Coronavirus is now turning financial advisers into grief counselors for families who have lost a loved one

Coronavirus is now turning financial advisers into grief counselors for families who have lost a loved one

Most people would assume that financial planners only manage money. But advisers often see themselves as having a responsibility to help people manage their emotions. Financial planners are particularly active in this role lately, and not just because clients express fear and uncertainty about their stock portfolios. Some advisers are losing clients to COVID-19.

The death of a client hits hard. The aftermath is equally challenging. Aside from handling a series of transactions, such as transferring assets to designated beneficiaries, advisers often provide emotional support to grieving loved ones.

Advisers possess many skills, but consoling relatives of the recently deceased is a specialty of its own. Even the most emotionally intelligent wealth manager can say something that backfires, driving away family members at a time when they’re particularly fragile.



Avani Ramnani, a New York City-based certified financial planner, completed training program offered by the Grief Recovery Institute. The sessions teach participants to help grieving people find relief from their emotional pain. “The big takeaways from the training were to use sensitive, empathetic language and not to compare your grief to theirs,” Ramnani said. “You don’t want to say, ‘I know what you’re going through.’”

Ramnani applied what she learned after a client in her early 70s passed away from COVID-19 not long ago. She learned of the death from the client’s son, whom she already knew because she managed a small account for him.

Soon the son stopped returning Ramnani’s calls and emails. While concerned, she didn’t press him too much. “He was in a huge shock,” she says. “We emailed him to say we didn’t want to be a bother and we’re here to help whenever he’s ready,” as he was the sole beneficiary.

Once the son resumed contact, Ramnani worked with him to obtain documents, such as the death certificate, to facilitate an asset transfer. Ramnani also sent him cash from his account to cover expenses including estate-planning fees and a cleaning service for his mother’s home.

‘Grief is so personal. There’s no roadmap.’

When clients’ families struggle with a loss of a loved one, Ramnani may suggest grief counseling for them. “Grief is so personal,” she says. “There’s no roadmap. It’s unpredictable and advisers need to be patient because it takes time.”

For Bryan Bibbo, a financial adviser in Avon, Ohio, the loss of a client in his 70s to COVID-19 proved even weightier because their friendship predated their professional relationship.

“It came out of nowhere,” Bibbo said. “For the first two weeks [after he died], his widow was shocked.” She has since slowly regained her spirits. “Her personality is coming back where she’s smiling and laughing more,” Bibbo says.

He urges advisers who’ve lost a client to maintain communication with family members. Use telephone calls, emails and hand-written letters not only to convey condolences but also to reinforce your willingness to help and provide service.

In addition to holding a few virtual meetings with his friend’s widow, Bibbo sent her occasional emails. For example, he wrote: “Just to let you know I’m thinking of you. If there’s anything I can do for you during this difficult time, even if it’s just someone to talk to, I’m here for you.”

Bibbo adds that simply reminiscing with her about her late husband proved cathartic. She appreciated Bibbo’s lighthearted stories about him. “When someone has suffered a loss,” he says, “they need to see and hear your smile.”

Read: My husband died from COVID-19. Will the IRS allow me to use his $1,200 stimulus check for funeral and medical expenses?


Originally published on MarketWatch

S&P 500 
$3,236.92  $78.65 
NASDAQ 100 
$10,833.33  $353.04 
Dow Jones Industrial Average 
$26,763.13  $525.05 
Apple Inc. 
$107.12  $4.69 
Alphabet Inc. 
$1,415.21  $50.25 
MICROSOFT CORP 
175,60 €  2,90 € 
Tesla, Inc. 
$380.36  $43.87 
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. 
$314,840.00  $5.00 
AbbVie Inc. 
$87.14  $1.46 
Costco Wholesale Corporation 
$344.63  $0.1800 
Smartsheet Inc. 
$47.91  $0.3800 
Zai Lab Limited 
$76.62  $0.5900 
Western Digital Corporation 
$38.92  $2.45 
NVIDIA Corporation 
$484.95  $20.56 
Gold Dec 20 
$1,861.80  $6.60 
Crude Oil Nov 20 
$39.43  $0.5000 
BTC/USD 
$10,322.37  $76.18 
Bitcoin Cash USD 
$209.98  $1.86 
LTC/USD 
$43.61  $0.5600 
ETH/USD 
$325.68  $4.56 
Dogecoin USD 
$0.0026  $0.0000