Sunday, July 02, 2006

Should affluent oldsters rely on self-employed financial advisers?

"For older Americans, " says the headline for this thought-provoking New York Times article, "money advice is just the start."
Taking care of the finances of older Americans is a huge and potentially lucrative field, and the market is growing. As of July 2004, according to the Census Bureau, 36.3 million Americans were 65 and older. That number is expected to reach 86.7 million by 2050. In a 2004 report, the Investment Company Institute, which represents the mutual fund industry, found that fund shareholders born in 1945 and earlier had mutual fund portfolios worth an average of $247,400.

The wealth of some older Americans, of course, is enormous. Attracted by this market, many financial planners have shifted their focus to it — and bring widely varying attitudes and professional training to the consultation table.
The financial planners described in the article no doubt give good advice to their elderly clients and provide needed help in arranging various elder-care services.

Still, I'm troubled to think of independent financial planners, accustomed to collecting significant fees or commissions, acting as primary advisers to affluent older folks who probably aren't sophisticated.

I'd feel better if these folks were served by the staff of a trust company or bank trust unit. Trust institutions are staffed by people who are 99.98% honest and dedicated. And these people are backed by organizations that supervise them (and that have deep pockets in the extremely rare case a staff member misbehaves).

What's your organization doing to attract the affluent elders who need you?

Are you broadening your services beyond the merely financial?

Are you coordinating your services with other resources for the elderly in your market area?

P. S. Whatever you do, don't start feeling so sorry for elderly clients that you offer to help them cancel their AOL accounts. As another article from today's New York Times recounts, you would be better off opting for life in prison without parole!

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