Registered Rep.: You are a former emergency room and psychiatric nurse and author of, When Are You Entitled to New Underwear and Other Major Financial Decisions. How have you made use of your psychiatric nursing background in your advisory practice?
Eileen Michaels: People tend to have subconscious rules about when and how they should plan their financial lives. They often act much less on logic than on emotion. You need to talk to their emotions as well as their intelligence. For example, I had a client who stood to inherit a great deal of money, but she refused to make a financial plan. In asking some pointed questions, I discovered that she didn't want to think about her mother's death. So, I said, “Let's plan on your mother living to be 100. Then, what will your plans be?”
RR: How do you approach risk aversion?
EM: People often talk about not taking risk with their money. I have to remind them that there is risk in everything. There's risk in sticking your money in the bank — you might not have enough cash flow for daily living, or the bank may not be able to insure all of it. Then, I ask clients what kind of risk they're most comfortable with; how much they could lose and still be okay. And, we create a plan from there.
RR: Tell me about your latest project.
EM: I created an advisory board of clients in the fall of 2010, and we held a meeting called “Private Conversations.” I asked them to tell me their greatest concerns: What did they think about when they are alone; what are they afraid to talk about out loud? The things that came up included issues of aging, taking care of children and ailing parents, job security, trusts and estates. People really want a trusted person they can have these private conversations with. I plan to write my next book about this.