More than a Client …

photo[287]Dear Mr. Market:

Like most Mondays you begin the week with your gyrations of going up and down. All the companies that make up your identity are digesting the news from over the weekend as well as what’s on tap for the week ahead. As of this writing investors are scared and don’t completely trust you but conversely they’re also almost bored since you have yet to provide any meaningful direction or hint as to what your real plans are.

You could continue to break out and go higher or you could do what you’re supposed to do which is sell-off by at least -10% to -20% within the next few months. Guess what? We don’t care…at least not today. After some sunsets, both literal and figurative ones, there is so much more to them than what happened with the market. Yesterday, June 22, 2014 was such a day.

Driving over to the Long Beach Yacht club was pleasant and relaxing. On this first day of summer I looked out over the bridge leading into Naples and Belmont Shore and I could see tons of people splashing in the water, kids building sand castles, and nearby boats sailing in and out of the marina. As I parked my car however, the reality of why I was going to the yacht club struck me harder than expected. I was going to see a client, or at least one of them. For the third time this month our firm lost another client to cancer. Today was to be a celebration of her life and although that’s what she and her family wanted, it sure was difficult to “celebrate”. After all these years a client becomes a friend and a part of your extended family.

Earlier in the day family members boarded a boat and spread her ashes out at sea. Now everyone was gathered together to celebrate her memory. As I walked in I was immediately introduced to friends and other family members as “the money guy” or “here’s our financial advisor”. Normally when one hears your title you assume you’re at a work function but that was the furthest thing on my mind and on this occasion it startled me to be introduced as such.

As the afternoon progressed I ended up bumping into other people I knew in the community as well as mutual friends of my client. I also met another client who had initially referred and introduced me to this wonderful couple many years ago. She too had lost her spouse several years back, so seeing her suffer another loss was also difficult to digest. Before some of the speakers took the podium I was able to meet several family members; some of which I had met or at least knew by face and name. One of course always wishes that you are meeting in person under different circumstances.

After several touching speeches, a slide show accompanied by some music highlights an amazing life that was taken too quickly from us. All eyes are glued to the screen and any technical glitches are completely ignored as the memory and spirit of my “client” is stronger than any distraction. The pictures start with her as a young girl, then move on to her youth and marriage to her surviving husband. I see pictures of her as a young mother, family gatherings, camping trips, pets, vacations, youth baseball teams, graduations and so many more life events. At one point the pictures become more real-time for me in that I recall knowing when several of the pictures were taken. (From when they retired and became “clients” to when they took that well deserved and memorable trip to Europe.)

As the slide show wrapped up my eyes wandered to others in the room many of whom where just like me…emotionally caught up in the reality that this wonderful person will be greatly missed. I’m also struck by the fact that many in the same room are not only dealing with the loss of a friend or past colleague, but it’s a harsh reminder that we’re all headed for the same finality. I’m not 25 years old anymore with thoughts that I’m bullet proof or immortal. I’ve lost friends, family, and colleagues and know that it’s simply part of life. Seeing a slide show like this, however, brings you to the reality that I’m building my own “slide show” right now as well. (coaching my kid’s teams, vacationing, creating new friendships and memories etc)

What struck me more than the fact that we are all bound to leave this earth at one point is that I felt I was a part of my client’s life. They become so much more than a “client” or a working relationship. They truly become a part of your existence and extended family. As a financial advisor you’re initially involved in some very personal discussions, whether it be a specific goal, a career transition, family issues, health concerns, or estate planning. As time ticks on the relationship evolves as well. You think about them differently whether it’s over the holidays or upon learning of what is impacting them at key inflection points in their lives.

When a client leaves in this manner it gives you so much to think about and consider. Upon coming home from the day I enter my own house and immediately see the color of our walls. Years ago my wife and I had chosen the paint color based on the recommendation of my client. I see these walls daily but it was only today that it dawned on me how a “client” became more than that and impacted what I “see” on a daily basis.

There’s no great way to die. I’ve lost clients gradually, tragically, and in many cases even help them prepare for the inevitable as though it’s just one of our financial “to-do’s”. With regard to the last few fighting cancer, though…the impact this disease has made really hit home. If you’re reading this now you will be touched by cancer or already know someone who has. Hopefully science continues to break ground on treatment and prevention but all of this has led me to a battle I take personal issue with. Today I want to take time and remember a person who made so many around her happy.

Going forward though I feel compelled to share what our firm is doing about it. Along with several other athletes I’m personally competing in an Ironman triathlon to raise funds and awareness to fight cancer. Asking people for money is not always comfortable but I sure those that read this understand why I am training to compete in a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and finish up the day with a 26.2 marathon run. All of those miles tally up to 140.6 in a day so for those that can contribute $140.60 you will be making a huge dent towards my goal of raising $14,060. If you don’t have that much would you at least consider contributing $14.06?

Most people can find ways to waste that amount of cash in less time than it took to read this article!

Thanks for reading this. Hug your loved ones, take care of your health, and please cherish all those in your life while you can.

RIP Cindy…you will be missed!

2 thoughts on “More than a Client …

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