Updated February 2017 — Working as a major television network executive, Bob Walsh often rubbed elbows with celebrities and dignitaries. But what inspired him — and what his family discusses when talking about him — was the way he balanced his work achievements with a harmonious family life, all while taking the lead role in building and managing the family finances.
Walsh’s career spanned more than 25 years at NBC, where he served as a group executive vice president. With operations responsibilities for NBC-owned television stations and NBC Sports, among other duties, he helped seal the network’s deal to broadcast the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Bob, his wife, Marion, and their family traveled extensively, both related to his work and after he retired in 1989, including trips to attend Wimbledon, see the French Open, tour Hungary, and travel in Switzerland.
In addition to his busy work life, Bob also handled all the finances for his family and was a private man when it came to his money, his family says.
“He was very proud,” remembers Randy Roberts, the husband of Walsh’s daughter, Margy. “He managed everything himself. He used an advisor for trades, but he ran the portfolio.”
Bob’s control of the family finances, while not intentional, caused challenges for the Walsh family as his Parkinson’s disease progressed after his 2005 diagnosis.
Signs of a change
The disease started with a very gradual loss of cognitive abilities. His wife, daughter, and son-in-law weren’t sure exactly what to do or where the portfolio he had managed confidently for so many years stood. Around 2011 when the cognitive issues associated with Parkinsonian Disease’s Dementia became more pronounced, Bob could no longer offer clear answers on his planning intentions; for example, there were trusts that had been set up for educational purposes, but never funded.
“He didn’t understand his accounts anymore,” Margy Roberts says. “He would just spend endless hours … looking on the computer and looking through papers. So [my husband and I] started to get a little bit more involved, trying to figure out where things were at and what [my parents] needed help with. None of us really had all that much idea exactly what he had.”
And as Walsh’s condition worsened, the family’s time was stretched, as both Marion and Margy took active roles in Bob’s care. Margy especially was overextended, trying to help her parents sell their townhome and move into a condo, while at the same time trying to prepare for her oldest daughter’s wedding and helping her sister through some challenges.
“It was a really stressful year,” Margy says of 2011, still showing the emotion of balancing so many tasks. “I felt like … they just needed a lot of help. It just seemed like every week there was something going on.”
A new resource
It was around the same time that the Walshes’ financial advisor realized the family needed some specialized assistance with the challenges they were facing. Jack Blunt, Financial Advisor in Wealth Brokerage Services, Wells Fargo Advisors, introduced the family to members of Wells Fargo Private Bank, and specifically, Life Management Services, a group of specialists who can help coordinate healthcare services, process medical claims, manage daily bill pay, coordinate annual tax returns, and provide numerous other services to families going through major life changes as they age.
Allison Getz, a Life Management Services Specialist for Wells Fargo Private Bank in Chicago, met the family and quickly realized that not only was Margy struggling with the new responsibilities, but her mother Marion was, too.
“The family and everyone involved felt that they needed a little bit more assistance managing their finances as well as some health care needs,” Getz remembers. “Marion was trying to help Bob and support Bob in so many different ways. And both Randy and Margy provide a great deal of support. But at the same time, it’s an overwhelming challenge for [Marion and Margy] to manage.”
One of Getz’ first steps was arranging for Bob to receive some intensive physical therapy outside of the home — and give Marion a bit of a break. It was an opportunity for Marion to evaluate if they should stay in their condo or seek out a senior living building with a continuum of care.
“She ultimately decided she wanted Bob to live at home as long as he could,” Getz says, “and we set up services then to help support them at home with around-the-clock care for Bob.”
A way forward
The more the Walshes worked with the Wells Fargo Private Bank team, the more the relationship grew. Mike Katz, a Senior Investment Strategist for The Private Bank, has helped the Walshes manage their assets with a focus on providing for generations to come.
“It really is a personal and personable relationship,” Katz says. “I don’t think we can be successful wealth managers and advisors without knowing the family on a personal level. We know what their kids are doing. They’re asking about our children.”
Now, Marion can focus on the financial tasks she’s interested in — like the credit card bill, she says with a laugh — while working with Getz to manage health care bills and other financial matters. Getz has helped find additional caregivers for Bob, and also has provided support for finding new living arrangements for the Walsh’s son, who has specialized needs as well.
Now, there is less day-to-day demand on both Marion and Margy. Randy and Margy have been able to take some vacations they weren’t able to take before more help was available, and Marion has found a new interest — mahjong. Her first set of mahjong tiles was a gift from Getz.
“Once I started, I don’t know how I ever got along without her [Getz],” Marion says. “Anything I have a question on, I call Allison, and she comes to the house and meets with me. It just makes it so easy for me.”