Updated February 2015 — Jean Iverson, a nurse anesthetist in Spicer, Minnesota, came home one day in September 2010 to find that her husband, Paul, a retired orthopedic surgeon, had died of a sudden heart attack. Faced with the unexpected loss of her best friend of 41 years, Jean was on unfamiliar terrain. Her family and friends came to her aid, offering support and love.
But Jean also had practical matters to address, including the finances that Paul had always watched over.
Again, she found she wasn't alone. She was able to turn to her team of specialists from Wells Fargo Private Bank and Wells Fargo Advisors for assistance in mapping out a comprehensive wealth plan. The relationship was a fairly new one, just a few years old, but in that time both Paul and Jean had come to appreciate the perspective from Senior Financial Advisor Christine Kaehler of Wells Fargo Advisors, who had helped introduce the couple to Senior Wealth Planner Kristin Schoephoerster, Investment Strategist Jeremy Rice, Fiduciary Advisory Specialist Paul Schwartz, and Private Banker Kathy Vaughan from Wells Fargo Private Bank.
"After Paul died, Christine was one of the first people I called because I knew there were probably things that she would have to get going," Jean remembers.
Paul, who had always been a thoughtful planner himself about nearly every aspect of his life, felt that the team's retirement planning skill put his and his wife's future in capable hands. He gave her the gift of planning, among the many other gifts from their decades together.
A penchant for planning
The couple met when he was a "dashing young intern" and she was a second-year anesthesia student at St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. There, the introspective Paul Iverson made the one impetuous move in his life: He proposed to Jean after just six dates. "Paul is not a spontaneous person," she recalls, laughing. "He just said he knew what he wanted right away."
But from then on his thoughtful nature led the way. After serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, based in Key West, Florida, he worked two years in family practice before starting a four-year medical residency at the University of Minnesota. Out of Paul's income — first from the Navy and then from his job — and Jean’s nursing salary, Jean says, "we'd always save a certain amount for the lean years during the residency. He knew going in he'd get the G.I. Bill for two years but the last two years were on our own." So they planned.
In addition to planning for their own futures, they planned for their growing family. They established college funds for each of their three children, John, Lisa, and Julie. "As soon as he was through with his residency and in practice and getting an income, we would sit down and I would pay all the bills and he’d see what was left and a certain amount went every month into the kids’ college accounts," she recalls.
All three fulfilled their parents' dreams: John is a dentist in nearby Willmar, Minnesota, and Lisa works as a clinical nurse specialist and teaches at the local nursing school. Julie worked as a high school guidance counselor before joining the family in the medical profession as a pharmaceutical representative six years ago.
Paul finished his residency in 1976 and began work as an orthopedic surgeon, first in Hibbing, Minn., and then in Anoka, Minn. In 1988, he got an offer from a friend to join the practice in Willmar. Even in this, Paul planned. He moved ahead of his family, living with his brother, Bruce, because he wanted to spend a year getting established before uprooting the children. While the oldest two finished high school, he bought a spacious home built in 1901 on the shores of Green Lake.
By the time he was ready to retire in 2007, Paul's detailed nature had given the couple a comfortable and fulfilling life. They enjoyed living on the lake surrounded by family. They hit the road on their Harley-Davidsons — both were on the board of the Lake Region Chapter Harley Owners Group. Paul tended his trees and Jean taught the grandchildren to bake.
Meeting Wells Fargo
For years, Paul had handled his own investments, studying the markets with an eagle eye. "That was really his hobby; he loved it," says Jean.
But he decided that he wanted the help of wealth professionals as he transitioned to retirement. The couple had watched a neighbor who'd decided to go it alone struggle in retirement when the market dropped. "He said he thought he'd be living on the interest and he was dipping more and more into the principal," Jean remembers of the neighbor. "And Paul said, 'I don't want that to happen to me.'"
Paul had been impressed with the specialists who managed retirement accounts for the medical center where Paul worked and the seminars they conducted for the doctors at the center. He decided to give Christine Kaehler a call in 2007.
Soon after their initial discussion, Kaehler decided to bring Senior Wealth Planner Kristin Schoephoerster to the table. Kaehler says, “I like to bring her in right away when we're working with clients because I think 'How can you manage investments if you don't have a plan? And how can you have a plan if you don’t know what the client’s goals are?'"
Goals and dreams: The heart of a plan
With the Iversons' goals in mind, the team completed a first draft of their retirement plan before Paul’s death. And because they had put in the time to craft a unique plan for both Paul and Jean, it was a smooth transition to readjust the plan for Jean alone.
Having someone to look at the whole picture of her financial life has been a blessing to Jean. "It's hard enough when you lose a spouse," she says. "All of a sudden you're a third wheel. You're learning to do repairs and do functions, and to not have to worry about your finances. You just have no idea."
Even more important than the plan itself is the communication between Jean and her team, making sure she understands what her plan means and where she stands. They are helping her see the whole picture, starting every annual meeting with an update that compares where she is with where they planned she would be.
"What we're always trying to do is make sure she's making decisions within a context," says Schoephoerster.
Jean appreciates the thoughtful process, so much like her husband’s approach. "I'm thinking of all we’ve learned from this team," she says. She makes the two-hour drive to Minneapolis a couple of times a year to attend Wells Fargo economic updates. She asks more informed questions of her advisors and has a clearer view of what she spends and where she stands relative to her goals.
Embracing the future
Jean feels that her dreams for her retirement now — continuing to live in her house and see her six grandchildren grow up with the same values that she and her husband instilled in their children, contributing to 529 plans to provide for their education — are well within reach.
And she will be doing this with the help of a team that is more like a family, coming to her aid much as her and Paul’s Harley owners group did, filling a third of the church at Paul's funeral.
"It's kind of interesting," Jean says. "Because [Christine Kaehler] remembers the Harleys at the funeral. What I remember was seeing Christine there. That she and the team would take off a Monday and drive two hours to say goodbye to just an ordinary customer. And to be there for his family. . . . I'm probably pretty prejudiced. I just can’t say enough about Wells Fargo. I really can't."