With the new year, I’ve entered my 36th year in the financial services industry. Just writing this fact feels strange. I’ve never characterized myself as a veteran of the industry, feeling instead that I’ve just hit my stride. The years however tell me differently and it’s easy to understand how senior professionals can feel marginalized. I chose a doctor several years my junior so that as I aged, he’d still be in practice. Understandably now, clients want to know who my back up is “just in case.”
The financial planning industry has done an admiral job of preparing people for two pivotal moments: Retirement – that magic age when one stops earning a paycheck, travels the world, plays golf every day, and enjoys a life of leisure; and Death – the final moment beyond which our assets and legacy are left to our heirs. It has done a poor job of equipping advisors to address the financial planning issues of the period in between. Sure, advisors sell long term care insurance to forty and fifty-somethings for this period, and others sell annuities to seniors skittish about the financial markets, but these are product solutions aimed at the senior market, not financial planning discussions. In a similar way, a walker solves an issue with balance and prevents falls, but a walker is not a comprehensive plan for health and wellness throughout life.
While there are several common financial planning issues for every age demographic, there are also many unique financial planning needs of the senior market.
Common Financial Planning Issues
- Ensuring adequate cash flow throughout life.
- Evaluating and addressing risks to financial independence.
- Determining the financial impact of major life events.
- Minimizing income tax.
- Allocating investment resources to accomplish current and future goals.
- Defining a plan for the distribution of accumulated assets at death.
Financial Issues Unique to Seniors
- Plan for downsizing or home modification
- Relocation plan if distant from family
- Plan for continued social engagement
- Family business succession
- Identity and fraud protection
- Annual Medicare elections
- Developing a dependency plan to include
- Living arrangements
- Persons in charge of financial decisions
- Persons in charge of healthcare decisions
- Transportation needs
It’s tempting to ask how a plan for continued social engagement is a financial planning issue. With social isolation a major contributor to poor health among seniors, and healthcare costs absorbing a significant portion of a senior’s resources, a plan for social engagement as we age should be an integral part of the financial planning conversation with seniors.
Annual Medicare elections are another example of an often-confusing labyrinth of decisions that can have significant financial impact for years.
Identity theft and elder financial fraud are estimated to cost seniors between $3 and $30 Billion a year, and nearly everyone I know over age 70 has been targeted. A plan that includes identity theft protection as well as vulnerabilities to undue influence inside of familial relationships needs to be included.
Plans for living arrangements, whether aging in place, or facility care, should be discussed long before the actual need arises. Just as saving for retirement doesn’t begin at age 65, neither should plans for where someone lives out the remainder of their life be delayed until the 11th hour.
Family meetings to discuss an aging client’s dependency plan should be also be held long before a dependency event occurs. It helps assure family members that a plan is in place, informs them as to who-does-what-when, and when done early enough and under the direction of the aging client, preserves his or her seat of honor at the head of the table.
Family Business Succession has been a central component of financial and estate planning for years and is the least neglected area of financial planning for seniors among those who own a multi-generational family enterprise. Still, nearly 60% of the small business owners surveyed by Wilmington Trust, do not have a succession plan in place.
In conclusion, financial planning does not end at retirement. As one client reminded me years ago, “retirement is just another word for thirty years of unemployment.” It doesn’t look the same for all seniors but when practiced with integrity, it can be extremely beneficial to the entire family, and rewarding for the financial planner who chooses to serve this market.
 National Institute on Aging. (2020). Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks. [online] Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].
 Consumer Reports. (2020). Financial Elder Abuse Costs $3 Billion a Year. Or Is It $36 Billion?. [online] Available at: https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/consumer-protection/financial-elder-abuse-costs–3-billion—–or-is-it–30-billion- [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].
 Usatoday.com. (2020). [online] Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/usaandmain/2018/08/11/most-small-business-owners-lack-succession-plan/37281977/ [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].