Navigating Loss With Your Advisor

Lily Styrmoe, CFP®, CSRIC™

Oct 11, 2023

Dia de los Muertos lands on my birthday. There are some interesting feelings to unpack as I think about another year older and the All Souls Procession in Downtown Tucson. According to The Mexican Museum, “Día de los Muertos acknowledges the symbiotic relationship between life and death. El día de Los Muertos is celebrated, in which the spirits of the dead are believed to return home and spend time with their relatives.”

As November creeps closer, I start thinking about that celebration and it prompted me to think about how we handle death in our profession as financial advisors. In all honesty, death is a big part of financial planning.

Not only are you working with your advisor to make sure your assets last for your lifetime, but you’re likely talking about what happens to your money when you’re gone. Is it going to charity? Is it passing down to the next generation?

But what I want to focus on today is what happens when we lose a spouse or a family member.

The importance of having an Advisor to help navigate the loss of a family member is paramount. These events are life defining moments. Dealing with them requires strength and perseverance. Yet, moving on without support around you is incredibly difficult. During these challenging times, your financial advisor is here for you. Of course, we’re here to advise you on the dollars and cents, but each of us at TCI knows our role as advisors extends beyond financial advice in these life defining moments. We’re here to listen, provide objective advice, guidance, and be lifelong partners during those times of loss.

Removing the Emotion from an Emotional Event

When emotions are running high from unexpected events, it’s challenging to make clear, rational decisions. Grief, shock, and anger can cloud your judgment and lead to choices that might not align with your long-term goals. This is where your advisor can help. We step into your world, not just as the guides along your financial journey, but as individuals who care deeply about your well-being.

Some of the questions we might start asking: Do we need to contact a pension plan about survivorship benefits; is there a life insurance policy that needs to be claimed? Etc. etc. etc.

Our mission is clear: we want to ensure that your next chapter isn’t marred by hasty or emotionally-driven decisions. While we are here to help you navigate the financial landscape with a level head, our commitment as your partner goes beyond just financial matters. We want to assist you in removing emotions from other critical decisions you may need to make during these challenging times.

Certainly no one expects you to suppress your emotions, as they are an integral part of your journey. Whatever you’re going through, it’s crucial to allow yourself the time and space needed to heal.

Providing an Objective View

When we lose someone we love, it can feel like there are a million decisions to make and little guidance on how to get it all done. But with an objective advisor on your team, you gain the advantage of a knowledgeable sounding board who understands you and your motivations intimately. We’ve invested time in getting to know you, allowing us to offer an objective perspective and suggest possibilities you might have overlooked, thereby attempting to provide a stable foundation beneath your feet.

Our ability to offer an objective view stems from the deep understanding we’ve developed of your unique financial situation, aspirations and personal values over time. We take all of this into account when providing guidance, allowing us to offer tailored advice that aligns with your needs and objectives.

Our objectivity goes beyond just the numbers. We’re your unwavering advocate, ensuring that your decisions are made with a clear, level head. Furthermore, our experience in navigating the diverse landscape of life allows us to “zoom out” and examine your situation in a broader context. We can offer perspectives and insights that you might not have considered on your own. This can provide a sense of reassurance, helping to ground you during turbulent times and allowing you to make informed choices that serve your best interests.

Long-Term Communication

As I’ve mentioned, major life events leave lasting impacts that are felt for years after the event has ended. The grieving process can be long and challenging, taking on different forms as time passes. Unlike a short-term, transactional relationship, your TCI team is with you every step along the way. Our goal is to provide you the space to focus on yourself and your healing by handling the intricacies of your financial matters during major life events.

With consistent communication, we want to make sure that the major life event you’re experiencing does not derail the plans we’ve worked on. We’ll be working behind the scenes ensuring paperwork is done properly. We’ll be talking to you and any CPAs and attorneys we might need to work with along the way.

Though it may feel like everything is urgent during these moments, your advisor will help you understand which situations genuinely require immediate attention and which ones can be managed over time. By letting us handle the financial aspect, you can better prioritize your well-being and find the time and space to focus on yourself, knowing that your financial future is in capable hands.

A Steadfast Partner

During these turbulent times, your financial advisor becomes a partner who can help alleviate some of the burdens by taking charge of at least one enormous aspect—the financial complexities.

You need not feel obligated to make difficult financial decisions right after losing a loved one; your primary focus should be on taking care of yourself and your family, communicating and supporting one another. We, as your financial advisors, are here to handle the rest.

So as we get closer to Dia de Los Muertos, and have the opportunity to honor and celebrate those we’ve lost, please know we’re here for you every step of the way…birthdays and beyond.

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