Don’t Leave a Mess!

Episode 32 April 11, 2024 00:26:15
Don’t Leave a Mess!
Purposeful Planning Podcast
Don’t Leave a Mess!

Apr 11 2024 | 00:26:15


Show Notes

This episode explores the pillars of effective communication, strategic planning, and the significance of storytelling. Join as we learn about the importance of communication, reasons why people struggle with planning, and strategies to initiate planning without overwhelming fear. The episode also offers advice on selecting trustworthy advisors and highlights key insights from the host's book. Additionally, it delves into the transformative power of storytelling, particularly in the context of family history. Tune in to gain practical tools for personal and professional growth and discover how to shape a future filled with purpose and possibility.



Sandy Pollack, CFP, CLU, TEP, FEA, MFA-P, is the founder of Trimaran Advisory Group Ltd., a financial advisory firm specializing in business and estate planning. Sandy and her team understand the complexities faced by entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals, considering both family dynamics and economic factors. They prioritize understanding each family's unique values and issues before addressing financial matters. Sandy emphasizes values-based legacy planning, distinguishing between wealth building and wealth management. Certified as a Family Enterprise Advisor, Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Life Underwriter, and Trust and Estate Practitioner, Sandy resides in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband, three children, and their dog, Mia.

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Episode Transcript

JOHN A: Welcome, everyone. I love having the opportunity to introduce you to Sandy Pollack, who is going to share some marvelous wisdom with us today. I'm John A. Warnick, the host of today's podcast which we've been titled Don't Leave A Mess. And that actually is the title of a book that Sandy brought out into the world with strong and positive intention a couple of years ago. And I think it's packed with a lot of helpful wisdom for us and our clients. So Sandy, if you would, I'd love to have you share a little bit of your purposeful Odyssey, the professional meanderings that you've been on, how you became aware of PPI perhaps, and what led you to write the book? SANDY: Thank you, John. It truly is a pleasure to be here. So my Odyssey, I'm originally from Montreal and graduated from McGill University with a bachelor in industrial relations. The next step was to go into labor law. But it turned out that in my last class where we were negotiating a contract, I realized that I'm not a very good liar or negotiator. And a 71 year old gentleman that was coaching me and squash had suggested financial services and estate planning. So I launched my career there, and started listening to stories of many business owners, and found that although we were focusing on insurance and estate planning, there was something deeper than just the tax element. So we moved to Ottawa and started, again, a different kind of practice here in Ottawa, where we cater to business owners and their families. And it was during a conference that I attended where, John, you spoke, and you were talking about parenting, and I was so captured by the sincerity, care, and values that you are exuding in terms of dealing with families and children, that I connected with you. And a year or two later, I joined PPI and felt that I found my people because PPI is a community of various professionals, ranging from whether it's psychologists to planners to facilitators, to all different kinds of experts, trying to do good for people, and focusing more on values, planning in whatever practice they're in than valuables. And I think that since joining PPI, I've had the delight and also privilege of working and meeting people like yourself, your support team, and other members of the community that spoke the same language that I did, which is how can we help families be the best they can be and not so much focusing on strategies. So John, I want to thank you, because this has been wonderful for me and it's one organization that if I had to cancel memberships of many, including this estate planning and everything else, this would be one that I hope to keep for many, many years. Until the day I die, because it's been amazing. JOHN A: Well, Sandy, we hope it is many, many years and we're very grateful that the 71 year old kind of took you under his wing and suggested a different course than what you maybe were thinking you are sailing towards. I think that you have a gift to help families really understand and see things clearly and appreciate the gift that family is. And I'd love to have you start maybe by talking about just why communications: heartfelt, honest, and transparent communication is so important? SANDY: I think that communication is a topic like discussing the ocean, because you got lots of fish in the ocean, and different fish eat other fish, different fish to hang around in schools. And I think that in a family it can very much be like that. Particularly a family that has a business and a multi generational business because there's the school of work, there's the school of family, there's the school of relationships, and how do you manage all those as well as the school have wealth, and building wealth. And I think that often families forget how to communicate because they were never taught that and so the idea of talking about money and what money means. We all were brought up in a certain way where most often than not people don't like to talk about money. I sat with a group of professionals and asked them, “Could you raise your hand growing up? How many of your parents spoke to you about sex?” Everybody raised their hand, they had the birds and the bees. “Now how many of you did your parents talk to you about money, managing money, and saving money?” And out of a group of about 150, ten people raised their hands. Ten. So there is this misunderstanding about what money means. And money means more than stuff. Money means health. It means connection. It means vacation. It means helping others with financial security, making a difference in the world. And I think that communication is one of those topics that a lot of families don't really take the time to have a deep dive discussion about. And I think that that tends to be the starting point of where families can mess up when they're doing their planning. JOHN A: Intuitively, parents and grandparents, I think, understand at a certain level the importance of planning, and yet, so many don't plan. Why do we have that planning paralysis? What are the factors that you have identified that account for people's failures to plan? SANDY: Okay, I'm gonna give you a few. There's many in my book, but I'll give you what the top ones are. The person that has built the wealth, there's a myth that if I plan my will, if I write my will, I'm going to die. So maybe if I don't do it, it's like bad luck. We'll all die. Well, the fact of the matter is, that death is 100% certain, it's going to happen. So you have the choice of either preparing what you've worked so hard to build, and having conversations and doing it with the right intentions. Or you can leave a disaster with people wondering what they were thinking? What was mom thinking? What was that thinking? And so I think that's myth number one. Another myth is I'll get to it later and I especially find successful entrepreneurs, and those are the people that I have a lot of conversations with, “Let's talk about what you've built. Oh, but wait a minute, there's a building for sale. And the deal can close. I can get a good deal. So what am I going to do? Am I going to meet with my advisor to unpack maybe children that might not be financially fluid, maybe family issues?” Maybe you are like,”How do I do this in a way that's meaningful?” Or, “Am I gonna go to call my lawyer and my real estate broker and buy the building?” Well, I'm gonna tell you 9.9 times out of 10, they much rather buy the building, and get the fix from that, than have to open up what might be one of the most important and also inspirational and aspirational conversations that they'll ever have. But they don't know that. So they rather go by the building. So that tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. Another one is having the conversation with their families and acknowledging that maybe they didn't take the time to share things, share their failures, what they learned from those failures, and everyone has this envision — or this vision, I should say — that dad or mom is infallible, that they have done so much when that's not the case. And I think that having those conversations also takes time, so why don't they plan time, or it's not as important as it needs to be until something happens. And then, everything goes crazy. JOHN A: And tragically, sometimes when that happens, it's too late. Many of the good things that could have happened if you'd had more time and energy are lost. I call what you were just describing the Methuselah complex. And Methuselah was an Old Testament figure that lived to be almost 1000 years according to the Bible. And I think it really is a complex that many entrepreneurs and business owners, they have this idea that, “I can do it tomorrow.” There will always be another opportunity. So when you run into someone that's fighting that Methuselah complex may not even be aware of it. Where do you suggest they start? How do you get them moving? SANDY: Excellent question. We just have a conversation about what's important to them and why they've built what they built and what does what they have. First of all, more often than not, you'll have people that have built a significant amount of wealth that don't even acknowledge it. They still think they're back to where they were 20 years ago with nothing. And that's an issue. It is acknowledging the number of successful entrepreneurs, when they see 7, 8, 9 digits, they say, “That's not me.” And they think that that's something else. Well, it's not them but it's something that they've built, and it's something that they have to responsibly manage. So I think that once we're able to get them to share what their aspirations are, for themselves, in terms of financial independence, what their aspirations are for their important relationships, which are their children, their community, charities that might touch them, then they get a little more excited than just talking about the big D-word, which is death. And I think that that is something that I always find interesting, because then I also learn about their journey, how they started, why they started, and what motivated them. And these are often stories that they haven't shared with their children. And I often encourage them to share those stories, whether they capture them in writing, video, or having a family meeting, so that they can share it. We did a family mission statement for a very affluent family here in the city, and got three generations. “What's so great about this family?” And each of them shared what was wonderful. And we put their words on a piece of paper to the point that the grandmother had it framed, and had it in their house mounted right at the dining room table. And it reminds them and it has nothing to do with money. It had more to do with the families they support in their business, that's a very important role, the charities, the acknowledgement of a higher spirit, of their being God, the acknowledgement that they can help others, and that how they should walk through life. It brought three generations that were very far apart, it brought them together and connected them and that connection of family is multigenerational. Even within the same generation, when you park the money aside and think about what it can do in terms of good, and it doesn't mean that money won't help soften those edges of life, whether it's buying a house or helping your kids, but all of a sudden the conversation changes to something a little more deeper. And that is when they get excited, and get excited about doing things. JOHN A: As you were describing it, Sandy, there is a sacred power in those stories. And when we just talk about the money and the assets and how they're going to be transitioned to the next generations of the family without talking about the values, the aspirations, the goals, the hard times, and the failures, as you suggest, those stories, those lessons are truly priceless. So thank you for leading us into that area. As I was listening to you, I was thinking back that it sounds to me that we share a technique. I love to start conversations with prospective or new clients, asking them to share their story with me. I want to hear their story because as they tell their story, their values emerge through the telling of that story. And it becomes, I think, easier and clearer for me to help them. But just this morning I was talking with my youngest sister — my middle sister that is in between the two of us — who's in very difficult physical shape right now and needs a lot of help. And we need to find a new doctor. She has fired her primary care physician. And I realized how challenging it is for me a lay person to figure out who to entrust my sister's medical care and treatment to but what wisdom can you share with us about how you help clients understand who they need on their team and how to go about selecting the advisors that they will entrust the responsibility to. Are you preparing their family and their assets for this transition? SANDY: That's an excellent question, John. So that's one chapter is how to choose your professional advisors, I have a chapter in that in the book. And I think the first thing is that you have to have a coach. And what I mean by a coach is someone who is interested enough to understand you, your history, your intentions, and then have someone assemble there because in planning, you have legal, you have tax, you have risk, and you have relationships. And those are all fourth forms, very important things. So choosing it, you know, everyone has a bias, right? If it's a risk, it's like, “Well, you need liquidity, you got to get insurance. If it's legal, you've got to get your trust set up or your wills or if you need more than one will. If it's accounting or tax, it's how we minimize tax and sometimes tax minimization is not always the solution.” I've seen that happen in particular with people that have had subsequent marriages and blended families. Then it's not always about the tax, and the tax can rule it. So when you're choosing your advisors, I think it's important to have a conversation. The advisors with the client, write about what's the vision, what are the values, and how they can work together and share information. And I've seen a lot of cooperation amongst professional advisors, but I very seldom — although it's changing — see collaboration. And there's a big difference, because cooperation is like, “John, I'm nice to you, you're nice to me, and we do our jobs, and we go back to our place.” Collaboration is like, “I'm going to share with you this morning. I had a call with the clients, accountants, who's about to see them and were asking me about something dealing with family dynamics, and I shared a whole bunch of information.” So now when that accountant goes to see the client, they're aware of the questions that might be asked and why. In collaboration it is like, “I'm going to share so that you can give the best advice of whatever it is that your specialty is.” And even with coaching, we have therapists that we work with one particular family, and I'm sharing the dynamics so that that person can do their job to help the family. So I think that once you are able to get a team of professionals that really believe in putting their ego ever so gently in their back pocket, and understanding that the spirit of collaboration is learning about the client about the other professional advisors so that you can come up with the best solutions, and the best path forward that ensures financial security, financial independence, really family relationships still intact, if not improved. That is where you know you've got a robust advisory team. I hope that answers your question. JOHN A: It did. And Sandy, that is such a bright, positive picture that you're painting. I love this moving from cooperation to collaboration and what that does for us, and more importantly, how it makes the planning process and the work that the other members of the team do even more valuable and strategic. I'd love to give you a chance to share maybe the highlights of don't leave a mess. This is a wonderful book. Let us know how our listeners can get a copy of it, where it's available. And tell us a little bit about what they're going to find inside that book that will really elevate and transform their thinking around transition planning. SANDY: Okay, so Don't Leave A Mess, the subtitle is How To Disaster-proof Your Family Legacy is a very easy and friendly read. That means it's easy speak for business owners, entrepreneurs, and their families and children to really get them to take some action. It's got easy chapters. There's even little exercises at the end of every chapter. We have what's called the Strategic Action Plan. The chapters range from why do people procrastinate the price of silence. I have a little story and it's peppered with many stories, some that are actual clients, but the names have been changed in the situation to protect them, as well as some that are in the headlines today. So it ranges from the price of silence to things like understanding your story and the importance of sharing it, giving with purpose, a legacy of stewardship. There's a section there for the rising generation for them to think about what their role is and also to inspire them so that they don't feel the obligation that a lot of rising gents do when the wealth holder or wealth builder has created something that they didn't ask for,but it is just there. Your sections on picking your advisory team. Considering human capital risk taxes is the section called Truth or Consequences. So it's fun, it's easy to understand. And it definitely is there to ignite those families to start assembling their team in a way that won't be as complicated or feel as insurmountable as the whole idea of estate and planning can be now where you can find it on Amazon,Canada, There's an audible version as well. I had one client who said, I'm not a good reader, but I'm a really good listener. And he took a picture of it from the debt as he was driving to Florida, listening to it. I can't even remember what chapter. And we also have an e-book and you can easily get that or on the website, where there's podcasts, tools, as well as where you can buy the book in bulk from us directly. JOHN A: Sandy, I just have to thank you on behalf of the entire community, the world for the gift of Don't Leave A Mess. And I just listening to you describe the the chapters like I just feel the fun, and the ease with which this book can be absorbed and the power behind it. But as we prepared for this podcast today, Sandy, choose one topic that we would end the conversation with. And I gave her a big exclamation point for that choice. And it is you were just touching a little bit on it. It's the power of stories of family history, family culture. We can't talk enough about it but I'd love to give you an opportunity to close our podcast today with any inspiration, any wisdom that you can share around the importance of sharing family stories, personal history. SANDY: Well, I can say that building wealth and managing wealth are not the same thing. And when we have an opportunity to share stories, money can actually separate families. It can divide them and distance them because people are more mobile, they move to different places. But the power of stories and the power of connection transcends dollars and cents. These are intergenerational pearls of wisdom that bring a family closer together, then the money that can sometimes distance them and in some cases, greed, and power can tear them apart. But if the foundation of wealth is stories, and the good stories, and then not-so-good stories, and particularly the struggles, the struggles will help multiple-generations understand that it's okay to fail. It's okay to make bad decisions because maybe grandpa did when he started his business, but he had the tenacity to try something else. And he picked himself up. And the whole concept of resilience and trying ahead and failing forward is really taught through life stories. It's not taught through a book. It's taught not through a movie. It's taught when someone that's close to you or a member of your family has experienced something that was almost insurmountable, but they were able to share that tomorrow is a new day and I'm going to try again. And by connecting that to the wealth, and connecting the stories that have shaped that family, to the many generations behind bring wealth with meaning with intention, but most importantly, with a human element and a human aspect that dollars can't buy. JOHN A: Well, beautiful. This has been a Purposeful Planning Podcast. Our topic today was Don't Leave A Mess. Our guest, the author and the inspiration behind the book, Don't Leave A Mess, Sandy Pollack. I can't thank you enough, Sandy, for all the stories and wisdom that you've packed into this short podcast today. You get a big Goldstar. Thank you. And thank you everyone for joining us. We hope you'll return to the next Purposeful Planning Podcast. SANDY: Thank you, John. It has been a real delight.

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