(Dow Jones) When Bill Losey got together with a new client last September, the meeting was not unlike hundreds he had had in his 20-year career as a certified financial planner.
The client, a 50-something woman who had been "downsized" recently, was at a crossroads. She had built a $300,000 nest egg but wasn't ready to retire--professionally or financially.
"She knew she needed to work and save at least another 10 years," says Losey, who is managing member of Bill Losey Retirement Solutions LLC in Wilton, N.Y. "The upside of the layoff was it made her take stock in her interests."
She had just begun studying to become an aesthetician, which is a licensed skin-care specialist--a big leap from her previous career as a public school teacher. Taking into account the client's new career goals, Losey worked with her to map out a strategy for investing her current assets, trimming debt and expenses from her existing budget and, finally, either seeking employment at an established spa or renting inexpensive space in which to start her own practice.
But just when Losey was putting the finishing touches on the plan, the client turned everything upside down.
She called and casually mentioned that she wanted to open her own business in a $175,000 Victorian home. She planned to buy the place outright using her retirement savings.
"My jaw dropped," says Losey. "She had fairly limited savings to begin with, and between the house and start-up costs she was going to go through her savings in a year's time.
"I told her that I supported her as a person, but I did not support this decision," he recalls.
The client insisted on the move. And later that week, after another futile phone call, Losey found himself wide awake in bed. Yes, his fee was based on assets under management and he would be effectively losing a client, but that isn't what was keeping him up. Rather, he couldn't stand being privy to what he describes as "one of the biggest financial mistakes of this woman's life."
Not only did the client's new plans jeopardize her already precarious retirement, but they flew in the face of what she had originally told Losey--that she wanted to be more disciplined in how she managed her money.