Bigger Picture, Financial Planning

Build The Addition

Today was one of those days that remind financial advisors how personal our business really is.

This morning I received a phone call informing me that one of my long-time clients had a massive heart attack and died on Tuesday. He was on an RV trip out west with his wife and friends–one minute he was taking a picture and the next minute he was gone. I still get emotional thinking about the call.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a client pass away but losing this client will leave a lasting impact on me and my practice.

A large part of the impact will be the personal relationship that developed over the last 14 years. During the last few years, each summer Ang, the boys, and I would drive down to his lakehouse and spend the day on their boat, cooking out, fishing, riding the Gator, and just having fun; this weekend Roman and I were actually talking about which weekend we would go down and visit this summer. After our first year of visiting my clients, the boys began to refer to them as Grandma and Grandpa–both sets of their grandparents are still alive so there was no misunderstanding about who my clients were. Instead, it just shows how close our families had grown after years of working together.

And the lakehouse brings me to the title of this post and the other part of the lasting impact–when you reach your goal, don’t hesitate to take action… “build the addition”.

When I first met my client, he was being transitioned to me from my manager at the time, we sat at his kitchen table and I listened as he and his wife painted a picture of their retirement which included review meetings sitting on the deck of their future lakehouse looking at the lake drinking lemonade–I can vividly remember this conversation. Fast forward to his retirement, they’d found the perfect lakehouse on the lake they always wanted to live on and were able to make it happen. Most recently, they were planning on adding on to the lakehouse so they could relocate full-time and sell their long-time home back in their hometown. This addition was three years in the making–we crunched numbers, discussed funding options, and made sure it would work within their financial plan. We double and triple-checked the numbers. They met with contractors, took their time getting the perfect plans drawn up, and were careful not to rush to get the addition done.

In our last meeting, just a little over a month ago, we discussed how the addition was FINALLY going to be built this fall…finally going to be built this fall.

But now, this fall is too late and my client will never get the chance to enjoy the addition he worked so hard to plan for. I know he’s not looking down complaining about the life he lived, but I wish he could have lived out one of his final goals. He had achieved it. We just took a little too long to take action and put the contractors to work. Maybe the inaction will be a blessing in disguise. Only time will tell, but I often talk about minimizing regret and I fear he regrets not building his addition sooner. I will do my best to make sure no one else waits too long to live out the goals they’ve reached.

This is not the first time tragedy has influenced my beliefs as a financial advisor. Earlier in my career, I met with a client on a Wednesday afternoon to complete his retirement paperwork only to get a call three days later that he was hit by a car and killed riding his bike. He didn’t get to experience a single day of retirement. He didn’t get to make the solo hike he had planned in the Appalachian Mountains the following year. His unexpected death was a reminder that life is short and can unexpectedly end. This experience shaped my approach to making sure clients find a healthy balance between preparing for the future and enjoy and experiencing life today. What good is it to sacrifice memories and happiness today for an arbitrary day in the future that isn’t guaranteed? My client taught me to make sure I encourage my clients to take that trip or create that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Be responsible but live life.

Today’s call reminded me to make sure I encourage my clients to live out their goals once they reach them–and I want to encourage you to do the same. You can always find a reason to delay taking action but if you’ve planned for and reached your goal you owe it to yourself and your family to actually do the goal.

Take the trip. Retire. Buy the house. Splurge. Build the addition.

Be responsible. Plan. Save. But make sure you live life!

Disclaimer: Nothing on this blog should be considered advice, or recommendations. If you have questions pertaining to your individual situation you should consult your financial advisor. For all of the disclaimers, please see my disclaimers page.