Reflections on Loss
The pandemic had an outsize impact on various aspects of life for all of us. Financial planners are no different and those of us who focus on retired investors have often personally witnessed the profound loss that has affected millions of people in South Africa and around the world. It is a sad fact of life that financial planners who serve retired clients, must expect to deal with families at times of unbearable hardship, and nothing can be more difficult for a family than the loss of a loved one. Financial planners who are empathetic and feel a duty of care towards their clients, feel the loss in the same way that we would mourn the death of a beloved Aunt or Uncle. This emotional commitment to those we serve, should be a great source of comfort to our clients that their families will be helped when they need it most.
THE PRIVILIGE OF OUR POSITION
It is no exaggeration to say that financial planning (when done correctly and with the right intentions) is one of the most rewarding and meaningful careers for professionals. We help people to achieve positive goals like wealth creation and planning for children. We are often the first people to know when a person decides to retire, because the decision is sparked by a conversation that we have with them. We help people realise that they have reached the stage of financial freedom when it might not seem obvious or believable. To say that these conversations can be emotional is an understatement!
Some relationships between a client and a financial planner can span decades, so the sudden loss of a beloved client is desperately sad. However, it is in these times that financial planners need to operate at our very best. We need to be the source of stability, information, administrative assistance, and emotional support when families need it most. We must postpone our time of mourning until we have served our clients to the best of our ability. To have the chance to perform this service for families is an incredible privilege and an enormous responsibility.
SERVING OUR CLIENTS HAS AN EMOTIONAL COST
By the start of 2021 I noticed that my colleagues were acting a little differently. My colleagues are generally considerate, thoughtful and quick to laugh but they had become collectively subdued and withdrawn. At first, I thought the cause of this change was due to lockdown fatigue but over time, I realised it was something else. We were collectively in mourning. Some of my colleagues had lost parents and other family members to illnesses including COVID - 19 and all of us had lost some beloved clients. Sadly, we lose some clients to illness every year but COVID - 19 increased this proportion dramatically, far beyond any “normal” year and this was emotionally overwhelming. Given the frenetic environment caused by the rapidly evolving economic, political and societal changes caused by the pandemic, we were not able to pause and take the time to mourn our clients properly. I mention this, because it provides an insight into an aspect of financial planning that might not be obvious to clients. We certainly don’t need sympathy, but I would hope that it provides a sense of comfort to clients when dealing with a good financial planner.
RENEWED FOCUS ON RELATIONSHIPS
The isolation caused by lockdowns has reminded everyone of the importance of human connections. Financial planners have seen first-hand the value of these human connections to our clients. We can all share stories of conversations with elderly clients who have been isolated by the pandemic. Some of them are alone and were not able to have meaningful conversations with people for months. As corporations try to force us all to engage with them via our phones and computers, I believe that people will increasingly value the one-to-one nature of a financial planning relationship. The next time you are speaking with your financial planner, it might be worth remembering that the person you are speaking with will be there to support you, and your family when you are no longer able to do so.
By Warren Ingram, CFP®