Aging Clients? Understanding the Secrecy About Finances

Aging Clients? Understanding the Secrecy About Finances

Have you ever had a stubborn older client who told you he’d never talk about his assets with anyone but you?
 

He doesn’t think he’ll ever need help in his life and he wants to be in charge. When you suggest a family meeting to let someone else know what to do in case he ever became ill and unable to communicate, he shuts you down.   This is all too common.

A consistent obstacle to communication we see in our work is the resistance of the older person to discuss finances with anyone, including their adult children or other heirs. The Great Depression led to secrecy about finances for many, as fortunes were lost sometimes overnight and once proud people became impoverished. Talking openly about money was just not done for those who grew up in this time of widespread devastating and sometimes life-ending financial losses. To this segment of our population, openly discussing money was considered rude, unseemly. Some of these Depression-era survivors remain reluctant to tell anyone in their families where their accounts are, what their assets are and what they want done with their assets in the event of incapacity.

Presumably when you have a long-term relationship with your client, she trusts you and trusts your judgment. That gives you leverage. You may know more about her finances than her family, her friends or anyone in her life. You are charged with the task of long range planning and you look ahead. In doing so, it is up to you to urge your client, gently, repeatedly and with ongoing persistence that she find someone she can trust to appoint to protect her if she has an accident, falls ill, or can’t speak for herself.

Sometimes persistence pays. The power of your relationship is a tool to persuade your client to come around. This is not a situation to ignore just because your client resists. The older she is, the more there is at risk. Anything can happen to her health at any time.

If your client resists, we encourage you to repeat your requesting a week or a month. Do it in a tactful way and paint a verbal picture for her of what would happen if she were no longer able to speak for herself. Tell her how frustrating it would be to have to refer her account to your legal department for a decision about getting a court involved if she could no longer communicate. Tell her how upset that would make you feel. Express your own concerns and make it your problem.

We hope that every single person in your book of business has an appointed trusted other for you to contact. You may well need that and it can be up to you to urge your client to take care of that most important piece of legal business, the Durable Power of Attorney, if she has not done this. Diminished capacity can sneak up on your client and you’ll need help.

It’s a new role you have with the oldest clients. They are living longer than they thought they would and with longevity come the risks of impairment in all ways.

Carolyn Rosenblatt
Twitter Email

Carolyn Rosenblatt is an R.N. with 10 years of nursing and a lawyer with 27 years of legal practice. She has extensive experience working with both healthcare and legal i ... Click for full bio

Retirement Planning Has Its Limits: How to Prepare

Retirement Planning Has Its Limits: How to Prepare

Retirement planning is one of the issues that commonly leads clients to consult financial advisers. One of its essential aspects is creating a plan to save and invest in order to provide a comfortable retirement income. Ideally, this starts many years ahead of retirement, even as early as your first paycheck.

As retirement comes closer, planning for it expands to take in a host of other considerations, such as deciding when to retire, where to live, and what kind of lifestyle you hope to have. When retirement becomes a reality, the focus shifts to carrying out the plan.

All of this planning is crucial. Yet, for both financial advisers and clients, it's good to keep in mind that planning has its limits. In the post-retirement years, it may be helpful to think in terms of preparing for old age rather than planning for it.

The older we get, the more important this distinction between planning and preparing becomes. Too many life-changing things can happen without regard to our best-laid plans. Often they occur unexpectedly, resulting in emergency situations where urgent decisions have to be made. A stroke or a fall, a diagnosis of terminal illness, a broken hip that leaves someone unable to go back to independent living—and suddenly, right now, the family needs to find an assisted living facility, arrange for live-in help, or sell a home.

What are some of the ways to prepare for these contingencies?

  • Explore housing options well ahead of time. Find out what assisted living, home care, and nursing home services and facilities are available where you live and whether they have waiting lists. Have family conversations about possibilities like relocating or sharing households.
  • Research the financial side of these options. Investigate the cost of hiring help at home, assisted living facilities, and nursing care centers. Find out what is and is not covered by Medicare and long-term care insurance. For example, people are sometimes surprised to learn that Medicare does not pay for nursing home care other than short-term medical stays.
  • Designate someone to take over decision-making, and do the paperwork. Execute documents like a living will, medical power of attorney, and contingent power of attorney. Update them as necessary, and give copies to your doctors, your financial planner, and appropriate family members.  
  • Start relatively early to downsize. Well before you're ready to let go of possessions or move into smaller housing, start considering what to do with your "stuff." Focus on the decisions rather than the distribution. There's no need to get rid of possessions prematurely, but decide what you want to do with them—and put in writing. Do this while it's still your choice, rather than something your family members do while you're in the hospital or nursing home
  • Do your best to practice flexibility and acceptance. No matter how strongly you want to live in your own home until the end of your life, for example, it may not be possible. The physical limitations of aging can limit our choices, and even the best options available may not be what we would like them to be. It is a profound gift to yourself and your family members to accept these realities with as much grace as you can muster.
     

Finally, please don't underestimate the importance of planning financially for retirement. Because the bottom line is that you can't plan for all the things that might happen as you age, but you can prepare to deal with them. One of the most useful tools to cope with those contingencies is having enough money.

Rick Kahler
Advisor
Twitter Email

Rick Kahler, MSFP, ChFC, CFP is a fee-only financial planner, speaker, educator, author, and columnist.  Rick is a pioneer in integrating financial planning and psycholog ... Click for full bio