Do you have clients who are near or in middle age? If you’re like me, you have a number of clients in their 40s and 50s who have recently sent or will soon be sending their last child off to college or to pursue a career. As we all know, this can trigger some emotions as well as cause a few bumps in a family’s financial roadmap. As a true fiduciary, you already know that helping your clients with issues like resolving family discord is just as important as assisting them with their finances. When it comes to ‘empty nest syndrome’, you usually find that your clients need advice and guidance in both areas as empty nesters often find this event disrupts both their lifestyle and their finances. If you have clients in this boat, read the following tips to help them cope and adjust to their new reality.
How to Help Them Adjust Financially
Your empty-nester clients may be positively or negatively affected by their new status depending on their situation. If they’ve agreed to pay for college expenses, they could be facing a newly tightened budget. On the flipside, if their child is paying for post-secondary expenses on his or her own, they could find they have more discretionary income than they’ve enjoyed in years. In either scenario, an adjustment will be involved. Whether you need to work with them to cut some expenses or work on a loan or you want to make sure they’re using their newly freed up funds in the most beneficial ways, your job as a fiduciary is to guide them through this process.
How to Help the Adjust Behaviorally
It’s easy to get into habits and routines that come easily and feel comfortable. When your clients’ children leave the home, those routines are usually blown out of the water. If your clients were the type of parents whose lives revolved around their children, suddenly having an empty house can take a big toll and lead to boredom, anxiety, or even a late-life divorce. While this time can easily be one of their happiest and most independent, they sometimes need reminded of this. Encourage them to explore new hobbies, renew date night, and use free time to travel or start a side business. Steer them away from diving too deeply into their careers or relying on each other as their sole means of companionship as this can easily lead to high levels of stress and can damage relationships.
Help Them Adjust Emotionally
Many times, the biggest impact of becoming empty nesters is emotional. It’s difficult to predict how you will react to your kids leaving home. Some feel a sense of relief, others accomplishment, while others find they are lost and depressed without kids around to interact with and take care of. No matter which group your clients fall into, help them see that their feelings are normal and that they should be ready for them to change at any moment. You also need to be prepared with healthy boundaries so that you don’t suddenly become too involved with their lives as those who feel lost often cling to any support system they can find.
Helping your clients increase their emotional agility is one of the best things you can do when helping them through tough transitions such as this one. When they are able to hold a positive core self image while still having flexibility in their thoughts and feelings, they’ll be able to make the adjustment and find the bright side to living a more independent life.
No matter how long they have planned for their children to leave home, most parents feel the impact when their youngest actually walks out the door. As their financial counselor, it’s important that you are prepared to help them adjust to their new reality on an emotional, behavioral, and financial level. Have questions or comments on the empty nest syndrome? Please leave them below!