Help clients deal with debt

By Philip Porado | December 1, 2009 | Last updated on December 1, 2009
2 min read

Often, if a client doesn’t bring up debt issues with an advisor, it’s hard to provide much help. Further, a large percentage of clients who are in significant debt are younger folks, aged 20-to-35, who aren’t getting a lot of attention from advisors because they have little in the way of assets.

But those demographics are shifting, notes Barbara Foy-Pilchner, VP, Business Development, Invesco Trimark.

“There are a lot of people now going into retirement with debt,” she says. “If that’s the case, the question for advisor is, ‘Are you having the conversations with them and is there any opportunity there?’ ”

James R. Taylor, CLU, Financial Health Management, Toronto, looks at two sides of the debt equation. He does a net worth statement for a client who is alive, and another that assumes he or she has passed away. The second focuses on the tax liabilities against the client’s estate. “It’s not immediate debt but there are things that become very important as they understand what debt is as it relates to their families,” he says.

Getting clients in the right patterns early will help wealth formulas play out better for clients, says Rob Kochel, VP, National Accounts, Invesco Trimark. “But unfortunately, they’re the last ones to get the advice,” he says. Often, these clients are counting on inheritances, which is bad because they may not materialize as expected.

Kochel notes the statistics for 2007 and 2009 show the average inheritance has fallen by 38%. “There’s going to be a very real inheritance gap,” he says. “It isn’t cascading down the way it used to.”

Meanwhile, Geiss says he has used some creative solutions to help clients restructure and consolidate debt. But Kathleen Peace, CFA, CFP, Bennett March of IPC Investment Corp., Toronto, takes a different approach. “We stick to the simple way of managing debt,” she says. “Don’t take on too much to begin with.”

Philip Porado