Financial advisers shift strategy to serve older clients

Tue Sep 3, 2013 7:46am EDT
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By Andrea Hopkins

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian financial adviser Leony deGraaf decided to specialize in elder care after watching her father help seniors in his own practice, and she's never looked back - grateful for the life lessons her clients teach her as she manages their investments.

"It doesn't seem like a lot of advisers take the time to sit down and really explain everything, but it's really rewarding. They've really taught me a lot over the years - lessons from their generation, starting with 'Save before you spend,'" said deGraaf, 42, who completed the Elder Planning Counselor (EPC) designation nearly 10 years ago.

With some 1,200 Canadians turning 65 every day for the next 20 years, financial advisers are turning their attention to serving this huge and growing market.

But advisers face a big shift in taking on older clients heading into retirement. A change in investment strategy is the obvious first step for advisers who have more experience accumulating assets than dispersing them. But adjusting more practical aspects of their practice is also a must, as elderly clients require different communication, aid, and involvement.

Debbie Gilbert, a consultant on aging who advises families and financial advisers through her company Generations, said advisers need to take a much more holistic approach with older clients, who may need them for more than investment advice.

By focusing on their relationships with both current baby boomers and more elderly clients, financial advisers are on the front line to spot mental and physical health concerns, neglect or financial abuse.

"I often tell advisers, 'Ask simple questions.' 'How are things? How is your health? Are there any changes you are concerned about?'" said Gilbert, noting that advisers may not want to intrude or cause embarrassment, leaving an obvious change in health the elephant in the room.