Managing Alone Book Review by: George Hartman of Investment Executive

George Hartman provides a great book review in the Investment Executive giving Managing Alone a 4 out of 5 rating.

A lesson for advisors

The authors of Managing Alone have been able to write a book with ample practical advice for dealing with the death of a spouse. It’s a great example of how advisors can inform clients

I’m a huge advocate of financial advisors writing books. It’s a great way to share expertise and build credibility among current and prospective clients. And with today’s technology and print-on-demand services, it’s easier than ever to get your work published.
Many advisor-authored books fall short on two counts: they deal with topics that are of greater interest to the author than to potential readers; and they’re too generic and theoretical in the advice they provide, making it a challenge for readers to visualize how the content applies to them.

Managing Alone overcomes both of these concerns. The book is written by Jennifer Black and Janet Baccarani, both well-qualified advisors with Manulife Securities Inc. The book, which is based on real-life experiences in their practices, presents a series of case studies that cover most of the situations in which clients who experience the loss of a spouse through death might find themselves. This content makes it relatively easy to relate to the principal characters in each vignette. Here are some examples:

  • Nancy, 25, was a stay-at-home mother with three children when her husband, Sam, died in a hunting accident. Because Sam had no will, Nancy had to apply to the provincial court to be named as administrator of his estate. Until that was completed, the family’s sole bank account was frozen because it was in Sam’s name only. Similarly, his RRSP also was frozen because no beneficiary had been designated. Although there were modest life insurance proceeds, Nancy’s lack of financial experience made it difficult for her to decide how to use the money – to pay down the mortgage, cover legal and funeral expenses, reduce debt or save it for a daily living expenses?
  • Walter, 62 and Anita, 60, had been married for 35 years when Anita fell ill with bacterial meningitis and passed away. Although the couple had been financially prudent, Walter was unprepared for the emotional toll of losing his lifelong mate. Walter missed the social and community involvement and, after an appropriate period of time, opened his mind to the possibility of a new companion. This thinking concerned his family because Walter’s estate was significant and they feared someone might take advantage of the grieving Walter. Similarly, Walter wanted to ensure that the assets his wife and he had accumulated would remain in the family.
  • Kathleen and Andrew were in their 70s and had been married for more than 50 years. When Andrew experienced heart problems and was informed by his doctor that he should expect continued health deterioration, the couple were shaken into realizing they should prepare for the inevitable day when one of them would be alone. Getting their affairs in order, preparing for the distribution of their estate among children and grandchildren and pre-planning funeral arrangements allowed the couple to enjoy their remaining time together.
  • Sheila and Ray, both in their late 50s, were partners in a business as well as their marriage when Ray suddenly died of a stoke. Like many entrepreneurs, the couple had reinvested most of what they didn’t need for living expenses back into their business. Consequently, there was no retirement fund and, aside for the family home and a modest life insurance policy, the only asset was the business itself. Sheila, now the sole owner of the business, had to make decisions about selling or keeping the business. She also needed to consider that two children were still in university and still dependent financially on her.

For each of these scenarios (and others), the authors outline the key considerations for various strategies and detail the actions taken to assist the people involved. The authors identify resources and give us the “conclusion” to the vignettes so we can see how they worked out. Each chapter ends with a section in which you can record your “points to think about that may apply to me.”

The final pages of the book list who to contact and what to ask them, calculations of estate administration taxes (probate fees) and a bibliography of additional books and government agencies’ websites.

In fact, the authors have created a website, that provides links to resources, forum discussions, frequently asked questions and additional information provided by third-party experts, such as lawyers and accountants. The website also contains posts from widowed clients who share their thoughts on their experiences.

This is not an exhaustive book on the topic not does it propose to be. It is, however, a good example of how advisors with an interest and a passion in a specialized area of their practice can inform and interest current and prospective clients.

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