How to Attract, Connect and Engage Widowed Clients


Position Yourself As An Expert In Working With Widows


You know the statistics. Widows are one of the fastest growing demographic groups in our country today, with more than 1 million women joining this unpopular “club” every year. After hubby’s death, 70% of these surviving spouses fire the advisor they previously used together with their husband.

Kathleen blog picture

You have a tremendous opportunity to reach out and help these underserved women in transition. They need and want your assistance as a highly trained SMI advisor. You have the skills, tools and processes to help these women move forward.

But you have to get widows through your office door before you can assist them.

Below are two effective ways to help you grow your practice with widows. You’ll do this by positioning yourself as an expert in working with widows. These ideas and other practical suggestions are included in my eBooklet, How to Attract, Connect and Engage Widowed Clients.

Before selling my financial planning business last year to give more time to my speaking and writing, I worked with dozens of widows. During my 17 years in practice, I initially grew my firm by serving clergy families and independent women. After the death of my husband almost eight years ago, I focused my niche on women in transition like me, my “widowed sisters.”

1. Write articles for your local community newspapers, sharing helpful information for widows. If your area has a local women’s magazine, that’s another great possibility. For example, do a piece on “Three Mistakes Every Widow Should Avoid” or “Important Financial Steps for Recent Widows.” For samples of what you might write, look at some of these published pieces and articles by other financial journalists. Then draft a story in your own authentic voice, focusing on useful, educational content. If you don’t like to write, work with a ghost writer who can capture your ideas in a compelling article. Remember to include your carefully crafted short byline that identifies your expertise in assisting widows. For example, your tagline might be something like “helping widows in transition feel more secure about their financial future.”

2. Present a workshop for widows, wives and supportive friends that’s open to your clients, their friends and the community— as an educational outreach activity. Consider making this a collaborative effort as you partner with other centers of influence. Perhaps an estate planning attorney or a nonprofit agency such as a hospice group or local foundation might be a good addition. (This will also expand the audience you can attract.) Let the neighboring press know you’re doing this event, and often they’ll write a news story about it. Here’s one example from a workshop we did for the Chautauqua Institution Women’s Club.  Also tap into local radio for free publicity. Contact “Talk of the Town” type shows that frequently welcome folks to interview about current community events. Here’s a sample radio clip from station 1540 WADK in Newport, RI for a workshop sponsored by a local financial planning firm.

I’ll share more practical suggestions to help our SMI Advisors attract, connect and engage your widowed clients during the SMI Women in Transition Pre-Conference Day. Hope to see you there!


Advising Clients with Painful Money Legacies


Advising Clients with Painful Money Legacies

Part 1: Financial Betrayals and Exploitations

DR. MOIRA SOMERS, PH.D., C. PSYCH., Sudden Money® Institute Faculty Member 

Big life transitions often require people to make some of the most important financial decisions they will ever have to make. As Susan Bradley (founder of The Sudden Money Institute) puts it, “When life changes, money changes – and when money changes, life changes.”  But if those people have had uneasy or painful relationships with or around money in the past, then transition-related financial decisions can become much more challenging.

Moira Advising Clients Part 1 In this series of blog posts, I will tackle some of the painful money histories that people bring with them to an advisor’s office.  I will identify the main emotional responses to these events, and suggest strategies for advisors to deal with such clients sensitively and effectively.

I’ll start with Financial Betrayal and Exploitation. This can take many forms. Among them: stealing money from a family member’s wallet or bank account; taking advantage of a loyal employee by not giving proper recompense or credit; befriending people because of their wealth; profiting from insider information or personal confidences; and outright theft, embezzlement, or fraud.

Mistrust, anger and shame are among the lasting emotional experiences of people who have been taken advantage of in such ways.  They may doubt their ability to gauge others’ honesty and intentions.  Vowing never again to be victimized, they may “overcorrect” by never disclosing anything about their financial circumstances, even to their intimates. Many set up hidden “Gotcha!” scenarios to try and ferret out hidden motives of new friends or romantic partners. Those who are awash in shame find it exceedingly hard to talk about what’s happened to them. They may become avowed financial or legal Do-It-Yourselfers, eschewing professional advice to their own peril.  Or they may simply avoid tending to or talking about money for as long as they possibly can.

When such people find themselves in an advisor’s office due to major life events such as marriage, inheritances, or business expansions, they are often awash in mistrust and misgiving.  Advisors may find themselves at the receiving end of considerable suspiciousness and hostility, wondering what on earth they could have done to merit such treatment.

Many advisors have found that they are able to work effectively with such clients if they make a point of doing the following:

  1.  Ask all new clients how they prefer to give and receive information.  For example, do they like to make decisions on the spot, or spend time pondering your advice? Is there anyone else they would like to invite to your meetings? Such questions demonstrate a high degree of caring about their emotional and intellectual comfort.
  2.  Acknowledge that many people find it difficult to talk about financial matters. Identify that this is especially true for people who have had unfortunate experiences dealing with money. Ask questions such as the following: “Have you ever worked with a lawyer/financial advisor/business consultant before? How was that experience for you?” or “Have you had any experiences in your life that might make it hard for you to share financial information?” Let clients set the pace in terms of how quickly they are required to disclose sensitive information.
  3. Avoid shaming or judgmental language of any kind and at all times. Statements that start with, “You should have…”  “How could you have…” or “Why didn’t you…” are not likely to land well, even if applied to events that are decades old.


Get On The Balcony


The first principal of the CFT™ Thinking Partner Process


Transitions are very personal experiences life is in motion as key elements become disconnected from their normal order. To oneshutterstock_214068859 degree or another, patterns of life shift, comfortable expectations are questioned and reset, and the finances play a strong role but not necessarily the leading role. It is common to get lost the weeds trying to address any one issue while there are many other issues of equal or greater importance.

One couple received a life threatening diagnosis the same week they decided to use an inheritance to support an early and upgraded retirement. They described their lives as being lost is a familiar place. They understood all the pieces but could not pull them together into anything resembling coherence.

 Timing was tight given the commitments they were about make, including resignations that could not be reversed once given and real estate transactions that set their upscale retirement into motion. 

 These are the times when clients need their planner to be both a financial expert and their thinking partner. The first principal of the Thinking Partner’s process is to get out of the weeds and Get On The Balcony.

For this couple it means to take time to develop the big picture view of all the moving parts, the  diagnosis, the segments of liquid assets, the fixed income sources, the current and intended real estate, the obligations and expenses, and of course the hopes, dreams and expectations of the early retirement.

The challenge is to stay on the balcony long enough to get a fresh look at the new possibilities. This is done by sorting and reviewing the moving parts of life and finances –

  •  what has changed,
  • how the changes are seen and felt by the client
  • what is flexible,
  • what can be controlled and known,
  • and what are the new uncertainties.

As easy as that sounds the process frequently gets cut short and next thing you know you are back in the weeds trying to solve an unsolvable problem because it feels important.  An expert is trained and most comfortable when to know the answers and can give clients clear advice.  But this is an intersection in the client’s life when there is no one right answer or even two equally good options to choose between.

The role of a Thinking Partner is to structure a safe environment for discovery, testing possibilities and meaningful, perhaps tough, conversations. The time pressures need to be addressed but not drive the next stage of their lives.

More on CFT™ Training 

What is a Thinking Partner?


The Role of a Thinking Partner

Susan Bradley, CFP® CFT™ Founder of Sudden Money Institute

Bloukrans River BridgeTransitions take time; based on experts in the field and our advisors’ experiences, they can take from five to seven years to   complete. One of the key roles of a Thinking Partner during transitions is to help clients find their own answers. Without training, process and tools, the idea of weighing through layers of possibilities and uncertainty one by one, over whatever time-frame the client needs, may seem daunting. However, when an advisor comes to the client with tools to aid in the sorting and discovery process, the experience may be profoundly rewarding for planners and their clients.

 The Thinking Partner role changes from a nice “value-add” experience for a status-quo client, to an “essential need” experience for a client in a major life transition.

Thinking Partners are trained to

  • Get on the balcony and see the big picture
  • Normalize uncertainty and allow discovery
  • Lower stress levels to increase attention span and decision-making capacity
  • Support unpredictable timelines and results

It is common to underestimate the value of being skilled and trained as a Thinking Partner; that is until you notice your clients struggling in spite of your good financial advice or when you are in the transition experience yourself. The closer you get to the transition experience, the easier it is to see the big, sometimes giant, missing piece in traditional financial planning, practice of law and in life coaching.

The good news is the gap between being an expert in your profession and being a Thinking Partner for your clients is easier to fill than you might expect and the rewards are greater than you can imagine. We believe that now more than ever, Transition Expertise Matters.

Join me next week for more on the skills of a Thinking Partner.

To Learn More about Transitions Expertise:

 Join Us for our Virtual CFT™ Training beginning July 10

  Click Here for More Information and to Register

Three Questions For Successful Adaptation


Three Questions For Successful Adaptation
The Art of Managing Life Transitions

Susan Bradley, CFP® CFT™ Founder of Sudden Money Institute


Common experiences for anyone in a life transition is a break in the normal patterns of life; a disruption of routine, change in finances, an emotional upheaval. One might think that once the money aspects are settled; the primary job of the financial planner is finished. However, just because the money is settled, does not mean that the transition is completed. Typically it takes a few years to adapt to a new stage in life.  During this Passage Stage of a transition, there is a natural sorting process taking place.

There are three recurring questions to be considered:

  •  What needs to be let go of? 
  • What is important: what needs to be protected and held onto? 
  • What needs to be created? 

Uncertainty usually accompanies this sorting process. Not having concrete or consistent answers may be uncomfortable and there is a temptation to ‘just make a decision‘.  You won’t find the answers in calculations, spreadsheets or psychological evaluations. Although these may be helpful they are not the source of the solutions and new direction.  When working with clients in transition, the job of the financial planner frequently moves away from being an expert and towards that of a client’s thinking partner.

Though the roles may seem to be one and the same, they are distinctly different and equally important.

More on the distinctions and why they matter next week.

Beyond the First Year


A short blog of helpful tips when speaking to widows
Excerpts taken from Impactful Empathy by Kathleen Rehl, Ph.D. CFP®,
Author of Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows
and Sudden Money® Institute Faculty Member

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Advisors receive advice about what to do for widow clients during the first year, but what happens after? SMI Faculty Member Kathleen Rehl Ph.D. shares on the topic.

Beyond the First Year

While your client may have moved on to the next stage of widowhood by this time-GROWTH-it’s important to recognize that although her grief is no longer raw, she’s probably still grieving. Many widows will continue transitioning into a new life after the first year, as they move toward becoming more than just a widow. This third stage of widowhood is a time of TRANSFORMATION. The future may even hold the possibility of new relationships. Your continued support and attention is important as she prepares to make decisions about her changed life ahead.“Look how far you’ve come over the past year after (name)’s death. This may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. I know your grief process is not over, but you are making wonderful progress.” You’ve moved through this year with grace and beauty, and I believe (name) would be so proud of you for continuing to move forward with your life. And I’m proud of you, too!”

To Learn More about Working with Widow Clients: 

Join Kathleen Rehl and Susan Bradley for SMI’s first ever Virtual CFT™ Training Workshop  

Click Here for Information and to Register 

Questions That Matter: Part Three


Dr. Moira Somers, Ph.D., C. Psych.

Sudden Money® Institute Faculty Member

Questions That Matter:  Part One
Questions That Matter:  Part Two

Anticipate Non-Adherence

The effective advisor understands that many change attempts fail because of a lack of realistic planning. Instead of just hoping for the best, spend some time anticipating setbacks and figuring out how to ease the load. timeout

Try the following questions:

  • Is there anybody in your life who might be upset by this course of action?
  • What is going to be hardest for you to do or stop doing?
  • What would lead you to give up?
  • How could we set it up so that things happen as automatically as possible, with a minimum of disruption or demand on you?

Dr. Moira Somers, Ph.D., C. Psych. is a Sudden Money® Institute Faculty Member and financial psychologist. Learn more about her work at Money, Mind and Meaning.

Questions That Matter: Part Two


Dr. Moira Somers, Ph.D., C. Psych.
Sudden Money® Institute Faculty Member
Questions That Matter:  Part One

 Assess Readiness for Change

Ever get the sense that YOU are motivated more than your client? That’s a common experience among advice-givers.advisor team

While your enthusiasm and persuasive skills can temporarily boost the spirits of a discouraged client, that’s usually insufficient to lead to lasting change. Lasting change comes when people resolve their own ambivalence by coming up with their own powerful reasons for doing things differently.

Try the following questions to help them get there:

  • What are your reasons for wanting to make these changes?
  • Can you think of any reasons for not changing?
  • Do you feel ready to take action on this right now?
  • How confident are you that this solution meets your needs?

If the answers to these questions fail to give you an unambiguous Green Light, then do not pass Go!  Instead, spend time exploring alternatives. Put your efforts into things that the client IS ready to take on.

Dr. Moira Somers, Ph.D., C. Psych. is a Sudden Money® Institute Faculty Member and financial psychologist. Learn more about her work at Money, Mind and Meaning.

Questions That Matter: Part One


Questions That Matter:  Part One

Dr. Moira Somers, Ph.D., C. Psych.
Sudden Money® Institute Faculty Member

 Help Ensure Mutual Comprehension

 There are many reasons why clients may not follow excellent advice. One of the most common reasons is that they did not fully understand what was said to them by their advisor.

In order to avoid this problem, add the following questions to each of your client meetings:

hands question cropped

  • Is there anything we haven’t had a chance to talk about today that you really wanted us to discuss?  Do you feel that I have a good understanding of the situation?
  • Do you have any more questions for me?
  • Can you tell me in your own words what we agreed would be the next step, and why?
  • Is there anything that is leaving you unsettled or unsure?


Dr. Moira Somers, Ph.D., C. Psych. is a Sudden Money® Institute Faculty Member and financial psychologist. Learn more about her work at Money, Mind and Meaning.

Habits of Healthy Family Cultures : Part Three


Part Three

Ten Habits of Healthy Family Cultures
Exerpts taken from Intentional Wealth by Courtney Pullen, M.A., LPC
Sudden Money® Institute Faculty Member

We hope you’ve enjoyed Part One and Part Two of our series, Ten Habits of Healthy Family Cultures.  Author and SMI faculty member Courtney Pullen has shared some intentional practices, beliefs and behaviors that can lead to successful family cultures.  Here are some more of those habits he observed in his book Intentional Wealth.happy asian family

See the family as a learning system.

Families who are most successful at passing their values on to future generations understand the importance of seeing mistakes as something to learn from.  They are willing to learn from advisors and confident enough to seek out those who are willing to “speak truth to power.”  They cultivate a sense of appropriate humility.

See the family as a steward of the wealth.

 Most of the legacy families that I have worked with or interviewed discuss openly the family’s responsibility to be the steward of the wealth.  There is a deep sense that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”  They describe themselves as the custodians of their wealth and of the well-being of others. I have worked with a number of families who had very different political or social beliefs from each other, but they were in alignment around the value of making a contribution in the lives of others.


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