What Will Happen To Your Clients When It’s Time For You To Retire?

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Communicating business succession plans can be a thoughtful gesture to put your clients at ease.

For some, retirement is the ultimate gift for a lifetime of hard work. A chance to relax, travel, pursue hobbies and interests, sleep in each morning. For others, not so much. Work is their passion and without it they worry about boredom or, perhaps worse, irrelevance.

For some industries retirement only really affects the individual employee and the organization for which they work. For professionals overseeing a roster of clients who’ve come to depend on their expertise -- accountants, attorneys, doctors, financial advisors -- retirement isn’t just about stepping away. It’s about making sure the people you’ve cared for all those years aren’t left in the lurch.

According to a story in The New York Times citing a Cerulli Associates study, 43 percent of advisers are over 55 (average age: 51). A different study from Oechsli Institute cited by The Times found that 23 percent were under 40, which they surmised created “a dearth of people who are working if you retire today who will still be working 30 years from now.”

Continuity Is Key

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Every adult is expected to have an estate plan in place to ensure continuity of life for their family and loved ones. Assets are transferred, bills are paid, services no longer required are eliminated.

Business continuity plans are second nature to professionals, making sure that in the event of a change -- death, sale, retirement -- there’s a plan in place to make sure customers and clients are properly handled. While this might be a no-brainer for you, do your clients have any idea what would happen? Would they be handed off to another associate with their primary professional overseeing the transition? Will they have a choice among who handles their account going forward? Will the clients be forced to fend for themselves and find someone new, cursing the day they ever trusted you with their money?

If a person is happy or comfortable in a relationship they don’t want it to change. But life often gets in the way. The best way to handle these transitions is to make sure the people affected know well in advance.

The Conversation: Who Should Initiate It?

It’s natural for people to choose to avoid talking about things like death or medical wishes. It can be emotional and depressing. It reminds loved ones that there’s going to be a time when you won’t be around and is easy to brush off as “something we can talk about later.”

It can also be a major point of contention when a family is faced with a crisis and has no idea what to do:

Child: “We never had the conversation about any of this.”

Parent: “You never asked...”

Child: “I shouldn’t have to!”

Apologies for turning this article into a mini soap opera, but the same way it’s easy to avoid a conversation about death with parents or children, it’s easy to do the same when a client is worried about the end of a professional relationship.

Questions To Consider

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Here at Everplans we’re interested in capturing real voices and sound advice from experienced experts so we can help and educate other professionals and our platform users. If you can offer any insight into the following areas, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us:

This is where we need your help. Please read over the following thought starters and let us know the best way to open the lines of communication between professionals and clients when it comes to a conversation of this nature:

  • Is it the advisor or the client’s responsibility to initiate a conversation of this nature?
  • Do you understand why a client might find it difficult to ask about your eventual retirement?
  • As an advisor, is this something you’d be more than willing to discuss or is it something  you’d rather avoid until it’s necessary?
  • Do you have a relationship with your clients in that this conversation wouldn’t be a problem or issue at all?

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