The whole picture: Understanding the needs of aging clients

By Jill O'Donnell and Graham McWaters | October 23, 2013 | Last updated on October 23, 2013
4 min read

As a financial advisor, you spend a great deal of time looking after your clients’ financial well-being and making sure they have adequate resources for their retirement years. But retirement is about more than just finances. Understanding the needs of your aging clients both financial and non-financial is essential. A complete picture of your clients’ situation will allow you to serve them to the best of your abilities.

Managing stress

It is assumed that life will be less stressful as we age. Experience brings ease to many challenges and situations that may have been a major concern in the past. But, young or old, male or female, the process of aging can take its toll on you and your clients — both physically and emotionally. It can certainly put a strain on personal, professional and family relationships, as well as create concerns about personal finances. If your aging clients are experiencing anxiety surrounding family issues or finances that are serious enough to create stress in their lives, this can sometimes lead to serious medical problems if not addressed. Though they may not initially discuss their concerns with you, often just a change in demeanour may signal a need to investigate further. Sometimes a look at your client’s profile can provide clues as to how to address any major changes in your aging clients.

Body, mind and leisure

It has been said that “old age is not for sissies.” Although it is inevitable, how it is dealt with is individual. Energy levels decrease with age but that doesn’t mean your clients need to give up golf, travel, skiing or any of the other leisure activities that they have always enjoyed. Are their finances sufficient for them to continue these activities or do they need to rethink how they will spend their time as they age? For many of your older clients, travel is a very important part of life. Some of your clients may have purchased property in warmer climates such as Florida Arizona, Spain or even Portugal in their early adult years, to enjoy during their vacation time. Once they reach 65, the cost for travel insurance increases considerably, often making it so expensive they are forced to sell off those properties. Along with aging come physical and mental changes. In their 30’s and 40’s people start to need reading glasses. Strength and stamina decline along with hearing and reaction time slows down. Older adults find they want to have a nap in the afternoon because they don’t get a good night’s sleep anymore. You may have to schedule appointments with them to suit their changing needs. With advancing age there is an increased risk of both acute and chronic health problems such as diabetes, pulmonary and cardiac disease as well as osteoarthritis. Many older adults who develop these chronic conditions do so incrementally over years — you may not even know they have them.

Long-term care

Most people want to live at home as long as possible. Should a debilitating illness strike, making home care necessary for your client, part of that financial burden will be met if they have a long-term care insurance policy in place. It can also be used should a move to a retirement home or a nursing home be needed. Knowing they can purchase a policy that will reduce the financial strain in the event they need long-term care will give clients peace of mind. Long-term care insurance has been available in the United States for decades and now is becoming more widely accepted in Canada. You need to impress upon your clients the fact that the government may not have the funds or resources to provide the kind of care they want. By doing so, you can better explain the value of investing in a long term care policy that is tailored to their specific needs and requirements.

Avoiding a crisis

In order to be in control of our lives, we need to plan ahead. With aging comes concerns; health being the biggest one and finances a close second. To ensure your clients are not placed in a critical situation, they need to take stock of their current resources. Living longer requires more resources. How expensive is it to live at home? What will it cost in a retirement or nursing home? How prepared are they for these additional costs? Some of your clients may have aging parents who do not have the financial resources to manage their care needs — can those adult children assist them with care needs? You can help your clients by being aware of the changes that come with aging. Urge them to think about the type of lifestyle they want and what kind of activities they want to pursue as they grow older. How will aging — and their finances — impact their abilities to realistically meet these expectations? Encourage them to think about what will happen should they become incapacitated in any way. Does their financial portfolio have enough flexibility to cover added health care costs? By helping your clients to plan ahead you will certainly help avoid a crisis.

Jill O’Donnell and Graham McWaters are co-authors of The Canadian Retirement Guide.

Jill O’Donnell and Graham McWaters