Helping Clients Prepare for the Unexpected

As I noted last week, there’s nothing like going back to your hometown to remind you about how things…and people…change, sometimes in unexpected ways.

There has been much emphasis in our industry in recent years on planning – investment planning, financial planning, life planning, legacy planning. All are valuable to clients as we are long past the days when life expectancies were short, defined benefit plans the norm, and simple wills took care of most estates.

In all the time spent on helping clients plan for what they want their future to look like, how much time do we really spend helping them prepare for the unforeseen?

Some of these unexpected events have broad, “black swan” impact – the events of 9/11, the technology and real estate booms and busts, and the “great recession” of the past several years. Some are more personal – layoffs, divorces, deaths and other individual and family crises.

This week marks the 12th anniversary of my son’s death, the result of a brain injury from an auto accident. Who expects to outlive their child or that an evening out with friends would end in a tragic accident? In my conversations and correspondence with high school classmates, I heard similar stories of crisis and pain.

So, no matter how well we help our clients plan for their future, isn’t there more we can do to help them to think about and prepare for the unexpected, what could happen to derail their plans?

Then, the next time the markets collapse, or inflation spikes, or major illness strikes, or the family breadwinner dies suddenly, the advisor would be ready to respond, “Remember our conversation about this possibility? Remember the precautions we took? Remember how we prepared to be able to weather this storm?”

Don’t the best advisors make a list of potential “unexpected” risks, talk with their clients about what could happen and then help them prepare for that possibility?

Shouldn’t clients expect their advisors to help them prepare for the unexpected?

Note: If you would like a copy of my checklist “Preparing for the Unexpected,” send an email to

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