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Resist the Urge to Prejudge Older Clients

February 4, 2015

Don’t make assumptions about older clients. They don’t want to be put out to pasture, and they don’t all want conservative investment plans. That’s the big takeaway from an Advisor Perspectives post by practice-management consultant Dan Richards.

Different retirees have different emotional “hot buttons,” writes Richards. For advisors who want to become “go-to” resources for over-65 clients, he recommends “changing the focus” of their conversations and “rethinking the areas where [they] build expertise.”

It helps the whole process, says Richards, if you avoid putting all retirees into the same basket. One advisor tells Richards she has clients in their mid eighties with behavioral characteristics of those in their fifties. So, instead of “prejudging” older clients, she uses financial author Michael Stein’s system of sizing them up.

In this system, older clients are put into three distinct life phases, characterized as “go-go,” “slow-go” and “no-go.” Clients in each phase have distinct emotional hot buttons. For example, the blog identifies travel as a common interest for those in the go-go stage of life. Meanwhile, clients further along in retirement mention “downsizing” and “decluttering” as key areas of focus.

Even more specifically, some advisors take a close look at seniors’ personality quirks in dealing with money. Richards says clients often fall into two distinct categories: those who feel better when their FA talks about avoiding losses, and those who respond better when wealth-creation strategies are discussed.

Of course, building strong bonds with retirees takes teamwork. “I’ve learned that some of my support staff just don’t have the patience,” one advisor tells Richards. But he says a particular staffer, who is older, “has a natural warmth and interest that my older clients love.”

By Murray Coleman
  • To read the Advisor Perspectives article cited in this story, click here.