Originally published November 25, 2015

Rita Itsell featured in the Wall Street Journal

PDS feels very blessed to have opportunities to share our stories with broader audiences, in hopes that it helps them simplify a complex problem.  In this most recent opportunity, as featured in the Wall Street Journal, PDS Planning’s Managing Principal, Rita Itsell discusses empowering a client through knowledge.  More than knowledge though, this article outlines something more important: the care we try to show our clients.  To learn more about PDS Planning, please contact us.

Without any friends or family nearby to help her put her affairs in order, the woman’s attorney referred her to adviser Rita Itsell, president of PDS Planning Inc. in Columbus, Ohio.  The firm manages $510 million for 450 clients.

One problem was that the woman’s husband was the sole individual named on accounts ranging from the family’s bank accounts to utility bills to cellphone plans.  That meant that the woman was unable to request information on balances and billing information or make adjustments to those services.  In some cases, that lack of access meant that she was unable to make payments to those vendors.

“The issue wasn’t cash flow or a lack of assets, but accessing them and putting them to work,” says Ms. Itsell.  The woman described to the adviser a number of frustrating and unsuccessful phone calls in which she had attempted to put her own name on the accounts or check their status.  Having never handled these tasks before, she didn’t know what questions to ask the providers and how to proceed when her requests were denied.

Ms. Itsell recognized a need to act quickly.

“In the wake of a spouse’s death, our advice to clients is typically to practice patience in making big changes or decisions,” says Ms. Itsell.  “But you can’t tell someone to slow down when the electric company is breathing down their back about an outstanding bill.  You need to make sure they keep their lights on.”

The adviser offered to help guide the woman through the process.  For three hours each week, Ms. Itsell joined the woman at her home, where they made joint calls to various service providers.

The adviser says they focused on being persistent and asking the right questions.  For example, when initially rebuffed, she would ask the provider to describe the steps necessary to proceed.  Ms. Itsell also created a work sheet to organize the information gathered from each call and track the client’s progress.

Within a month, the client had changed or was in the process of changing the authorization on all her major accounts and had canceled a number of services she no longer needed.  More important, says the adviser, she had begun developing the confidence and ability to manage issues herself.

“If she notices a problem with her statements, she’s able to make the call herself and resolve the issue on her own,” says Ms. Itsell.

Even the attorney who referred the woman to Ms. Itsell noticed a difference in the client’s behavior, as she became more engaged and decisive about her larger estate-planning issues, Ms. Itsell says: “The work we did together and the self-reliance she developed during those first three weeks has paved the way for everything she has been able to do for herself since.”

Original Wall Street Journal Article from November 25, 2015: “Resolving Small Problems Boosts a Widow’s Confidence”


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