What are the typical financial and nonfinancial needs of women preparing for retirement? How might those needs change over time and impact the retirement plan? Which specialists should insurance and financial service professionals be partnering with to best serve women entering retirement?

These and other questions received a full airing on the opening day of the Retirement Income Industry Association’s 2015 RIIA Annual Conference. Being held at the Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis, Sept. 16-18, the gathering brought together three experts to explore the retirement planning challenges of women.

For advisors, an understanding of the topic is increasingly critical, and not only because women account for a growing proportion of breadwinners and keepers of the household checkbook. Because they tend to outlive men, women past a certain age in retirement often interface with a financial professional on their own.

For the advisor, that means being better attuned to the broader concerns of women — such as ensuring a client’s or family’s well-being in retirement — than those commonly aired by men, who tend to be more analytical and focused on portfolio performance.

But Marcia Mantell, president of Mantell Retirement Consulting, cautioned that advisors should not think of older women as a single demographic block, for their retirement issues vary widely. Some are single and living with adult children; others are widowed with a spousal inheritance to tie them over.

Still others are divorcees without a significant financial cushion. They may also be recent retirees thinking about reentering the workforce to make ends meet or women planning on an early retirement to care for a parent in ill health.

Also to weigh: whether the female client is part of a nontraditional family, such as a same-sex couple or blended family with adult children by first and second marriages. The myriad of relationships in such unconventional households can, the panelists noted, significantly complicate retirement estate and wealth transfer planning.

To boot, the financial needs of female clients can change over time due to the evolving roles of household members or unanticipated life events, such as a the disability or illness of a family member that can upend retirement objectives. For example, wanting to engage in physically strenuous recreational activities.

The 40- or 50-year-old client planning to, say, do a lot of rock-climbing might opt to retire sooner rather than later while she’s still able to scale mountain peaks. This decision, of course, has to factor in income lost by leaving the work force early.

“Retirement plans have to be tailored and, as necessary, revised for each client because family relationships, financial circumstances, retirement goals and the client’s physical and mental health can change over time,” said Anna Rappaport, president of Anna Rappaport Consulting. “This point is really key.”

A particularly thorny issue to deal with, she added, are situations where a husband and wife have separated or divorced and have conflicting financial objectives. At times, a marriage counselor may be needed to patch up differences and facilitate planning discussions between the estranged spouses.

If so, advisors must decide whether they can provide both financial advice and counseling — and revise their business model to be compensated appropriately — or whether outsourcing one or another function makes more sense.

Either way, said Rappaport, the planning will be eased using a household balance sheet: a financial statement (and core component of RIIA’s RMA curriculum) that can detail financial assets contributed by each family member, enabling the advisor to ascertain how much each should receive in any divvying up of those assets.

In other cases, the issue is planning for the physical or cognitive decline of the female client. Sandra Timmerman, a gerontologist at Aging and Business Strategies, said the advisor may need to bring adult children into the planning discussion to decide who will care for Mom — one of the siblings or, say, an assisted living facility — when she’s no longer able to manage on her own.

If Mom is already suffering from dementia, then the need to involve adult children may be all the more urgent — in part to ensure a continuing professional relationship with the family after the parent’s passing.

In situations entailing assisted living, the advisor should also connect with a geriatric care manager. The field encompasses a broad range of professionals: social workers, psychologists, nurses and others with both training and experience in aspects of elder care.

“Developing partnerships with geriatric care managers is worth the investment,” said Timmerman. “They’re a great resource for advisors.”

Mantell agreed, adding that the financial advisor can serve as the “quarterback” in cases where the services of multiple professionals are required. In addition to the aforementioned, those with expertise in estate and trust planning, business planning, charitable planning and accounting may have a role to play. And, last but not least, life insurance professionals.

Mantell said that many older women suffering from cognitive impairment are at risk of elder financial abuse and financial swindles — and not just from scammers. In more than a few cases, an adult child was the guilty party (e.g., in cases where children siphoned off retirement funds without the parent’s consent or understanding of the financial consequences).

By arranging for a guaranteed income stream when planning for retirement, women can protect their finances from those who might seek to take advantage of them later in life. “Buying an annuity may be the best protection against financial elder abuse,” said Mantell. “It needs to be part of any retirement planning discussion with women.”