Talking to Clients About Aging
Source: FA-IQ, Nov. 8, 2017
BRUCE LOVE, MANAGING EDITOR, FINANCIAL ADVISOR IQ: Hi, this is Bruce Love with Financial Advisor IQ, and I'm here with Coventry Edwards-Pitt, the Chief Wealth Advisory Officer at Ballentine Partners.
Coventry, you've just written a book about wealth planning for aging. Aging is a hard thing to talk about when you're talking with your clients. I mean, you've got to talk about perhaps things like dementia and not aging as well as you might have. I mean, is it all bad? Is it all difficult?
COVENTRY EDWARDS PITT, CHIEF WEALTH ADVISORY OFFICER, BALLENTINE PARTNERS: Yeah, that's a really good question. I think -- so first of all, as advisors, we'll all be in the midst of this. I mean, the numbers don't lie. So at age 85 and over, 50% of the population has dementia. So I really want to try to find a positive story about dealing with that. And my experience dealing with clients is that no one really wants to engage in that issue, because dementia, in particular, feels so unwieldy, and there's such a sense of helplessness about it.
But I spoke with a woman. Her name's Sarah Putnam. She's actually a videographer. And she shared with me the story of her father. And her father was just sort of a planner kind of person. So beginning in his early 40s, he would spend a day a year-- actually, I think it was New Year's Day-- just writing down all of the "what happens if mom and I go down in a plane" ideas -- you know, here's where the money is. Here's who I want at the funeral. And it kind of almost became this running family joke that they'd have this New Year's Day. And then it also led to a lot of really good conversations.
And then he unexpectedly developed early onset dementia in his early 60s. And what she shared with me was, when it came time, and he was in a care facility, and the call came to her and her mother, should we administer antibiotics -- which she says is really such a terrible call for families to get -- they had no qualms about answering that, "No," because they knew exactly what his wishes were. And she said it was such a gift to have her father really present with them, being able to voice his wishes, even though he could no longer for himself. They knew exactly what he wanted. And she said that in that very hard situation, that really gave them such peace of mind.
And I put that in the book because I feel like that's what we can all give our children. I mean, all of us have the ability to write our thoughts down. So if we're in that situation, we will have already taken the opportunity to speak for our future selves. We really need to sort of avail ourselves of that chance.
BRUCE LOVE: I guess it really speaks to the holistic nature of advice and the way that people possibly -- maybe you would argue -- need to practice. It's not just about getting the investment portfolio together.
COVENTRY EDWARDS-PITT: Exactly. I feel like our work as advisors is really about family harmony and the quality of lives that our clients will have. And this whole issue of aging is so related to the level of family harmony that will exist or not.
Even something as simple as conveying the meaning behind your estate planning decisions -- I know clients are really loath to think that their kids will fight over things. And often, they'll say, "Well, I don't want to bring it up because I'm going to create conflict." And my response to that is, "If you're thinking that, there's going to be conflict. And what you have the ability to do right now is at least make sure your kids won't fight about what you intended." And that's probably 90% of the fights start over what did mom or dad actually want. So if you can actually communicate that, it really helps your clients and their families be able to navigate these later years in a much better way.
BRUCE LOVE: Wise words. Thank you very much, Coventry.
COVENTRY EDWARDS-PITT: Thank you, Bruce. Pleasure to talk with you.