Why I Now Believe In Selling To Family

I spent the past two days attending my grandfather's memorial and funeral, and I learned a valuable lesson about being a financial planner over these two days. When I began in the financial services industry, I was advised to offer my services to my family and friends (my natural market.) Prior to this weekend, I had never felt comfortable approaching family members about helping them with their financial well-being. I now feel very differently about this.

It was always my opinion that offering my services to family members was intrusive and broke family boundaries about money issues. Particularly when I first entered the industry, I was uncomfortable offering services to my family (or anyone else for that matter) without really knowing what I was doing. I did not want to harm family members' finances if they agreed to work with me. What I never counted on or recognized was that I may actually feel responsibility later on if a family member had financial struggles created by working with an alternative financial advisor. 

As this weekend proceeded, I sat recollecting several months ago when I stumbled upon several annuity statements in my grandmother's condo. I immediately began to question the appropriateness of these policies due to my grandparents ages. Upon inspecting the statements, I noticed a couple of the policies appeared to have been sold withing the past six years, when my grandparents would have been in their eighties. I did not review very closely, but my instant sense was that these policy sales were likely not in my grandparents best interest. However, I did not say anything to my grandmother and did nothing.

As I reflected on this discovery at the funeral, I realized I was carrying some guilt about not discovery of those policies. I felt that I should have helped my grandparents earlier with their financial well-being and that way may have prevented poor product sales from occurring. I should have offered my help. This guilt was likely the reason I had not said anything a couple months ago. Frankly, I do not believe my grandmother's financial situation is poor despite these annuities (I may even find them appropriate when I inspect more thoroughly), nevertheless I should have offered my expertise earlier despite a bit of discomfort it may have caused. Things could have turned out very poorly and I may have been able to prevent that from occurring. I recognize the poor advice being delivered to people, and should offer good advice to my family members.

I share this story for one reasons. I hope that someone reading this who feels similarly awkward about approaching family will be able to do overcome that feeling and approach family in good faith to prevent harm coming to their family members. I had to learn this lesson experientially; maybe someone else will not have to do so. Help your family before a poorly trained or unethical financial advisor harms their finances. Feel comfortable providing your family good financial advice so that when you sit at a funeral (or other family gathering) you can know their survivors are secure. Break the taboo of financial discussions among your family because the harm that could befall them from an unscrupulous financial salesperson far outweighs any ill-will that breaking that taboo might cause.

And if you are the family member being approached, consider the motivation behind the approach. You may be inclined to think the individual is just trying to sell you something, but they may feel a responsibility to help family. You have to judge this for yourself. My goal is to help you recognize that there may be a good reason this individual wants to work with you.


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