5 Tips to Build a Senior-Friendly Practice

Concentrating on the growing number of seniors can be a differentiator and business driver for advisors

The first of the baby boomers turned 70 this year, with another 1.5 million reaching that milestone each year for the next 15 years.

By concentrating on this growing market early, advisors can provide financial planning services for decades longer than previous generations.

A new white paper by BNY Mellon’s Pershing, “Serving the Needs of Senior Clients,” has several tips on how advisors can better serve this demographic.

“Creating a practice focusing on the unique needs of this growing group can be a differentiator and business driver,” Janet Kelly, head of practice management at Pershing, said in a statement. “Further, working with senior clients can be truly rewarding as advisors become a trusted resource for these investors, as well as their families, and play an active role in their legacy planning.”

Here are five suggestions from the report:

Understand “The New Old”

1. Understand “The New Old”

As Pershing says, those considered seniors are not who they used to be.

“Today’s seniors do not reflect the stereotypes of rocking chairs and compression socks. Instead, they approach retirement as a new beginning or next chapter,” the report states. “Many are launching new careers or taking up and learning new hobbies. Many push back against the natural aging process with regular exercise and healthy nutrition.”

According to a Pew Research survey, the typical baby boomer believes that old age does not begin until age 72 and typically feels 9 years younger than his or her chronological age.

“Advisors who are sensitive to these changes as well as how their senior clients perceive themselves and aging have an advantage with communication, meetings and planning strategies,” the report suggests.

According to Pershing, Advisors need to understand and differentiate between the needs and health concerns of young seniors (60 to 75 years old), mid-seniors (75 to 85 years old), and old seniors (86 and older) to help guide the conversations based on each group’s unique needs.

Start the Conversation Early

2. Start the Conversation Early

According to the report, advisors should start planning for advanced age in the mid-50s to early 60s to ensure that proper documentation is completed while the client can make reasoned and thoughtful decisions.

The ideal time to help clients think through their needs and aspirations for advanced years is when they have full mental capacity, the report says.

“An advisor best practice for clients in this category is a formal, repeatable process that incorporates this planning discussion into the service model for advisors’ pre-retirement age clients,” the report states. “This will help to ensure their objectives are documented and trusted contact name(s) are included.”

Update Your Office Space

3. Update Your Office Space

By the time a client reaches age 75, there is likely some degree of mental and physical decline.

Pershing suggests that advisors with senior clients take a critical look at their office and make adjustments to the physical space to accommodate their specific needs. 

“Review your office lay out to ensure ease of access, as well as an environment that is welcoming and comfortable to demonstrate your awareness of the needs of senior clients,” according to Pershing.

Adopt Effective Meeting Techniques

4. Adopt Effective Meeting Techniques

Pershing has some suggestions for how advisors can have effective meetings with senior clients.

“Speak in clear terms, keep detailed notes of meetings and provide clients with written summaries to help promote ease of communication,” according to Pershing.

Once a client plan is documented, Pershing advises scheduling annual meetings to revisit their intentions. “Confirm the plan is current and that documents accurately reflect their wishes,” the report says.

Using technology with clients and in meetings can be tricky because digital acumen can vary widely among the senior age groups.

“While the technology gap is closing, many seniors have privacy concerns about the internet,” the report says. “It is important to understand how each client prefers to receive and access information — traditional methods or digital communication.”

Help Facilitate the Client-Family Conversations

5. Help Facilitate the Client-Family Conversations

Pershing says that advisors should encourage clients to discuss their estate plans and other important decisions with their children to uncover sibling interaction challenges and their effect on clients’ estate and legacy planning.

The report also says these decisions should be discussed while the client has full mental capacity.

“This allows parents to communicate the plan they design, and some parents take the next step — inviting their children to ask questions for further understanding,” the report states. “Clients often welcome an offer to help facilitate the conversation.”

By doing it this way, according to the report, advisors can gain a better understanding of family dynamics while initiating relationship development and trust with the family members.

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