Far more than any advisor is comfortable admitting, we serve senior clients who have challenges with their adult children.
Just imagine; the adult children I’m talking about are Baby Boomers with kids of their own! When one of these senior clients calls with a problem concerning their “children,” I listen. I say, “Let me think about that and get back to you in the next couple of days.” I call back, gather more information, and say, “That puts another wrinkle on the problem.” I ask more questions and follow up in a few days.
From whence come these challenges and how do we stay in role as advisors when they pop up in client conversation? Knowing the personality types of adult children in their late 40’s to early 60’s may shed some light.
The Entitled Child, often from an affluent family, may be first on the list. This personality knows their parents have money and believe they have a right to some of that wealth now, regardless of the parents’ values, estate plans, or needs.
The second type of Baby Boomer would be the Low Responsibility child. Think someone who is educated, but not wise; gifted, but not focused; physically healthy but emotionally unstable. Senior parents have good reason to wonder if leaving unrestricted wealth to this type of child is in their best interests.
A third type we often hear about or meet is the Angry child. Life has not gone his or her way; marriages have collapsed, their adult children (the grandchildren) are adrift, etc. This anger bleeds over to parents who love their Boomer child deeply but recoil from having meaningful engagement because of relational toxicity.
Thankfully, we all have clients who have responsible, mature, focused, and independent adult children. These clients enjoy the gift of the Well-Rounded child. Yes, they have bumps in the road. Yes, they know the demands of rearing children, and yes, they may have a health issue here and there.
Well-rounded “children” manage their money well, and they plan for the future unaware and unconcerned what might come to them when mom and dad die.
So, what can we do to support our senior clients with the first three personality types?
First, find ways across many conversations and visits to learn about the family. One of the clients mentioned above has a well-rounded child and a low responsibility child. Listening, asking questions, and listening again afforded us an on-ramp to talk about some estate planning tools no one had broached with this client heretofore. Deep discovery will always create an onramp to higher levels of service.
Last, draw water from the wells of compassion as you listen, ask questions, and offer support. Refuse to suggest their challenging child is anything less than their beloved child. Your gift opens when you put options on the table showing your client creative and responsible ways to accomplish their goals while keeping their family together. The advisor role is part counselor, part problem-solver, part financial mentor, and part friend. Let your clients see those sides of your personality, and you will give them more reasons to affirm the decision they made long ago to work with you.