Advisors today are being challenged like never before to differentiate themselves from competitors by offering unique value propositions. With technology evolving, client expectations expanding and product offerings looking more alike across firms, it’s increasingly critical for advisors to capitalize on every opportunity to strengthen and deepen relationships with existing clients while adding capabilities that will appeal to new ones.
One such opportunity may be right under advisors’ noses due to significant demographic shifts that are adding years or even decades to clients’ post-career lives — and fundamentally changing the nature of retirement.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lifespans in the United States generally have been increasing over the long term, with a future life expectancy of 19.4 years for 65-year-olds in 2016, more than two years greater on average than a generation before.
Many of today’s retirees want to use these additional post-career years to find meaning, connect with others and explore ambitions they may have previously deferred. Others may encounter unanticipated medical expenses or need support for social, mental or emotional needs. Without such support, a longer life expectancy can carry significant downsides, including drug and alcohol abuse and higher rates of depression and suicide.
Fortunately, financial advisors are often in the ideal position to help, not only through financial planning that enables clients to maintain a high quality of life in retirement, but by offering longevity planning services and resources that can provide retirees with the support they need to take advantage of new opportunities and cope with unexpected challenges.
Here are some best practices to help advisors incorporate these critical capabilities into their businesses.
1. Address the Longevity Planning Opportunity
An effective suite of longevity planning services should combine bread-and-butter financial advice such as estate planning, retirement income planning and health care/long-term care guidance with services and resources that advisors may not have made available in the past, including, for example, advice on aging in place; connections to volunteering or second-career opportunities; referrals to mental and physical wellness resources; and even guidance on living arrangements.
Expanding an advisor’s longevity planning capabilities does not necessarily mean that the advisor herself needs to become an expert in a raft of new areas of planning, although that may be a good option for those with the appropriate time and bandwidth.
The best course of action for most advisors will be to serve as a longevity planning “hub” for their clients by collecting and curating a Rolodex of experts on various topics to whom advisors can refer clients, either proactively or in response to specific questions.
2. Build the Right Capabilities
Branching out into this area of planning starts with listening to clients and asking broad-ranging questions to determine which facets of their retired lives they are struggling with, or which of their aspirations are currently going unfulfilled. Through this process of fact-finding and discernment, advisors can spot areas of need where they can add value through additional focus.
The next step is to translate these fact-finding conversations into action by hitting the pavement to secure alliances with local experts that can offer guidance, planning and advice on the specific needs the advisor has identified.
For example, many communities have consultants that can help clients set up their homes to best facilitate safe and fulfilling aging-in-place strategies. Others have associations or government agencies that can help clients make sound choices regarding living arrangements, in-home care, long-term care and other key considerations.
Where possible, advisors should make an effort to attend discussions between their clients and the experts they have identified.
Advisors also can compile resource guides of websites and other contacts that can help clients explore ambitions like educational pursuits — whether they’re interested in a full degree, adult education options or even teaching classes themselves — as well as second (or third) careers. The site encore.org, for example, helps connect older adults with in-retirement career opportunities that leverage skills they gained during their primary careers.
3. Expand Advisors’ Value Propositions
Many clients, having reached retirement age, are now finding that the reality doesn’t match the expectations they planned for — and they need knowledgeable, trusted experts to help them recalibrate their approach to the post-career stage of their lives.
The upside for advisors — in addition to helping clients live more rewarding and meaningful lives in retirement — is that there are few ways to make a relationship more “sticky” than to position themselves as a one-stop point of contact for a wide range of vital client needs. Adding expertise in longevity planning also also help advisors develop strong relationships with clients’ heirs, because the next generation will often want to be closely involved in their parents’ late-life decisions.
Having helped so many clients plan for retirement, advisors now have another outstanding opportunity to differentiate themselves by helping clients navigate the expanding range of options and challenges this stage of life involves.
Janine Wertheim is President of Securities America Advisors and Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Securities America, an independent advisory and brokerage firm and subsidiary of Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services Inc.