People in casino, looking at slot machine
© Medioimages/Photodisc / Thinkstock

In the first 10 minutes of a meeting, your client says:

“I don’t know what happened. Martin sat with these men to play a hand of poker. An hour later, he’d lost all our vacation cash and a large chunk of our savings, too. He’s never done anything like this before!”

At that moment

  • Ask your client for more details about the incident, including how much money was lost, and what happened before and after the poker game.
  • Find out if the money was lost playing in a legal casino or in a different venue.
    • If he played with people he didn’t know, he may have been the victim of con artists. Recommend that your client talk to a lawyer about whether to report the incident to police.
    • If the loss was to a legal gambling establishment, there is little to do except learn from the experience.
  • Try to determine whether the incident was out of character for your client’s husband. Does he play cards regularly? Has he made other ill-advised choices recently? Does his personality seem off?
  • If the behaviour is unusual, recommend that he see his family doctor to rule out a health issue, such as a stroke. The doctor should also be informed if Martin was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • If the behaviour is common, suggest that Martin consider seeing a counsellor who specializes in compulsive behaviour. Losing a large amount of money could indicate a gambling problem. Go to for advice on what to do if you suspect a client is struggling with addiction.

Later in the meeting

  • When you review your client’s finances, assess the damage to her portfolio and suggest ways to minimize it.
  • Ask if she’s considered separate accounts.

After the meeting

  • Check back in a couple of weeks. Ask if there were any health issues to help explain the loss. Your client and Martin may need to make account decisions if his cognitive ability is compromised. You’ll find tips on how to recognize some signs of diminished capacity at
  • Make sure your client is also taking care of herself. If Martin has a gambling or substance problem, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or Gam-Anon are all good places to find support in an anonymous setting.

Gil Martinez is the art director of Advisor Group