Dealing With Catastrophe
Forced to flee Harvey, an advisor gets a reminder that the people he serves are a lot more than just names and numbers.
Forced to flee Harvey, an advisor gets a reminder that the people he serves are more than just names and numbers.
IT WAS ALL VERY SURREAL. ON FRIDAY NIGHT, AS Hurricane Harvey ravaged my Houston neighborhood with driving rain, a tornado came down and missed my home by a few blocks. On Saturday, parts of Houston started to flood. On Sunday, the waters of the rivers and bayous around the area started to rise.
Thousands of people were trapped in their homes and were left to pray that they’d be rescued. I wanted to help someone, anyone, but the authorities told everyone to stay off the roads.
So, I sat on my couch and watched it all on television. Then the person on the TV said I had to leave. The Brazos River was rising and by Tuesday, it was going to spill over the tops of the levee into Sienna Plantation — my suburb of roughly 16,000 people just to the southwest of Houston.
I packed my pregnant wife, two boys (ages 4 and 2) and a very angry cat into the car, and headed to my father-in-law’s house in Sugar Land. (My father-in-law also happens to be the president of my RIA, Tri-star Advisors.) As we got everyone into bed, we received an alert telling us that this house had been added to the long list of mandatory evacuations.
So, we packed up again and ended up at the home of my wife’s sister, Roxanne, and her husband, Phil. It was only about five minutes away from my in-laws, but the flood map said we would be safer there.
In our haste, I forgot to turn off the power and forgot tons of important papers. Although I’m an advisor, I’m not immune to forgetting a few things in times of crisis — no matter what I tell my clients. The next time the forecast calls for record flooding, I will be preparing my important documents and leaving town before the rain starts.
A BRIGHT SIDE
This experience helped me realize that I love my clients and many of them love me. When I sent out an email on Friday morning praying for our clients’ families and explaining the firm’s contingency plans for flooding and loss of power, none responded on the business issues at hand. Instead, they all expressed concern for my team and our families.
These clients aren’t just portfolios and financial plans. These are the people I interact with on a daily basis. They have told me their hopes, their dreams and their fears; have trusted me with their futures; and, through our advisory relationship, have learned everything about me and have grown to truly care about my family.
On Monday morning, when I sent an email updating our status to clients, they offered my family their homes, food and clothing. My family is safe and my clients have told me that everything will be OK. And they are right.
Unfortunately, most families in Houston do not have flood insurance and are going to be struggling for a very long time. Our firm is therefore offering free financial planning assistance to anyone in the area who needs it. Many families will probably need assistance dealing with FEMA and insurance companies, or just some basic guidance for getting through a financial disaster.
Ultimately, while Harvey was a catastrophe for millions of people, it was also a reminder that at its best, financial planning is a uniquely personal business built around wonderful people and lifelong relationships.