When I was a fairly new daily money manager (DMM), I had a client whose children were fighting over how her money was being used by one of the siblings. They were asking me to be a go-between and to take sides in the fight. I called my friend, a more experienced DMM, who gave me sage advice. She told me to focus on the numbers, report the numbers to the client and to the family members (with my client’s permission), and to let them interpret and deal with the numbers their own way. I did as she suggested, providing reports of income and expenditures, without any judgment or qualifiers. I let the numbers speak for themselves.
Over the years, this notion has become one of my mantras: “data, not drama.” Whenever I am not sure how to handle a tricky family situation, I remind myself to let the numbers speak for themselves. As DMMs, our job is to keep our clients’ data organized and up-to-date, and to present it in an understandable way so that they can make decisions based on the data. By sticking to the data, we enhance our worth as objective third parties who can help a family to focus on the financial realities associated with their situation.
The “data, not drama” rule also has benefits for our own emotional health. While we want to support a client who is going through a difficult experience, our professionalism compels us to avoid becoming too involved and may help us avoid becoming angry, anxious or depressed about a client’s situation. When another client, whose family was fighting, was put into a nursing home against her will, I felt disappointed. I knew my client wanted to stay in her home and I had provided the family with data that showed she could afford to do so, but ultimately, they made the decision to place her in the nursing home. She died within three months. I was sad but I had not allowed myself to become enmeshed in the family’s drama and I was able to bounce back after her death knowing I had served her as well as I could.
Focusing on data over drama is not harsh or uncaring. It is one of a DMM’s best tools for helping her clients.