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Why Relationships Matter in Financial Planning

Why Relationships Matter in Financial Planning

| April 03, 2017

Sitting at my desk, I stare at my monitors, weary as a busy day comes to an end. The phone rings, and I debate whether to pick up the call. I do, and on the other line I hear, “Hi Peter, its Bertha.”

Bertha is one of my longest clients. A widow in her seventies, and now finding herself battling cancer, I have come to know her as a woman of great strength and resilience. She invites me to her home once a month for coffee and a baked good that is, without fail, always delicious and made with care. We chat for a while, and she asks if I can stop in sometime during the week. I agree, we pick a day and time.

Sometimes she just wants to know what is going on in my life. She asks me about my kids, what sport they are playing, how they are doing in school. I enjoy my visits with her.

“Each day is a gift,” she reminds me every time we meet. Bertha has three children; however, her youngest son passed away and left behind a son. “No parent should outlive their child.” She repeated these two statements almost every time we saw each other. She knew the pain and aching heart of losing a child, yet knew the importance of being grateful.

As the years went by we talked extensively about dividing her assets among her children when she died. During our chats, I would always ask her about her grandson. Since her son had died, it would make sense to leave something to him, but she struggled with this. Not because she didn’t want him to have the money, but she questioned whether he would be mature enough to handle it. He was only 20 years old. As her advisor, I suggested she consider it, but of course, it was up to her.

Not long ago, I received the call I dreaded. Bertha had passed away. I went to the funeral and offered my condolences to her family. Hardly no time had passed before I received a phone call from her grandson. He wanted his money. I started the process and in a couple of weeks he had the money in hand. As was Bertha’s fear, he spent most of it on a few big items and in a flash, most of it was gone. I called her grandson and I explained that he did exactly what his grandmother feared, that she and I spoke many times about him receiving money - in fact, I was the one that pushed for it. Now, I felt guilty for that. He listened, gave me time to talk. There was a pause, then he alluded that he had some money left and maybe we should talk about investing it. I smiled on the other end of the phone. Just as I used to do with Bertha, we set up a day and time.

I met with her grandson, and I could feel her in his presence as we worked to get his remaining inheritance back on the right track. There are many days I think about Bertha and the lessons she taught me. As I continue to help her grandson, my relationship with Bertha continues through another generation and I know she would be very proud of the man he has become.

Peter Livingston may be reached in Mooresville at

 Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial