By Mark Zinder
About the author: Mark Zinder was National Spokesman for Franklin Templeton and has worked with money managers such as Sir John Templeton, Michael Price and Dr. Mark Mobius. With 33 years of experience in the financial sector, Mark now travels the country as a speaker and coaches the top financial services professionals in the industry.
Recently, Ann Arbor Annuity Exchange invited Mark to speak at one of our producer events. Mark was happy to share one of his many ideas with our producers. One of his many skills is his ability to use stories to sell. We found his insight very valuable and thought to pass it on to you!
“When I was sixteen, my father was the most ignorant man in the world. By the time I reached 21, I was surprised at how much he had learned in five years.” ~Mark Twain
For most parents with teenagers, this sentiment will ring too true. As summer winds down and the memories of unfettered youth and vacations begin to fade, many of our clients are preparing their children and even grandchildren for the next stage of life – college. Freshmen entering college for the first time have been preparing for this moment for, well, a lifetime.
Now, they are in the home stretch – there are just a few more things to do – shopping for oversized mattress sheets, posters, trash cans, and cleaning materials that will hopefully be used. They will bring their favorite blanket and pillow, hanging onto the last vestiges of home. Their parents will drop them off at the dorm, having physically, educationally, and emotionally prepared their children for the challenges ahead.
Or have they?
Fast forward a few months into the new school year...
At 3 a.m., the phone rang. My friend picked up – it was the hospital at the university where his daughter went to school. The nurse wanted to confirm her identity and insurance information. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “Are you her power of attorney?” asked the hospital. He was not. “I’m sorry, sir, but we can’t tell you.” HIPAA laws. She was age of majority, and her parents no longer had rights to her personal information. He and his wife hopped in the car and drove five hours to finally find out their daughter was having an emergency appendectomy. Can you imagine what that car ride was like?
Most parents encounter a rude awakening when their kids first head to college – sometimes their phone calls go unreturned, and they no longer get quarterly report cards. But since the passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996, privacy laws have changed even our most basic rights to information about our loved ones. And problems do arise. A quarter-million Americans between 18 and 25 are hospitalized with nonlethal injuries each year. Accidents remain the leading cause of death for young adults. But we may not even find out what happened until it’s too late to help.
As industry insiders, we’ve all heard these stats. 55% of Americans don’t have a will. Just 26% have a health proxy or living will in case of a medical emergency. Even among high-net-worth investors, only 53% have a healthcare proxy or living will. Few people have prepared a list of their allergies or prescription drugs, which can save time and prevent deadly drug interactions in hospitals. Our clients go to the hospital totally unprepared. And their children are even less prepared.
As financial professionals, we focus on helping our clients with investments, insurance, qualified plans, 529s – all of the things that generate gross income. However, all too often we decline to help our clients prepare for life and financial emergencies by ensuring they have living wills, powers of attorney, and copies of important medical documents. We often think, “That’s not my job, that’s someone else’s job.” True – the average investor is working with 6-8 financial professionals: a banker, insurance agent, mortgage broker, CPA, executor, and two, three, or four financial advisors. But nobody else is helping them fill these gaps.
Without crossing the line into areas that you are not qualified to advise on, here’s your golden opportunity to become their trusted advisor – help your clients get their house in order. Better yet, help their children or grandchildren get their house in order. The time to prepare these documents is now, before they go off to college. Here are a few things that they need that often go unaddressed:
- A living will, which allows a patient to leave instructions for their medical care if they are incapacitated.
- A health proxy or medical power of attorney, which designates a person to make medical decisions on the patient’s behalf.
- In many states, those two documents are combined and called an Advance Directive. If the student is going to college out-of-state, make sure they fill out the document that corresponds to the state in which they are studying.
- If possible, a durable power of attorney. Unlike the medical power of attorney, this document will grant parents (or some other family member or friend, if the student wishes) the ability to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf.
- A list of their prescription drugs, allergies, medical conditions, and emergency contacts.
While your client may need some specific expert help for some situations (a tax advisor or attorney), most of these documents can be found online for free on each state’s website and you can help open your clients’ eyes to these needs. The durable power of attorney can be especially helpful in a variety of circumstances. It could, for example, allow a parent to sign a lease or acquire legal counsel on their child’s behalf. Some parents may encounter pushback – what if the student doesn’t wish to sign the document? College students may worry that their parents will have access to their grades. Their worries are unfounded – even though parents often pay the tuition, schools will not release transcripts unless the student grants permission to the school.
It is our job to help our clients prepare for their future, and if we do a good enough job, we hope that their children will choose us to help them navigate this often complex world. Even though young adults may see their parents as clueless or ignorant, as Mark Twain once did, this is a golden opportunity to show them that you, their financial professional, are not.
The information and views presented by the author are his own and are believed to be reliable; however, neither AAAE nor their representatives are responsible for the accuracy of the materials being presented by the author. Financial Professionals should ensure they continue to follow the current policies on the use of any advertising, third-party materials and/or social media as required by their state(s), broker/dealer and/or the carriers that they represent. Ann Arbor Annuity Exchange and Mark Zinder are not affiliated.