From the June 2014 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

The Uncomfortable and Inevitable: Planning for Death and Disability

Helping your clients plan for the inevitable isn't just good for them, it can help you build your business

Help your clients plan for the inevitable, even if it's an uncomfortable topic like dementia or death. Help your clients plan for the inevitable, even if it's an uncomfortable topic like dementia or death.

It's conference season for advisors and the journalists who have the privilege of covering the advisor universe. Advisors attend conferences for many reasons: to network with peers, to get CE, to hold meetings with partners or clients in the conference city. They also actually attend sessions to be informed and sometimes entertained. But the best sessions, the best speakers, challenge what we think we know and encourage us to shift the way we think about important topics.

IMCA, for example, rightly prides itself on the educational rigor of its conferences, featuring economists and statisticians and academics who take deep dives into sometimes arcane subjects.

So what to make of the fact that the highest rated speaker at IMCA's 2013 annual conference was Amy Florian, the CEO of Chicago-based Corgenius? Rather than discussing asset allocation or inverted yield curves, Florian talks about death and dying, about dementia and Alzheimer's. If you’ve heard Florian speak, you wouldn't be surprised at her high ratings, even though she speaks directly, sometimes toughly but always with a leavening pinch of humor, about topics that too many of us would prefer to avoid.

Her words and suggestions are valuable to advisors in helping clients and their families deal with emotionally fraught, legally murky and potentially money-draining issues around aging clients. Beyond providing tips on the legal, emotional and intrafamily dynamics of death and dying and dementia—“You have to have a protocol” to follow when it comes to clients with diminishing faculties, she said at the 2014 IMCA national conference—she also lays out how advisors can use their knowledge and insights into those issues to help build their businesses.

Worried about how to attract the next generation of clients? You could do much worse than to demonstrate to your current clients’ children how valuable your services are, how you’re ready to go the extra mile for clients by quarterbacking the diagnosis and treatment of dementia in an aging parent. Want to get more referrals? Imagine how the friends and acquaintances of an aging client would feel when they see how you’ve covered every legal and financial base to ensure that said client's wishes about the end of life are followed. Worried about the rise of the robo-advisors who can provide financial planning at 25 bps? Then show the value of your advice by helping clients efficiently face some of the biggest challenges they’ll ever face in life.

The need is great; the opportunities clear. In her presentation at IMCA in May, Florian began by asking attendees if they prepare carefully for a visit from an SEC or FINRA examiner. She asked if attendees plan their vacations in detail. Then why don't we (including clients, of course) prepare for aging and death? “We’re all terminal,” she said with a smile, though most of us don't know when we will die, and too many of us prefer not to think of death and dying. Her suggestion: “Help your clients prepare for the inevitable.”

The statistics prove the need: Only 50% of baby boomers have a will, Florian reported, and among working women, 72% do not have a will. One in eight people over the age of 65 have dementia, and 22% of people over the age of 71 have some form of MCI, or mild cognitive impairment.

Like advisors, Florian is passionate about her work, but also practical. If you get a chance to hear her speak or take advantage of her classes, grab that chance. You’ll help build your practice, get closer to clients and be providing an important humanitarian service.

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