Margaret MacGillivray didn’t hire Derek Moran at Smarter Financial Planning in Kelowna, B.C. right away. When her husband passed away, she realized the advisor they’d worked with for years had only listened to one of them. And it wasn’t her.

Before her husband’s death, the two moved to Ottawa from Hamilton, Ont. to be closer to grandchildren. She reduced her hours at a nursing facility to three days a week, with the intention of staying on the job until age 70. Hamilton’s soft real estate market meant the couple wasn’t initially able to sell their home; so, for a time, they were carrying two primary residences as well as a cottage.

“The guy in Hamilton appeared to be listening while my husband was alive. But as soon as he passed away, that stopped. He hadn’t been listening to me the whole time,” she says.

“He knew I made the decisions near the end and the change in attitude was amazing. I realized, ‘Wow, you really never have respected me at all.’ ”

The decision to work with Moran stemmed from his willingness to speak frankly with her about the money situation she’d inherited, and this led her to hire him despite living on opposite coasts. He’s helping her clean up the housing debt and consolidate multiple accounts created in the wake of her husband’s receipt of a lump-sum early retirement buyout that had to be invested quickly.

The worst manifestation of that ill-managed period was a combination of her existing RRSP with that buyout money.

“They built a pension fund out of it and that was not a good thing for them to do, because I wasn’t retiring. He was,” she says. “If you’re going to give him a pension, then it has to be on his money, not mine. We asked to have it changed, but we went back two weeks later and nothing had been done.”

Moran, in contrast, nudged MacGillivray toward a dividend-based approach that addressed income and budgeting concerns stemming from her decision to work part-time.

“He’s still trying to help me figure out a budget. I am probably comfortable for the rest of my life but I need to understand that,” she says. “And the man gave me homework. He gave me materials on different investment managers and told me to review their philosophies. He made me think.”