When Clients Spend Themselves into Oblivion
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.
What do you do when one of your best clients is spending their way into oblivion?
I have a very wealthy client who had a health scare about 14 months ago. It was a difficult situation because he was told he was going to die within a few months. He got his estate in order and prepared, and then, through a number of things too extensive to go into in this note, he found out that his diagnosis was incorrect. While he was sick and needed treatments and medication, he was not going to die – at least in a short or predictable amount of time.
This experience changed him completely. He was a man who had built a business and sold it and earned millions doing so. He was very conservative in his investments and careful about the decisions he made. He worked collaboratively with me to make the right decisions. He brought his wife in on everything and was open with his children.
Now he is a man I don’t recognize. He has a “seize the day” attitude toward everything and ends every conversation with “Carpe Diem!” He is spending money like crazy. He recently bought himself a Maserati, a new home on the water in Florida and he is taking an around the world cruise in a couple of months. It’s like he can’t find enough ways to spend quickly enough. He has a lot of money in our portfolios and it’s not like he cannot afford to do these things, but he now seems to have no regard for the future.
At one time we would plan for him and his wife living well into their 80s and beyond. But now he seems poised for an exit before he reaches 70 (he is 67 years old). I’ve tried talking to him about this dramatic change and have even asked him to speak to a therapist about the trauma of going through a life-ending diagnosis and then recovering from it. I realize it is very emotional and unsettling. But as his fiduciary I can’t stand by and just let him burn money like this. I’ve tried speaking to his wife but she is so happy he is alive and doing fine, she doesn’t want to intervene or take away his happiness. I don’t have the relationship with the kids directly and would not be comfortable talking to them. In the couple of meetings we had together, they made it clear they see this as his money and not their legacy. If there is something left, that’s great but they are making their own livings and don’t need to count on a bequest.