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Uncovering Clients’ Secrets for Their Own Good

August 15, 2013

Clients sometimes keep financially significant things from their advisors. Frequently it’s from natural forgetfulness, but privacy concerns and simple embarrassment also play roles. Whatever the reason, such concealment can keep an advisor from having a complete picture of her client’s financial life and so keep her from doing her best work, according to RIA Central.

The e-zine has a couple of ideas for advisors who want to get a better handle on their clients’ finances in order to keep them from trouble and do a better job of allocating their assets.

First, advisors can ask to see their clients’ tax returns. Besides pointing to “held away” assets, these documents can trigger a vital discussion about the advisor’s need to have a full view of the client’s financial holdings, even if she doesn’t control or otherwise make money on them.

Next, advisors should watch carefully for signs of failing mental capacity, something some clients will go to extraordinary lengths to conceal. Though this isn’t strictly a financial matter, it can have a profound effect on how an advisor talks to a client about money, how he allocates their assets and what steps he takes, in consultation with family members and other professionals, to ensure that sound decisions continue to be made on the client’s behalf.

Equally, advisors have to be sensitive to the fact that some clients will try to hide matters of potential financial significance, such as “marital difficulties, health concerns, depression, and the physical burdens of caring for an elderly parent or spouse,” says RIA Central.

While you won’t be able to catch every problem before it gets serious, “knowing in advance the kinds of secrets clients tend to keep” can help you handle crises “with grace” and “be a voice of reason and compassion” when they appear, the e-zine concludes.

By Thomas Coyle
  • To read the RIA Central article cited in this story, click here.