The financial services industry frequently shows concern about the problems of longevity and aging clients. Cognitive impairment, diminished capacity and dementia get air time with various solutions, mostly vague, offered by industry insiders. But one problem is not being addressed: the professional herself with cognitive impairment.
It’s time to look at this as a real risk, not some unlikely possibility that can easily be taken care of by a succession plan for the professional’s business. Dementia is a complicated disease.
It sneaks up on people, with the early warning signs of short-term memory loss, followed by increasing difficulty with reasoning and judgment. If we had not witnessed this at AgingInvestor.com with impaired professionals ourselves, we might be fooled into thinking that professionals had figured out how to address it. Simply put, they haven’t.
Let’s look at the notion that all you need is a succession plan for your business and there will be no problem if you develop cognitive impairment yourself, or someone in your organization does. What’s the flaw in this? It is that many people with early Alzheimer’s or other dementia do not recognize that they are impaired.
This phenomenon is called anosagnosia, an inability or refusal to recognize a defect or disorder that is clinically evident. Ironically, the part of the brain that reasons and analyzes is so affected by the disease that it is not able to process the information about one’s own impairment.
How this plays out is that as a person ages and becomes more at risk for dementia, some will surely fall victim to brain disease. The odds are at least one in three by the time we reach age 85. The risk doubles about every 5 years starting at age 65.
So some financial professionals are going to develop dementia and some will not know that they have any impairment. So they keep working. Others around them are afraid to raise the topic when alarming signs first appear. No protocol exists to ease a person out of the role to which they are accustomed, particularly when they tell you they’re feeling just fine, thank you.
Myths exist. The first is that a financial professional, whether managing money for clients, selling products or addressing their taxes and accounting, will know that he or she needs to retire when the time comes. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Busting the myths
Myths exist. The first is that a financial professional, whether managing money for clients, selling products or addressing their taxes and accounting, will know that he or she needs to retire when the time comes. This is not what occurs. Many folks who have a good book of business and enjoy what they do will not look to retire by a certain age. They keep working, and consequently when they are impaired they put every client at risk.