Helping Clients Navigate Life Transitions

"Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful.  It's the transition that's troublesome." 
 ~Isaac Asimov
Whether it is the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one, life transitions can be stressful times for your clients.  I strongly encourage you to be aware of these transitions as they are opportunities for you to connect with clients and deepen your relationships. In addition, there is likely to be money in motion during these transitions…need we say more?  Actually, yes.

With major life transitions, there are numerous opportunities for you to effectively extend an offer of help. Before offering thoughts on ways you can aid your client during these times, let's first list the seven major life transitions:

1. Marriage/Child Getting Married/Divorce
2. New Job/Unemployment
3. New Home/Moving
4. Birth of a Baby/Adoption
5. College Education
6. Death of a Loved One
7. Empty Nest/Retirement

Fully addressing the financial and emotional considerations that accompany the above life transitions could keep even the most succinct blogger busy for months, so we'll provide an abridged summary here.  Our goal is to provide you with ideas for extending respectful offers of help to your clients and prospects during life's challenges and changes. Remember, challenges are opportunities to add value..

Also, check out our "Transitions Organizer" in our "Tools" section under "Resources."  We designed this piece with the seven major life transitions in mind.  Major life events often lead to the need to locate or create key documents.  The "Transitions Organizer" will help you to assist your clients with tracking life's paperwork. 

Earlier we introduced the topic of helping clients navigate life transitions.  In this section, we'll begin working our way through the seven major life transitions that people face and explore ways to not only aid your clients during these times, but also treat them as opportunities to connect. 

New Job/Unemployment

Lets address unemployment first since that may be a greater source of stress for clients than a new job.  The loss of a job can be very disorienting and your guidance can help them refocus on the issues that need their immediate attention. 

If the client is eligible for severance and/or benefits, find out if they are negotiable.  Be sure to review the tax implications of any payments and help them determine which investment vehicle may be most appropriate to deposit any severance into.  Also help them research health insurance options.  Whether they elect for COBRA or an individual insurance plan, their immediate attention to this matter may help them avoid making costly mistakes.

The connection opportunity here is significant and you don't need to start moonlighting as a professional recruiter to make an impact.  Simply facilitate and invite them to client networking events or offer up referrals within your network.  Once a client lands a new job, offer to review the benefit package with them.  At a time when their focus may be on simply securing a source of income, you can offer clarity on important compensation issues. Be sure to congratulate them on the new job and proactively offer help with any new 401(k) options.

New Home/Moving

On our list of "least favorite things to do," buying a new home and moving may come in only second to enduring a root canal.  This is a real opportunity to be the hero by offering guidance with the loan process and closing considerations.  Remind clients to keep moving related receipts for tax reasons and to update the appropriate insurance policies. Once the clients have settling in their new home, maintain your connection with a small gift/note of congratulations or provide them with information on services and restaurants in their new area. 

Marriage and Children

We've addressed the transitions surround new/lost employment and purchasing a new home.  Now we'll cover two other related transitions and how to help your clients through the challenges associated with each. 

Tying and Untying the Knot: Marriage/Child Getting Married/Divorce

The financial considerations with any one of these three events are tremendous.  However, each one also involved many emotional aspects and it is all too easy for clients to overlook the financial aspects. From advice on event planning and managing the related financial expenditures to updating insurance policies and financial accounts, your help during these times may not only help your client manage the financial aspects, but also potentially eliminate some of the stress associate with these transitions. 

From a connection standpoint, be sure to reconnect with clients after a wedding and offer help with ways to manage any wedding debt, establish a budget and guidance on saving for their retirement. In divorce situations, your offer of help may include referrals of divorce attorneys, hand written notes of support and assistance with the financial documents needed by the divorce attorney.

Birth of Baby/Adoption

To put the financial magnitude of this transition into perspective, consider the following estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:  A middle income family will spend over $250,000+ raising a child to the age of 17. And that figure seems like a bargain once you start to add in college expenses (another significant transition we'll address).

Help out your new parents-to-be by reviewing health and life insurance options, encourage them to establish a will and raise awareness on the average cost of daycare. For clients pursuing adoption, help them create a financial plan early on in the process.  Once the baby arrives, a gift personalized with the baby's name or have a prepared meal delivered to the newly exhausted parents.

College Education

"Talk may be cheap but intelligent conversation is very expensive these days.  Ask anyone with a kid in college." - Unknown

According to the College Board, the average annual cost of a private four-year college is $29,056 for the 2012-13 school year.   While the annual cost of an in-state public four-year college is much lower at $8,655, multiplying these figures by four (or five if the student opts to major in extracurricular activities) results in a hefty final price tag your clients need to prepare for.  Keep in mind that these figures just account for tuition and fees!  Make sure their planning accounts for other costs―room and board, travel, books and supplies, and personal expenses.

Help your clients get on the right path by reviewing the various ways to help finance their children's education. Depending on their timeframe, discuss options of saving versus borrowing, available scholarships, grants, student loans and any potential tax breaks.  

At the end of the day, the more you help your clients prepare for these expenses, the more your congratulations card to the graduate will be appreciated.    

by Kristan Wojnar and Tony DiLeonardi

Tony DiLeonardi