Often, older baby boomers have a hard time opening up and taking about money, especially their own money and their personal money plans, say several advisors interviewed by National Underwriter.
The trend resonates with research on young seniors done by Financial Freedom, the Irvine, Calif., reverse mortgage firm. In the survey, young seniors, ages 62-75, were asked to identify their favorite topics of discussion among peers. Only 16% identified money and finances–and in 8th place on the top 10 list of preferred topics.
What topics topped the list? Family, children, and grandchildren (55%), followed by health issues (52%) and healthcare and Medicare (36%), says Financial Freedom. Even politics (31%) and religion (21%) ranked ahead of money.
Although the poll sampled people in the silent generation, the generation preceding boomers, as well as older boomers, several advisors say the profile perfectly describes many of their own older boomer clients, age 50+. How advisors can help boomers get past the squeamishness is the topic here.
“Younger boomers, in their 40s, aren’t that way,” allows Mark Heath, a retirement asset advisor with Heath & Associates LLC, Woodland Park, Colo. The younger boomers tend to be bottom-liners who want information, he continues. “If you show them something they don’t know about, they are willing to learn.
“But the older boomers don’t seem to want to talk about money all that much. That’s especially the case with those reaching age 60 and considering retirement.
“They want more relationship, not more information.”
Jay A. Bell sees this all the time.
“Even when older boomers do their financial planning, they often do not focus on it,” says Bell, a financial planner who is also vice president-education at LTC Group LLC, McLean, Va. They like to talk about their grandchildren and their health, he says, affirming the findings in the survey.
However, Bell doesn’t view the family-first discussions as a hindrance to planning. In fact, he says, such personal topics often relate to what the clients mean to do in retirement. Advisors who pick up on it can use the information as a starting point for building a plan around it, he maintains.
“I’m not surprised at all, to hear those survey results,” agrees Jeffrey M. Hochwalt, a registered investment advisor and managing member at Financial Resource Partners, LLC, Greenwood Village, Colo.
That is, it doesn’t surprise him if the boomers are prospects found by way of cold calls or seminars. Such clients give a “very cold shoulder” when discussing their money, he says, citing comments made to him by advisors who have tried it.
Hochwalt won’t even invite such people to his office. He recalls one woman he knows who will talk endlessly about politics and the media. But when the discussion turns to financial matters, she withholds information and is very uncomfortable with being asked questions. “It’s hard to work around that,” he says.
However, when business comes by way of referral, as does his own clientele, “‘money’ flows from being number 8 on the list of preferred topics to number 1 or 2,” Hochwalt says. Referrals want to talk about their money, and they do, he says.
Older boomers do love talking about their grandkids, says Lisa Tatman, a certified financial planner with Financial Management Network, Inc., Mission Viejo, Calif. But that doesn’t necessarily sidetrack the financial discussion.
Many boomers are actively parenting or grandparenting their grandchildren, she explains, or they are helping with education expenses, or creating a legacy that includes the grandchildren. So, it’s easy to move from discussions about family matters to planning for financial matters.
Still, Tatman allows that it can take up to a year to get the full picture. “New boomer clients do hold something back at first,” she says.
For instance, at the first annual review, they might mention some “pocket money” they “forgot” to mention before. This is not small change. It could be 3 certificates of deposit worth $100,000 each, or an annuity or life policy, Tatman says.
“I can’t really argue with their need to build up trust gradually,” she adds. Many boomers have seen or heard reports about advisors hustling annuities or participating in pyramid schemes, she explains, “so they think ‘buyer beware.’” It is after they see that the advisor meets expectations, makes quarterly and annual reviews, and follows through, that they become more comfortable and open, she says.
How can advisors help boomers bring money top of mind for planning purposes?
Listen. Heath says he often does what amounts to a Myers Brigg personality test, mentally sorting out what makes the person tick and get excited.
“I want to engage them in topics that interest them,” he explains. “I want to learn about their lifestyle, what makes them comfortable. I want them to talk…about their goals, preferences, etc.”
Therefore, he does not deter boomers from talking about family or vacations rather than their finances. Instead, he says he uses that discussion as the basis for establishing relationship.
“If they say they like to take vacations, I might ask how many vacations they like to take a year. I might also ask if they want to continue doing this in retirement, and if it is working for them, in terms of what they want from life.