Losing a partner is difficult and painful. Money is the last thing on your mind, but if your partner dealt with the finances, you may find yourself faced with a host of confusing new responsibilities. That’s why we offer the Alan Boswell Financial Planners Widows and Widowers service, a holistic and understanding approach to help you manage your new financial responsibilities. Here, Senior Financial Planner, Richard Escott, explains what the service involves and how our trusted advisers can help take some of the burden of worry away.
Why do we offer the Widows and Widowers service?
I’ve been working in financial services for over 30 years and have found that there’s a great need for widows and widowers to take financial advice. Often, this is because they haven’t necessarily dealt with financial planning issues before and don’t have a very strong knowledge of these areas. It can be very daunting to get involved for the first time. We think guidance and advice is not only extremely helpful, but essential for most people.
What are some of the financial issues that people might be facing that they’ve not had to face before?
They might come across investment products and tax wrappers that they’ve never come across before. This could be because their partner looked after the money rather than them. They could see different insurance company and fund management names but not know who the firms are or what they do. Even when they find out who they are, they might not understand whether they are relevant to their needs.
It’s really about getting someone who can look at all those existing investments and pensions, and help them to understand what they’ve got and to decide whether they are still relevant going forward or should be changed for something more suitable to their new circumstances.
With that in mind, how does the service work?
Well, first of all we have a free of charge meeting where there is no obligation to take matters any further afterwards. This allows the person to find out a bit more about us and if they feel comfortable with our team. In this session we’ll have a general discussion about themselves, what they’re looking for and what products they’ve found out that they’ve got. Then we’ll talk about what we do, if we think we can help and how.
If they then decide that they want to work with us, we will agree the fee before we move forward. This means we have a full take on meeting, as we call it, and that will be where we do more detailed information gathering. We’ll make sure we know everything we need to both personally, and in terms of their existing situation. We’ll look at things like what type of income they need and what their plans are, such if they’ve thought about whether they’re going to move house or stay where they are. We’ll find out if they’re open to suggestions such as inheritance tax planning, including whether they would consider making gifts to their family and other questions of that nature.
We then tend to go away, consider the options, and then put forward our views and a report. Often we’ll meet again and chat through what that person thinks of what we said. Once it’s been decided what initial work they want us to do, we would get on and do it.
But it is part of an ongoing service. We don’t get everything done straight away and then go. We need to make sure there’s enough time for the person to get used to their new situation and indeed to make decisions about what their plans are. So we tend to say to people, don’t feel you’ve got to rush into making any decisions. Often a good thing to do is make sure everything’s under control, and they’ve got their bank account with money there to spend, but don’t decide quickly what they’re going to do. It can take 18 months to two years or more for someone to settle into their new situation and feel comfortable enough to start making longer term decisions.
For most clients, we have regular review meetings, often six monthly or annually, to discuss the investments generally but also any changes to the client’s circumstances, thoughts or the investment or tax rules that could affect their planning needs. Changes to the strategy can then be made to ensure that the investments remain the most suitable in any new scenarios.
When should someone engage with the service?
Making that initial step can be very hard, and we understand how vulnerable people are feeling at this point. People have got to take time to mourn and they’re probably not in a hurry to rush off and see a financial advisor. But as soon as they feel they’re in a position to do so they should contact us. They’ll start to receive statements and documents and the longer they leave it and the more of those they’ll get, the more confused and anxious they might become. Really, they should contact us as soon as practically and reasonably possible for them.
As you’ve mentioned, it’s a difficult and emotional time when you’ve had a loss. How do we help make this process as comfortable as possible?
We try and take as much of the anxiety away as we can. We can take those documents away and get authorities organized so we can talk to the various providers. This means they can liaise with us directly rather than the client having to try to find things out. With this approach, we’re the ones who are absorbing all the information.
Gathering all this information can take several weeks, or even months, which gives the client space to try and adjust to this new situation they’re in. Once we’ve found out exactly what they’ve got, we present this information to the client in a very straightforward way and talk them through it. From this, we can make recommendations about what we think the best course of action will be. For some people we find that what they’ve got is ideal for their situation, but for many the existing investments are no longer appropriate because their circumstances have changed.
What is the main message you’d like people to know about this service?
People in this situation need to work with people who understand them, people who will work in their best interests and who can put together something simple to understand and that they’re comfortable with. Quite often when we start it won’t be simple. But with us, they can have the confidence that they’ve got a trusted advisor, who will be looking after things and taking this worry away from them.
We can ensure that their affairs are made simple and easy to understand whilst providing the right levels of income and risk that are appropriate for them whilst taking into account other important wider areas such as providing for the wider family, should they wish to and can afford to do so.
About the author:
Senior Financial Planner, Alan Boswell Group
With over 30 years experience as an Independent Financial Adviser, Richard has an in-depth knowledge of a wide range of products and solutions. He advises lawyers and accountants personally as well as their clients, who are often retired and widowed individuals.