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'The value of his firm plummeted after his death'

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After 20 years of being a financial advisor and planner I could not believe how well things were going. My firm had just had its best year, the stock market was hitting new highs and we were helping more clients reach their financial dreams than ever before.

Like all families, my wife and I had worries about future college expenses for our three children and my wife worried about our health and what she would do if something ever happened to me. Don’t worry, I reassured her, it’s all good. I reminded her that I made it through Desert Storm as a combat engineer and even survived running the Boston Marathon when a bomb went off 1,000 yards or so from me right before I was about to finish.

But three years ago, my world changed when I was competing in a 5K open water swim.My cousin, Stephen Anderer, was also my best friend. We had done about 50 triathlons together and I had never beaten him. He was an Ivy League collegiate athlete and family law attorney who was in still in great shape. While I was swimming, I noticed someone being pulled out of the water into a boat. When I finished, I found out it was Stephen. He had a massive heart attack at age 52 and died instantly.

All those years of planning for my clients never impacted me the way his death did. And it got worse. I spent the next year watching and learning how a small successful service business can be crushed and devalued by a partner’s untimely passing.

Stephen was one of the best lawyers in his field but the value of his firm plummeted after his death and his family would never make up the shortfall from the lost income. He left three children, with two in college. Yes, insurance helps, but it is rarely enough. As the value of Stephen’s firm dropped every day, I saw for myself how businesses like ours rarely survive the passing of a rainmaker.

I had been helping clients plan for such events, but Stephen’s death was a wake-up call. I realized my six-person firm could not survive without me. Within a year of Stephen’s passing, I merged firms with an awesome partner who shares the same concerns, philosophies and vision as me. Pete Hoover, my partner at Hoover Financial Advisors, has been a financial planner for more than 30 years and we stress to every client how important it is to have a plan. How important it is to get things in order.

The same way we help our clients, we help each other. We put into place people, processes and plans that would ensure our own families will be protected in case of unforeseen circumstances. And every quarter we get together with our strategic planning committee to not only talk about firm issues for our clients but for us, our employees and partners. The merger protected our families, the employees of the firm and made us better. Because of my personal experience, we communicate and work better with our clients.

Don’t wait for a tragedy to rock your world. Make your own plan now.

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