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As she began to bring up her goals and concerns, he responded with, "Bob is gone so things will be different now." Her inner voice responded back with, "My life is totally different now, you condescending jerk!"


After that, things went from bad to worse. The advisor told her, "You will have to live on a budget now." In her head, she replied, "Who do you think's been managing the budget all of our married lives? Do you even know about my pension and Social Security income?"


Nevertheless, she persisted. With Bob gone, her number one priority was to help her young adult sons move forward with their lives. One son was finishing up college (and they had promised to pay his tuition), another was just starting his teaching career (and living at home) and the other was now in the stressful position of having to pick up the pieces of his father's law practice (only a year out of law school). After explaining how important this was to her, the advisor admonished her stating, "You don't have to take care of your sons anymore. It's different now that you're alone." Her internal response is not something I can share in public!


And, yes, there was even more. When she brought up paying their half of the backyard fence to her neighbor, the advisor informed her that a "backyard fence is not a necessity" and had the nerve to ask, "Did you say you would pay for the fence before or after Bob died?"


Finally, she wanted the advisor to provide recommendations on one of her son's accounts, who had remaining inherited money after he completed his education degree at a state college. Even though his account had over $200,000, the advisor proclaimed, "Your son's money is nothing."


Of course, she wasn't able to remain silent during this conversation. She tried to move the conversation toward some form of productivity. For her efforts, the advisor challenged, "Why do you always have to push back so hard?"


In actuality, this woman had full knowledge of her spending, what her goals were and how her priorities stacked up. She had significant pension and Social Security income that far exceeded her living expenses. Her home was almost mortgage free and her portfolio, including taxable and retirement accounts, was worth more than $1.5 million.


After this excruciating encounter with her now former advisor, she moved her accounts (as did her son) to my firm. She felt she could talk to me. I didn't bark orders. I didn't try to dazzle her or talk down to her. I respected her goals and her preferences. Sure, my firm is fee-only and we take care to do excellent work; but, in the end, it's really about communication.

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