According to an in depth survey of experienced advisors who devoted a significant portion of their practices to retirement planning, demands from clients are driving the evolution of retirement services. While responding to the push from clients to deliver more in the way of lifestyle services and to provide more financial education, advisors
have not uniformly adjusted their fees to respond to the added service-weight on their practices. These are the conclusions that appear in late fall 2008 report, Advisor Best Practices: Delivering Retirement Income and Transition Support, which was undertaken by Dennis Gallant of GDC Research, and Howard Schneider of Practical Perspectives, located in Sherborn and Boxford, Massachusetts, respectively.
The researchers interviewed advisors across delivery channels to include professionals working in wirehouse, RIA, regional, bank, insurance, and independent firms who devoted a significant portion of their practice to retirement income and transition support for more affluent clients–and had been doing so for at least 10 years. Their collected views and approaches provide a pragmatic list of best practices for advisors who specialize in retirement and valuable guidance for those who are more generalists.
“The advisors told us there are two kinds of clients,” notes Schneider. “One of the clients that they’ve been working with for an extended period of time and where retirement is something they they’ve talked about and planned. They get to retirement, and there’re no surprises. And then, there’s the other kind of client who parachutes in right before retirement. They’re 63 years old, and they have six months, six weeks, six days, six hours until they’re going to retire.”
The study illuminated several trends in the delivery of retirement support:
o More services beyond the typical asset management and retirement income strategies to now include health care, elder care and more family office types of support
o Additional analysis of the client’s emotional component as he or she considers transitioning and various lifestyle options
o Increased calculations for longevity planning to accommodate a range of life-stage needs, such as new career to nursing care
o Evolving practice models leading to more independent, fee-based team practices, with RIAs and independent broker/dealers take the lead in serving this marketplace
o Greater use of comprehensive planning as opposed to isolated product solutions
o Improved advisor listening and emotional analysis ability where listening skills are coupled with technical skills.
In general, advisors view their retirement clients as differing in significant ways from their younger clients in accumulation mode. They view retirement as requiring a higher degree of overall integrated planning given the larger number of life issues that need to be addressed within a context of living off investment income without knowing the actual time horizon.
Perhaps not surprisingly for a service area undergoing transition, advisors more widely agree on what constitutes traditional service offerings than what’s included among the newer practices areas.
There are a number of services that almost all advisors deliver to retirement clients, such as selecting and managing investments, establishing and executing draw down strategies for income distributions, delivering estate planning guidance, or providing tax planning.
The study found that almost all advisors had considerable experience in these areas and apply them as a regular part of the client solutions. Advisors either consult directly with clients or coordinated solutions with the help of outside specialists attorneys, CPAs, and insurance experts.
“Beyond the study, we would expect with more and more advisors, if they really want to deliver retirement income and retirement transitions that address a client’s needs well, they are going to need to broaden the scope of what they do,” states Schneider. “They can do it one of two ways. They can either bring some of that resource into their own practice so they can handle it internally, or what a lot of them were doing is networking with others. Especially with the smaller practices, it’s much more likely that they’re going to network with others.”
With clients considering new scenarios for retirement lifestyles, they’re bringing more non-financial issues to discussions with advisors. Beyond satisfying client needs, broadening a practice focus often reflects a business strategy for positioning as the key trusted advisor for any challenge or issue clients face. “For most clients, life decisions are more crucial than investment choices,” notes one advisor in the study. “Retirement is a door for most clients, not a wall. I need to help them get through the door,” offered another.
Advisors viewed several drivers in the expansion of additional retirement services: higher client expectations, shifted financial responsibility to the individual from the safety of pension plans, increased longevity, more complicated family and personal situations, and greater need for self-fulfillment in retirement years.
The emerging services advisors are adding to their practices fall into five groups:
Elder care. Elder care remains a main concern of clients for themselves, a spouse, or a parent. Many advisors have relationships with care facilities and elder care specialists who can work with them to resolve the financial and logistical issues clients confront. Advisors may:
o Help identify eligibility for assistance programs
o Identify local care givers
o Secure space in a nursing home or assisted living facility
o Find a local elder day care facility
Personal Development. The new retirement often means a new career, launching a new business, or locating meaningful volunteer work, and, advisors have seen addressing these issues as central to planning financial and lifestyle issues. They guide clients to counselors, other resources, and also:
o Provide career counseling including skills assessment