears problematic at best. Although not cataclysmic, it is almost impossible to deny that a major shift throughout the world will affect us for a protracted period.
In this deeply troubling situation, what should our clients expect from us? What can we do to be of help to them? These are important questions for every advisor. And it’s a responsibility we dare not put off or shirk.
Whether we like it or not, the current state of the economy brings us face-to-face with what it means to be an advisor. Fortunately, we have much to offer.
While clients vary in their ability to adapt to change, the need for flexibility is more critical than ever. This is why an objective advisor can bring understanding to clients as they assess their situation and position themselves to consider strategies for regaining a successful outcome for financial security.
As difficult as it may be for clients to accept, we can point out what they already know but seem to forget in very good times: “There is nothing permanent but change.” Second-guessing is useless; blaming others is counterproductive; and self-blaming for making what, in retrospect, may have been less-than-prudent decisions is pointless.
Embracing change assists in recognizing the steps clients need to make to get back on track, along with a specific timetable for successful implementation. This realization helps clients avoid further paralyzing thoughts and can lead them in developing a more positive approach to their situation. While there is more than enough personal financial wreckage, the fact is that all has not been lost. This can be coupled with a commitment to an ongoing plan of action for meeting the client’s goals and financial objectives. It is a commitment to a detailed plan that allows them to see that they are making progress. In the end, this is the turnaround that counts.
At the same time, the focused and positive advisor may need to lead some clients in re-evaluating their expressed needs and refocus their goals based on today’s realities.
Understandably, many advisors are equally distraught and preoccupied with their personal situation, making it difficult to provide the guidance and direction clients need. Yet, the challenge is to offer hope by emphasizing the need for a thorough review, moving the process through the various steps of fact finding to implementation. It’s a task requiring all the skill and perseverance a producer can muster.
Clients need skilled leadership to assist them with a plan, reviewing the impact alternative strategies can have on the financial security of their family, and, in many instances, their business.
Without question, this is a demanding task, but it is what clients should expect from us if we see ourselves as trusted advisors.