Perhaps it is to be expected that when a business revolves around preparation for retirement and the dispersal of one’s wealth upon death, that one by one the clients pass on. Yet it always strikes me with a note of sadness when I see a death certificate for someone who’s papers and documents I have been filing for the better part of the ten years I’ve been working in the financial planning industry.
For the most part I have never met any of these people. I just know their names and some have sent photos to their advisors, which also go into their individual files so I may have at least seen a face or two. If I did (and I have met a few at client appreciation events to which, as a client myself, I used to be invited), my concern was always the order of the file and its appearance, so I could never tell anyone what exactly was in it or who owned what. No one needed to worry about me divulging anything even though getting finger printed for the record was part of my application process. I could barely be bothered to remember what was in my own account. My advisor has my complete trust and confidence, so she looks after things and I am busy taking photos of the trees and sunsets and my head is filled with poetry and other good things to the extent that I am often startled when someone speaks to me and I snap back into the present.
In the early 1960s I was a research clerk at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and while it was less often, if a patient died on our watch, the whole department was overcome with grief.
It is a loss for us when a client passes on even though we are not related to him or her, we will not see or hear from that person again. In about a year all the legal papers will stop coming and there will be no more letters, photos, post cards from vacations, or other documents for the file.
There will be new clients and new folders, although now everything is electronic and very little actual paperwork is retained. Everything is scanned and the papers shredded. I am still uncomfortable about shredding all that paper. It seems so final, but the younger folks just forge ahead with what must be done without a second thought. Letting go is just never easy for me.