By Jan E. Conner, CFP, CTFA

100 dollar bills folded into the shape of a boat floating on water

They had been married more than 40 years, built a successful accounting firm, raised three children, been involved in numerous charities and were active in their community. Six months ago, they sold the accounting firm and could travel, do charitable work and spend much more time with their children. Then came the windfall. A developer made a multimillion-dollar offer for property they had purchased more than 20 years ago. Suddenly, they had many decisions to make – unexpected decisions – about how these millions would be invested, distributed to their children and donated to charities.

Transition Can Be Daunting

Financial transitions come in many forms: selling a business, death or divorce, inheritance or a windfall like the example mentioned. Regardless of the reason, managing a financial transition can be overwhelming, difficult and exciting – all at the same time. Given the circumstances, sometimes people make decisions they wouldn’t otherwise make.

Children might be surprised when their widowed mother suddenly announces she is “selling the house and moving to NYC to fulfill a lifelong dream” or when a business owner, who recently sold a business, decides to invest in another business without careful consideration. People who are divorced may be paralyzed by fear and too numb to make any decisions.

What Do I Do?

Financial advisors guide their clients to thoughtful decisions in-line with their long-term financial well-being. They may counsel clients to delay making a choice when there isn’t enough information or time to make an informed decision. As part of a planning process, advisors help clients consider and make decisions based on their values and priorities, and avoid confusion created by others with differing motives. Financial advisors bring experience, structure and forethought, which is particularly important to clients with new-found wealth. The excitement and exuberance of a new professional athlete or lottery winner is intoxicating and having a trusted advisor as a guide can help ensure a bright, long-term future.

Communication Tailored to You

One cornerstone to helping clients is understanding how they want to communicate with their advisor. Your advisor should ask how you prefer to communicate. If they don’t, tell them. Email or phone call? Meeting materials in advance or upon arrival? Charts and graphs to explain figures or a spreadsheet? Given that decisions may need to be made quickly and lots of information may need to be absorbed, it is important that the method and format suits you.

Getting Started

compass point towards the word moneyRegardless of the circumstance, thinking through the decisions you need to make, listing and prioritizing them creates structure and is the basis for a plan – a critical step for working through stressful financial situations.

Start by writing down all the decisions that need to be addressed or that you believe should be considered. Writing them down provides clarity by forcing you to think through the decisions that need to be made.

Then you should prioritize the decisions in one of four ways: What needs to be done now? What needs to be done in one to three months? What needs to be done within six months to a year? Finally, what can wait more than a year? Prioritizing gives you more time to focus on the urgent decisions while allowing enough time to give the appropriate consideration to the remaining issues.

Importance of a Trusted Advisor

It is important to work through this process with an objective, knowledgeable, experienced advisor who has your best interests in mind. They can help you talk through and carefully consider each decision. The process will help you understand the implications and how each decision can affect you in the short and long term. Their goal is to prepare you to acclimate and manage within your “new financial normal.”

You Are Not Alone

Financial transitions can cause stress and sleepless nights. You may feel overwhelmed by all of the decisions and the pressures of friends, family, business associates and others to heed their advice. If you follow some of these basic steps and find a financial advisor you trust, you will be prepared to deal with sudden changes more confidently. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone.

About the Author

Jan E. Conner, CFP®, CTFA

Jan E. Conner, CFP®, CTFA

Senior Vice President

As a Wealth advisor, Jan Conner helps her clients take a comprehensive and strategic approach to financial planning tailored to her clients’ needs, priorities and preferences.  Jan earned a bachelor’s degree at Ohio State University and is a graduate of the Sudden Money Institute in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), a Certified Trust Financial Advisor (CTFA), a Series 7 and Series 63 license holder and a Certified Financial Transitionist.