A young hand clasping an older hand (Credit: Thinkstock)

It is well-reported, but bears repeating, we are on the cusp of the largest generational wealth transfer in U.S. history. According to a new report from Cerulli Associates, in the next quarter century, Baby Boomers will pass along nearly $48 trillion in assets, and for financial professionals, the unsolved challenge remains how best to bridge the planning relationship across these financial generations.

Not as widely discussed as this generational shift in wealth is a significant parallel trend driven by the Baby Boomers: their need for long-term care. Boomers are living longer than any generation to date, and their need for care is increasing. If a person lives to be 65, it’s likely they’ll eventually need some kind of long-term care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports.

(Related: Your Guide to Bespoke Life Insurance Conversations)

Who is providing this care? Members of the next generations — Generation X and Millennials, with whom financial professionals need to be building trusted relationships.

In the recently released 2019 Northwestern Mutual C.A.R.E. Study, we found that two in five caregivers are caring for or have provided care for a parent. In this study, caregiving is defined as a combination of practical/personal care support, emotional support and financial support, and in practice, it represents an average of eight hours of care per day and a quarter of the caregivers’ own monthly budget.

Financial professionals are in a unique position to play a key role working with families who are and will be in these situations.

There’s a disconnect between perceptions and realities when it comes to caregiving. Families are fundamentally changing in ways that affect how they’re able to care for aging parents. In addition to parents living longer, most of their children are working full-time and often having children later in life, and families are geographically dispersed.

These complexities of modern life are further compounded by the fact that two in five families have no proactive discussions about how long-term care needs will be handled, leaving the responsibilities for caring for parents largely on the shoulders of a single sibling.

Here’s where financial professionals can step up and play a valuable role. Helping your clients and their children think ahead — together — and having candid conversations can help avoid the unnecessary stress of decision-making on the fly or operating based on assumptions and unspoken expectations.

If you are serving boomer clients, you can be taking three steps right now:

  1. Ask if clients have thought about long-term care and, most importantly, if they have discussed their needs and wants with their children. Our research shows they often haven’t, so you can help initiate and guide these conversations.
  2. Develop plans that reflect the family’s preferences, and make sure they are communicated to everyone who will be involved.
  3. Routinely check in on this topic as your clients mature to ensure plans stay current and that they work within the context of the family dynamics, which for most families are changing constantly.

Planning for long-term care, both from the caregiver perspective and the needing-care perspective, is where financial professionals can play a meaningful and frankly critical value-added role among the generations, even as wealth transfers between them. These are highly personal discussions and decisions where professional financial guidance can provide much-needed expertise and perspective to all generations, opening important working relationships with each generation involved. And ultimately, your clients, and their children, will thank you.


David W. Simbro (Photo: Northwestern Mutual)David W. Simbro, FSA, MBA, CLTC, is the senior vice president and executive officer of the risk products department at Northwestern Mutual.