As a former physician, Carolyn McClanahan of Life Planning Partners understands that health is an important aspect of a client’s financial plan.
“Health is an integral part of our lives just like money is,” she said during a recent Take 15 interview with Lauren Foster. “And, actually, being a financial planner and a physician is pretty much the same thing: You’re taking care of a different part of people’s lives.”
McClanahan believes that financial planners need to help clients figure out their long-term goals rather than focusing on investments alone. She finds that many financial planners avoid discussing health with their clients despite its significant implications.
“Somebody who has an unhealthy lifestyle needs a very different plan from somebody who lives a very healthy lifestyle, so we need to learn how to take these things into account,” McClanahan said.
She suggests you start by simply asking clients what they do to take care of their health. That shows the client that you are comfortable talking about health issues and opens up the discussion for more specific questions. These could include medical conditions, lifestyle, family history, advanced directive planning, and how the client makes health-care decisions. It is also helpful to remind clients that your discussions are confidential and that you need this information to do a better job for them. Having these conversations early is key to establishing a framework for clients to eventually cede control of their finances and health care to a surrogates before they lose the ability to take care of their affairs.
McClanahan believes clients need to be realistic about their decisions and conditions.
“The biggest lifestyle change . . . is to understand their health care making decisions and to accept who they are instead of who they want to be,” she said.
If a client struggles with weight or addiction, for example, acknowledging the problem and its consequences instead of ignoring them can make it easier for the client to implement a lifestyle change or at least to plan accordingly.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
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