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Adviser insight: Cultivate control for clients with cancer

by George Emsden on Jul 15, 2009 at 00:01

Cashing in products may be more appropriate than buying them for people with cancer, and an adviser’s most important skills will be listening and helping clients to keep control of their lives, says George Emsden of in2 Consulting.

If there is one word that defines my approach to people who have cancer or any terminal illness it is listening. I will not sell any products – just enable sufferers to make the best of what they have and keep it as simple as possible.

My financial planning exercise for people with cancer is in three parts:

1. How much do they have in terms of assets? This is everything they own including pension funds, policies less any liabilities. 

2. How long have they got to live? The doctors have given that information.

3. What do they want to do now? This puts the ball back in their court. It’s a bit like coaching.

Keeping up appearances

People with cancer can be very brave but often are keeping up appearances in public – in private they will open up if they trust you. They can be far more open in writing. There are many stories on the Macmillan Cancer Support website www.macmillan.org.uk/share (you will have to register) in which people bare everything. For example: ‘My dad/mum isn’t coping, what do I do? How do I get benefits, care etc.’

My first reaction after being diagnosed with cancer was to keep it quiet. However, a couple of networking friends suggested I do the opposite and it has been quite cathartic for me.

I now do financial planning for people with cancer as a niche. One of my former colleagues once asked me why I was doing mortgages. ‘You care about people,’ he said. ‘Get involved with IHT and long term care.’ But I didn’t do much business there.

A pet hate of mine is platitudes – although I use them occasionally, I hate saying things just for the sake of it. My blog and podcast are about doing something practical and giving people back some control, at least for a while. The scary thing about getting old or seriously ill is the loss of control. Maintaining control is the basic philosophy of financial planning – maintaining control while you are healthy, when you are ill with the best protection you can get, or when you do not work.

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