Lifestyle planning and elder counseling: Differentiate yourself with new approach to older clients

By Barry LaValley | August 13, 2003 | Last updated on August 13, 2003
4 min read

(August 2003) Picture your business five years from now: Close to one in three clients will be over 55. And with your clients all five years older, you’ll probably be discussing issues with them that you don’t talk about today. To serve this client base effectively, you will have spent time understanding all of the key issues associated with retirement lifestyle planning, elder counseling, bereavement and legacy planning — you even attained a professional designation that tells your marketplace that you specialize in retirement lifestyle or eldercare planning.

In fact, your expertise in helping clients over the age of 55 with their specific issues has become your brand in the marketplace. It has enabled you to differentiate yourself from all of the other advisors out there…

Let’s return to 2003. This is a great time to develop new business. Think about it — seldom have we seen so many “disaffected” clients questioning their relationship with their advisors. Performance has been an issue with many, and communication between advisors and clients has often been strained. If your client relationships have not been negatively affected over the past two years, then you truly have something to offer the marketplace in general.

No magic bullet

I wish that I could give you the “magic bullet” that would automatically turn prospects into clients. Many advisors believe that if they just phone or visit prospects, they can convince them to become clients. Of course, there is more to it than that — prospects have to believe that they can get something different from you.

You may be trying to market yourself to prospects by telling them you are a better financial planner or a superior investment picker. While your present clients may be able to vouch for you, your prospects will likely take this approach with a grain of salt.

A different position

You really have to be different when you sell yourself, or there will be no compelling reason for a prospect to become your client. If you are going to be seen as truly different, then you will have to position yourself in a different market than your competition.

More than a simple strategy

The lifestyle-planning approach is not just a planning strategy that means you ask your client more questions about their life goals. It combines elements of personal coaching, education on life transitions and lifestyle issues, and places money in the context of the client’s life.

The advantage in positioning yourself as a retirement lifestyle planner is that you carve out an area that is virgin territory for most advisors and create a marketing focus to build your prospecting strategy on.

As a retirement lifestyle specialist, you place financial planning in the context of life issues that are important to 10 million Canadian baby boomers and over 80 million Americans approaching this life transition.

Specializing in seniors

Recently, the Canadian Initiative for Elder Planning Studies (CIEPS) announced its certification program for advisors (read’s news story from August 1, 2003 for more details about this program). This in-depth, three-and-a-half-day symposium and proctored examination will provide attendees with an Elder Planning Counselor (EPC) designation, which they can use to market their practice.

“The EPC program helps professionals make better use of their current credentials to the benefit of their elder clients, not just adds more letters after their name. We chose the unprecedented live-class approach so that we can instill the spirit of the program, not just the information,” says Jim Ruta, chair of the CIEPS advisory council. “We chose to speak about ‘elders’ to recognize the respect and dignity we believe important in the market.”

I can’t name many financial advisors in Canada who have positioned themselves as specialists in the over-50 market. While it is true that many seasoned advisors have become experts in the eldercare market simply because their clients were aging, I have yet to see anyone use this as a marketing differentiator. In the U.S., for example, a growing number of advisors are specializing in the over-50 demographic and using this as a marketing program.

Getting ready for the next wave

Think about your position in your market. You know that there are increasing numbers of 55-plus clients out there who are looking for something different. Typically, they are not as interested in accumulation strategies as they were when they were 35. Where do they go to get financial planning assistance from an advisor who specifically focuses on issues pertaining to this demographic?

There aren’t that many ways to set yourself apart, but this is a way that makes sense. To become familiar with all of the things that you need to understand in order to hold yourself out as an “EPC,” it might be worth taking the program offered by the CIEPS and getting your certification (check out their Web site at

If you look where your marketplace is going, it makes good sense to position yourself and the services you offer to meet the needs of tomorrow’s clients. That’s why the life-planning approach and eldercare planning will be the next wave in the financial services industry.

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Barry LaValley is president of The Retirement Lifestyle Center. He is also a founding member of the CIEPS advisory council and a member of their faculty. He works with advisors and their clients to help them understand the key issues associated with today’s new retirement. He can be reached through his Web site at


Barry LaValley