Why younger planners can (and should) work with older clients
Every culture approaches ageing differently.
The Chinese uphold the virtue of filial piety, that is, respect for one's parents, elders and ancestors. In India, it is common for many people to live with their families as part of multi-generational households where grandparents are often considered the head of the family.
My own outlook on ageing was shaped by growing up in Brazil, where respect for one's elders isn't a mere adage – it's written into the Constitution.
Brazilians tend to embrace and take care of parents and grandparents in their advancing years, and it was no different for my family as my beloved grandfather battled the aggressive motor neurone disease that eventually claimed his life.
While I was devastated to lose my grandfather, a strong role model whom I deeply admired, I found some comfort in knowing he was able to live out his final days free from financial woes, and surrounded by loved ones.
In fact, it was this experience that inspired me to focus my financial planning practice on retirement planning, working with clients to develop individual strategies that empower them to approach their golden years with confidence.
As a so-called millennial, I often hear that my generation is doomed – ostensibly drowning in student debt and with inadequate retirement savings, we are likely to remain in the workforce longer than our parents, and face an imminent pension funding crisis as UK pension liabilities continue to spiral.
But I believe there's another generation in desperate need of help. It's the baby boomers, and they need our help in planning for retirement.
Baby boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964, and make up around 18 per cent of the population according to the Office for National Statistics. They are frequently characterised as the generation that 'had it all' and embraced the welfare state.
Negative perceptions abound: a report by HSBC last year on the future of retirement found that some 58 per cent of people believe millennials have been unfairly burdened by the economic consequences of their predecessors.
But the picture's not as universally rosy for the post-war generation as divisive headlines would have us believe. It's certainly true that, spurred by developments in the medical field, as well as enhanced awareness of health risks and best practices, they can expect to live longer than their parents.
The only problem? They might not be able to afford to.
The changing face of retirement
The nature of retirement has certainly changed in recent years, and it's increasingly evident that a significant proportion of today's baby boomers aren't sunning themselves by a Spanish villa or playing endless rounds of golf.
In fact, a growing number are working into their late 60s and beyond, with 'semi-retirement' becoming an increasingly prevalent phenomenon.
That's not down to boredom – of the still employed baby boomers between the ages of 51 and 70, 34 per cent are concerned they won't have adequate funds to subsist in retirement. Many are shouldering the costs associated with caring for a dependent family member, and less than a quarter of baby boomers have a coveted defined benefit (DB) pension scheme.
Rising lifespans and sustained low interest rates mean savings must last longer than ever before, presenting a distinct need for expert advice.
Yet a survey from Dunstan Thomas found that two-thirds of baby boomers received no financial guidance whatsoever on their at-retirement needs. That's particularly alarming when you consider the comments of renowned economist Richard Thaler: “For many people, being asked to solve their own retirement savings problems is like being asked to build their own cars.”
It's vital that as these clients approach retirement, we engage them in candid conversations about the types of lifestyles they hope to enjoy, and provide plain English advice as to how they can get there.
The generation game
Born into an era of post-war optimism and unprecedented economic prosperity, this was the generation that upended myriad cultural, economic and institutional norms. They embraced counterculture, and enjoyed the Swinging Sixties.
However, they've since witnessed the decline of the manufacturing and coal mining industries. They've lived through four significant recessions. With each economic downturn came increases in interest rates, inflation and – perhaps most crucially – a marked distrust of the financial services industry.
It'a clear that eroded trust can present a significant roadblock when it comes to seeking professional guidance. Back in 2014, Age UK found that 40 per cent of those aged between 61 and 70 agreed with the statement "it’s hard to know who to trust". For 71 to 80-year-olds, that proportion jumped to 64 per cent.
It's therefore crucial financial planners take the time to develop meaningful relationships with this generation, listening to their needs and delivering insight that neither overpromises nor skirts the realities of their situations.
As we demonstrate our ability to help these clients maintain the lifestyle they've worked for decades to secure, the trust only builds.
Far from being technophobes, the baby boomer generation increasingly prefers a multi-faceted approach when it comes to communication – but make those communications count.
I find my older clients appreciate personalised and timely email updates that keep them up-to-date with relevant information on their financial plan. Yet equally, they know I'll gladly answer their call or meet in person to answer any questions they might have.
There is a tremendous opportunity for younger planners to engage with older clients and help them navigate the complexities of retirement planning – and who knows, you might learn a thing or two yourself.
I relished the opportunity to absorb my grandfather's wisdom, and in the same way I find my clients are full of fascinating insights. I also find I have more in common with them than one might think.
Amyr Rocha Lima, CFP® is a partner at Holland Hahn & Wills LLP, a financial planning practice based in Kingston upon Thames. He specialises in working with successful professionals age 50+ helping them reduce taxes, invest smarter and retire on their terms.