Joshua Rubenstein, a partner at Rosenman & Colin, in Newark, N.J., once told me this: "When estate planning goes wrong, it's never about the money. It's about the hurt feelings."
Rubenstein, who worked on estates for the Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev as well as various Greek shipping magnates, was one of my favorite sources when I wrote columns for The New York Times some years ago. This column has something to do with favorites. Thinking about them is no doubt what led me to Charlie Haines, who has emerged from the ashes like a Phoenix and transformed both himself and his company. I'll get back to that.
Like most reporters, I have favorite sources in many specialty areas. Yesterday, I got an e-mail advising me of a retirement reception for Ethan E. Kra, chief actuary for Mercer and an all-time favorite. What makes them favorites? It is not because they buy me drinks.
It's because they are never wrong! Kra and Rubenstein work in very arcane areas of taxes and pensions and estate planning. If I was working on a column-or a tip-in one of those areas, I could trust these two. They never gave me a wrong answer! That's important for a newspaper reporter on deadline. Glenn Daily, a fee-only insurance consultant in New York, is another one.
How am I going to bring this around to Charlie Haines? Here it is: I have favorite financial planners as well, and for the same reasons. When I began covering financial planning in 1986, there were just a handful of planners who set the standard for the profession, people like Eleanor Blayney and Deena Katz and Ross Levin. Of course, now there are many, many more. But I've made an effort to keep up with that first group to find out how their practices have developed over the past 25 years. When I lose touch with one of them, I grow concerned.
So it was most recently with Charles D. Haines. Like the rest of the group, Haines, a planner in Birmingham, Ala., is a visionary, always keeping at least one step ahead of the game. Evan Simonoff, the editor of this magazine, profiled him nine years ago, arguing that Haines "may just be building the multi-client family office of the future." Simonoff added that Charles D. Haines & Co. included a philanthropy center, a corporate governance expert, an alternative investments operation and a clinical social worker/psychologist, along with the expected financial planning and asset management businesses.
But not long after that story, Haines seemed to drop out of sight. When I caught up with him in late summer, he acknowledged that he has been MIA. "We've almost been in hiding for eight years," Haines said. "I was so preoccupied." With both good and bad events, it turns out.
Haines had some family and personal issues to resolve. He thought he'd nearly finished by this summer and was ready to charge ahead with his new firm when Davis, one of his 21-year-old twins, got run over by a truck while biking in Chicago. The truck driver didn't see him, made a right turn, and literally ran over him. "He had tire marks right down his body," Haines said. "They told me he had a 1% chance of living."
Thanks to the work of a brilliant surgeon, Davis Haines pulled through. But the surgeon refused to take credit for it. "I couldn't do this on my own," she said. "Somebody was helping us."
Once his son was off the critical list, Haines shifted into high gear on his business. The near-death and rebirth of his son represents something of a metaphor for what he's done himself. To me, he seems a different person. He paints. He's sold a painting. He acts in musical theater.