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Bryson Milley, CFP, CIM

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Deeper conversations helped a client change his life.

Sometimes it takes a significant event to shake us into realizing what’s really important, and to me, this is what COVID-19 has done for some of my clients. Family, friends, health, community — these have always been important parts of our lives, but now they are in the forefront. 

Not that I didn’t before, but now I make a point of directly asking each client how their family is doing. I then ask what the last eight months have done for their views on their future. The answers have caused some adjustments in their financial plans. 

One client of mine is a great example of this. He is the second-generation leader of a successful family business. He has been plugging away for the last 30 years doing what he thought was his responsibility to the family. He figured he’d do his part and then hand off the business to the next generation. 

During a review meeting in February, he mentioned he wasn’t really happy running the family business anymore, and he had an increased desire for a better work-life balance. But, they were comments in passing and not particularly deep. And frankly, the next generation of the family was not ready to take on the role, so he figured he’d just keep pushing forward.

Then in April, with COVID-19 in full play, I reached out to him to see how his business and family were doing. This is when the conversations became real as he began to truly uncover what he wanted. His earlier comments were no longer just passing thoughts; it was time to make changes. And time for us to rewrite the financial plan we had originally set in place.

A few weeks later, with big decisions now at the fore, he reached out to his mother to share how he felt and hear her thoughts. She told him the business was born out of the necessity to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. It was something she and his father were good at, and they realized they could make a living at it. 

Her fear had always been that her boys would work in the business only out of obligation, but because my client took to the business and grew it well, her fears were somewhat allayed. When they had their conversation in June, she told him that if it was time to call it a day, he had her full support. She also told him that if his father was still alive, he’d echo her sentiment. Yes, I think there was some emotion in that conversation! 

So now our financial plans for him and his family are changing, and we’re working closely with him on moving through this. Regardless of whether the business sells as a going concern or not, they are in a position of financial strength. 

The change may mean his employees will be looking for work. But, he feels a debt of gratitude for their many years of service, so our plans include financially caring for the employees too. It’s a feel-good story I don’t think would have happened if the pandemic hadn’t come along.

Bryson Milley is a 19-year MDRT member from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at


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