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My special needs son changed how I work with clients

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My son Thomas is 15. He’s happy, loves his parents and younger siblings, but isn’t like the other teenage boys in his class. Our morning routine usually takes about two hours — we wake him up, sit with him as he eats breakfast through his feeding tube, get him dressed, help him into his wheelchair and get him off to school.

It wasn’t until around six months after he was born that my wife and I realized something was medically wrong with Thomas. As a pediatric physical therapist, my wife noticed he wasn’t hitting the developmental milestones he should have been.

Thomas was diagnosed with special needs. Realizing my first-born child won’t ever get his driver’s license or go to college at 18 was difficult. Instead, my wife and I will have to look out for Thomas and advocate for him the rest of our lives. Not only do we have to financially plan for today, but we have to plan well past our lifetimes to ensure that Thomas will be well taken care of.

When Thomas was diagnosed, I experienced a moment of clarity. I was working in software sales and earning a great paycheck, but I was unhappy. And with so many uncontrollable situations likely to happen with my son, I wanted to be in control of my own destiny.

I knew I had a deep passion for finance. Ultimately, his diagnosis catapulted me into financial services, and I have been working with Girard for 14 years. In this role, I can help people meet their financial objectives, and even assist other families who may be in a similar situation to ours.
By immersing myself into the special needs community, I have learned many valuable lessons that are transferable to my work as a financial advisor. The financial world is intimidating and, as advisors, we must show more empathy to our clients.

I saw how valuable it can be to remove yourself from your role as a financial advisor and recognize that making money for yourself and your clients is great, but it’s not everything. Navigating difficult circumstances with my son has helped me connect with clients on a deeper, more personal level.

It has also driven home the need to relate to clients with all types of caregiving issues.

How can you do this? Place yourself in your clients’ shoes and draw from your own experiences to gain perspective. Everyone has challenges and obstacles they need to overcome. Whether it’s saving for retirement, caring for a child with special needs or struggling with the recent death of a spouse, clients come to us for help.

If you are able to adapt and relate to the situations your clients are going through, everyone involved will feel more comfortable. Provide your best financial advice while being someone your clients can relate to and, as a result, trust.

I often think about the daily assistance that my wife and I receive from Thomas’ nurses, aides and teachers. They don’t do it for money or praise; instead, they use their passion and drive as fuel. Their commitment has inspired me and my family to advocate for the special needs community.

My wife and I buy equipment for special needs children when they don’t have insurance, or their provider turns them away. Through this work, my passion for helping people has grown in a way I never imagined. If you channel and use your passion to connect with not only your clients, but all people, you will be a truly impactful financial advisor.

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