The Importance of Asking the Right Questions

I read an article the other day about the wife and family of Ruslan Salei, the Belarus hockey player who, along with 43 others, died in the Lokomotiv plane crash in September of last year.  Ruslan was only 37.  The article spoke of how the family, and specifically his wife Bethann, have been coping since that horrific day. Obviously, it has been a challenge for her. A single mom now, raising three young children would be hard for anyone. Before his death, he and Bethann had made a deal: she would take care of the children; he would take care of her.  Now it was all on her shoulders.

Luckily they had found time to ask the question, ”what could happen?”  Bethann and Ruslan had been together for 14 years, married for six, and were raising a family with a home in California and another in Belarus. Ruslan had accumulated plenty after collecting NHL pay cheques for 14 seasons (just over $22 million) and this year in the KHL was another year of guaranteed money. So when answering the ‘what could happen?” question they found themselves at an attorney’s office in July 2011, putting the finishing touches on their wills, planning the estate and setting up trusts for the kids. This is what good financial planners do— they ask their clients the difficult questions, not necessarily the same questions everyone is concerned about at the moment.  A good financial planner would not primarily focus on how to invest $22 million, but takes the client’s entire financial situation into consideration.

Professional athletes/teams travel— it comes with the territory. NHLer’s between October and April of any given year will drop their battered bodies into an airplane seat on 80 or so occasions and rack up between 50,000 and 90,000 air miles. From city to city, from country to country, people want to see and will pay for watching them compete. Their god-given talent/character along with their years of practice allows them to be great at something that most of us aren’t. Sometimes though, mistakes/accidents happen while traveling and people get hurt or worse.

Had Ruslan and Bethann not asked the question, “what could happen?” the weight on Bethann’s shoulders would have been even heavier. A good financial planner takes a comprehensive look at the whole financial picture, including but not limited to, estate planning, portfolio management, cash flow management (budgeting), life insurance needs and debt management.  These different parts of a financial plan work together to achieve a client’s financial goals.  Ruslan and Bethann took the time to ask the right questions, which provided clarity around their financial picture, and operated as they both had wanted. It is hard to understand and put into perspective one’s own mortality with the fame, the fortune, the physical talents and the admiration that comes with it all. Sometimes though, life becomes out of our control, so taking control while we still can is key.

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