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Young Clients Grieve Too

Grief can be triggered by any kind of break in an attachment, at every age and stage of life, whether positive or negative.

As I travel around the country teaching about grief, I sometimes hear advisors assert that they don’t need training in grief support because their client base skews younger. They assume grief is something that primarily happens when you get old, so young people and young advisors don’t need to think about it or face it. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. Grief and loss know no age boundaries.

Yet when younger people go through these very difficult and emotional times, very few others know what to say, how to react or what to do to support them. Many times, younger clients (and the young adult children of older clients) are simply left on their own to get through it however they can. As advisors, when you avoid or fail to support the grief your clients and their family members experience, it serves no one. On the other hand, acknowledging and wisely addressing these situations places you front and center with your clients as the go-to resource for the entire family, regardless of their generation.

The reality: While death is what we usually attribute a grief response to, grief is triggered by any kind of break in an attachment, at every age and stage of life, whether positive or negative. Whenever you have to leave behind something you like about your life and are familiar with, or someone you’ve become attached to, it triggers grief.

So think of all the young people who break up with a significant other, whose parents get divorced, or who don’t get into the college or grad school of their dreams. Other young adults may have a baby, find out they are infertile or experience a miscarriage. They may lose a job, get a promotion to a different city or have a beloved pet die. Each of these events (and more) triggers grief, and some of them profoundly so.

Neither are young people immune from being touched by death. Today, the prevalence of teen and young adult deaths is related to accidents, but also increasingly to suicide and opioid overdoses. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teens and young adults. Opioid overdose kills more people every day than died of AIDS at the height of the epidemic. In other words, young people grieve not only when elderly parents or grandparents die; there is increasing grief for the loss of classmates, friends or siblings.  

So what steps can you take?

  1. An easy entrée is to introduce the concepts of grief at the same time that you do financial literacy education with younger clients or the teen and young adult children of older clients. You can hold a one-hour session periodically, perhaps geared toward a particular segment (e.g., going to college soon, in college, young single adults, or young married adults.) In these sessions, teach about spending plans, the effects of compound interest from both sides—the interest charged on loans (e.g., many young adults are surprised to find how much they actually end up paying for a car if they get a six-year loan, or how much they actually pay for a 30-year mortgage), and the interest accumulated by saving consistently over time, including information on types of IRAs, 529 plans for the kids of young adults, etc. To encourage savings, the quants in your audience will love learning how to use the Wolfram Alpha Retirement Calculator.

    Consider then including a brief segment on grief, so the attendees understand that they are normal when they experience emotional turmoil during transition times. Reinforce the fact that in our death-denying society, too few people learn how to help themselves or those they care about. You may wish to give them a good book on grief, and tell them that although they don’t have to read it now, they should keep it handy because it will help them be there to support their friends and family members when they are going through difficult times.
  2. Then also provide online resources they can use or make available to friends.
  •, a site created to help college-age adults that is hosted by Actively Moving Forward. 
  •, with an array of tools, articles, education and support about grief.  
  •, an online site that refers to weekly support groups at locations throughout the country, and that offers peer support, videos and a self-paced workbook study.  
  •, a nonprofit with resources for children and teens, including LGBTQ, special needs and intercultural situations.  
  1. Inform them of camps and weekends such as the Young Adult Grief Camps, which are specifically intended for ages 18-22, as well as the many other healing gatherings for various ages that are organized and sponsored by Experience Camps.  
  2. For young widowed people (and there are more of them than most people realize!), recommend Soaring Spirits International, which provides a free “starter kit” to help get through the initial period, pen pals that are matched to others in similar circumstances, daily blog entries from widowed people, regional support groups, and three annual weekends called Camp Widow that attract many young widows and widowers from around the country.  
  3. Finally, let the attendees know they can always come to you with questions. If the question or situation is nonfinancial and out of your sphere of expertise, you will help them get the answers they need.  

Following a protocol like this helps build your business for the future, regardless of the age of your clientele. It serves your clients’ needs in the present, while ensuring better retention of assets when the money passes to the next generation. Best of all, you know you are making a difference in people’s lives, and that’s what matters the most.

Amy Florian is the CEO of Corgenius, combining neuroscience and psychology to train financial professionals in how to build strong relationships with clients through all the losses and transitions of life.  

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