By Sarah Kelsey
Like many of us, Heather, an executive at an insurance and financial institution, was raised to keep financial discussions in the vault. Her mother and father are in their late-80s and -90s and kept financial matters private.
Then her mother, the manager of the household finances, had a stroke. Heather was left scrambling to untangle a complex web of puzzle pieces — from powers of attorney impacts to bill payments and bank statements — that needed to come together quickly.
The situation was amplified given that Heather is a longstanding single parent to twins and was in the middle of contemplating a career change.
“I realized if something were to happen to me, I wanted to make sure everyone was taken care of and the details were communicated to my children,” Heather says. “I had to work with someone to get everything organized.”
Enter Jamie Keenan, a Wealth Advisor and Portfolio Manager at BMO. Heather was introduced to her through friends at the International Women’s Forum.
“Heather is an incredibly successful professional who climbed the corporate ladder while raising twins on her own,” says Jamie. “I noticed from the get-go she was very disciplined in her savings and budgeting approach. Despite being diligent, Heather needed advice on how to put the pieces of her financial puzzle together.” Her estate plan was also out of date — something that Jamie says is very common — and it made sense given all of her financial obligations at the time.
Together, Heather and Jamie worked to “peel back the onion layers” of Heather’s finances. They spoke candidly about what was needed for Heather to feel more organized with managing her money and Jamie asked her questions about what she wanted for her next chapters in life beyond working. From there, they laid the foundation and set a path that would allow Heather to accomplish all she wanted to do smartly and in a financially safe way.
“We completed a comprehensive financial plan so she could maintain choice, oversight, and independence on a potential career change and her eventual retirement. Our action items were clear and achievable.”
“My first goal with Heather was to get a sense of her financial situation. We completed a comprehensive financial plan so she could maintain choice, oversight, and independence on a potential career change and her eventual retirement,” says Jamie. “Our action items were clear and achievable.”
One goal, for example, was for Heather to update her will and powers of attorney. Through seeking advice, listening to alternatives, and creating her financial framework, it showed Heather she could maintain autonomy and get things done.
Slowly and surely, Heather says she started to feel more confident in her financial plans. She also started to have open discussions with her kids about money and what that meant for them.
Today, she says she has an annual “meeting” with her twins where she walks them through everything from her assets to her will. She’s also introduced them to Jamie.
“Single women have the autonomy to make their own financial decisions. When you don’t have to worry about a partner who has different spending or savings goals, you can create your own financial destiny. It sounds dreamy, right?” says Jamie.
The only problem is when her clients put the financial needs of others before their own — which is very common — they tend to shoulder too much. They need to ask for help and do as Heather has done: surround themselves with a solid “board of directors” to guide them through must-have legal and financial documents. Jamie was in full support to work with Heather’s accountant and helped her secure a strong estate lawyer.
“Gather the courage to ask for help and make a business decision like you would anything else. It will give you that peace of mind and alternatives. Why wouldn’t you have someone join your team?”
“Jamie recognized it was hard for me to let go because I was accustomed to making all the decisions as the single point of accountability in our family,” Heather says, adding that it took time, but they eventually built the trust required for her to embrace the financial planning process. “Gather the courage to ask for help and make a business decision like you would anything else. It will give you that peace of mind and alternatives. Why wouldn’t you have someone join your team?”
She adds: “You can’t go back, but I wish I had met Jamie sooner. I wish I had had guidance when I was making money decisions earlier in my career — the tax implications and what things are good investments. I also wish I had changed the status quo and talked more about money with my family.”
Heather says she’s still in chapter one of her financial plan. Her long-term goals include taking care of her elderly parents and being in a position to help her kids with housing. She’d also like to travel, a personal passion.
Looking back on her financial journey, she offers two final bits of advice.
First, interview a couple different advisors before you settle on one. She knew Jamie was “it” when their convo left her feeling like she “walked into the perfect home while house hunting.” Jamie also asked questions that “provoked some thinking” Heather hadn’t thought of.
Second, it’s never too late to make sense of your finances. “You can do things the ‘right’ way. You need to ask for help — and to be open to support. And you need to start talking openly about your finances with the right people. You can chart your own course.”