Is it an elder-care strategy or a client retention strategy?
Smart financial advisors have spent at least a
little time thinking about ways to keep their clients from straying.
They've also thought about protecting their clients from the ravages of
old age. Now these seemingly unconnected demands have a common link in
a resource called the Parent Care Solution.
The person responsible for the Parent Care Solution is Dan Taylor, an associate coach with Dan Sullivan's Toronto-based Strategic Coach program (www.strategiccoach.com). About 60% of its clients coming from the ranks of highly-successful financial advisors. (If they're not highly successful when they enter Strategic Coach, they usually are when they come out).
A 20-year veteran of various corners of the financial services industry, Taylor-also an attorney-has his fingers in a number of pies, but Parent Care Solution is the one with perhaps the most innovative practice management impact because it solves the two above-mentioned problems simultaneously.
More specifically, there's first the problem of client assets that leave the fold as soon as your client dies. The forward-looking advisor anticipates this eventuality and may use a combination of trusts and multigenerational planning to keep the client's children (and money) in check. That is, by helping his client set up trusts for his heirs that preserve the advisor's authority as his asset manager in the event of his death-coupled with a campaign to get to know the client's adult children-the advisor can often keep the family money in his master account while also picking up new clients (i.e., the children) when their parents expire.
Maybe. There are no guarantees. Of course, many advisors don't even take these steps; they just take their chances. Says Taylor, "Many advisors in the 45-to-60 age bracket who've been in business 20 years or more are simply growing practices for their clients' children's advisors to take over. If a clients' children have no connection with their parents' advisor, that advisor is going to lose the business."
On the elder-care side of things, more planners are becoming proficient in assessing long-term care choices and even helping aging clients choose among their many assisted living options. These choices and options may or may not give the advisor an audience with the client's children; it usually depends upon how independently the client is living when these options are being considered.
But putting together these two practice concerns into one solution as Dan Taylor has done is subtly but unmistakably brilliant. "What we've done with parent care," he says, "is create a new role for financial advisors. Advisors have the most intimate and credible conversations with people on the planet- more so than lawyers, accountants or doctors." Armed with the right conversations, adds Taylor, advisors can act as a bridge between older parents, baby boomer children and the wealth transfer that will occur in most of these families. "We see a new practice specialty where an advisor has his clients enter into six guided conversations to address the emotional and financial issues surrounding the client-parent's long-term care, following which the advisor plays an oversight role in the selection, management and administration of that care."
What do these conversations look and sound like? Says Taylor, "The advisor begins with what I call 'The Big Conversation.' [Clients of Dan Sullivan, Taylor's associate, will recognize some of Sullivan's thought processes in what follows]. He says to the parent-clients and their children, 'If we were sitting here three years from now in the same time and place, looking back, and you had made decisions about your long-term care, what would you have decided that makes you feel most comfortable about that care?'"
This question, says Taylor, opens the door to discussing the clients' and children's' fears about dealing with the parents' health, as well as those things that excite them and the strengths they bring to the table to deal with the parents' situation. [Again, some readers will see Sullivan's "D.O.S. Conversation" in this process]. "These questions give everyone a focus and initiate a lot of frank and meaningful dialogue," says Taylor. "Within a few hours, everyone is feeling much more comfortable and clear about the future. It's very empowering."
The Big Conversation sets the stage for five follow-up conversations that deal with money, housing, property, care and the parents' legacy. The final outcome? "Ideally, what develops from these conversations is a total strategic plan for dealing with the parent-client's care in a way that doesn't destroy the family, either emotionally or financially."
Why the particular issues addressed in the follow-up conversations to The Big Conversation? Because they're the same issues Taylor had to deal with when his own father needed care. "In 2000, the police called me to say they'd found my dad wandering the city streets following a stroke and were holding him in protective custody," explains Taylor. His 72-year-old father was no longer able to care for himself; that became Taylor's responsibility.
With his father being relatively young, he and his siblings hadn't had occasion to discuss their father's care needs before all of this transpired. "Most people never talk about a parent's care until it's too late," says Taylor. "And many times children don't want to talk to parents, much less take care of them. I have three siblings and just assumed they would help me with our father's care; that hasn't happened." With the reluctance of children to discuss these issues, the likelihood of them depending upon an outsider to facilitate a plan is that much greater. "I would have written a $10,000 check to a facilitator if there'd been one," says Taylor.
If he'd had had some warning of his father's condition, couldn't Taylor have had The Big Conversation without the intervention of a financial advisor? "Maybe," he says, "but most families avoid these discussions. Parents don't want to face the fact they're getting older or need to give up control over their own care. Children may not want to face the cost of parents' care, which they could become responsible for. Having a facilitator, or financial advisor, help the family navigate its way through these discussions and possibly mediate some issues is invaluable."
Which is why Taylor's Parent Care Solution is more than just learning six conversations; it's completing a training regimen that leads to a new designation,- the Parent Care Specialist, which Taylor says is collaborative with related designations such as the CSA (Certified Senior Advisor) or CRS (Certified Retirement Specialist).
"The Parent Care Specialist (PCS) receives specific training not only in the Parent Care Solution conversations, but also in the various tax, legal, financial, and facilities care issues he needs to have knowledge of to act as a facilitator. Studying these types of information about the client-parent, the PCS can design a strategy for that person's care," says Taylor. Other family advisors (CPAs, attorneys, et al) are often brought into the mix or, if a family doesn't have a relationship with certain necessary advisors, the PCS recommends advisors to work with the client's family.
Taylor conducted the first training session for PCS' last December and now, after two workshops, has a little over 20 licensed specialists. "Our fourth workshop will be help in September 2005, the fifth in December 2005, and we're in discussions with several major insurance companies and banks to roll this out on a national basis," says Taylor.
But if families are often less than thrilled to initiate the critical conversations, how does the advisor get them all together to do so? "You can have the conversation just with the older client-parent, or you can have it with the boomer about his parents, but what's ideal is to get the children and parents together and plan the parents' care strategically. Every baby boomer is thinking about parent care, his own children's education and his own retirement. But he never before had a series of connected conversations to allow him to discuss all of these things. People want these conversations," says Taylor.
Is this process for everyone? No, says Taylor. "Eighty percent of America won't do this-but that's the same 80% that's also not going to save its money, educate its children or have goals and purposes. The remaining 20% equals 60 million people. That's a huge market."
So, to summarize, the Parent Care Solution can help you strengthen your bond with older clients, bring their children into the client-advisor relationship thus augmenting the possibility the children will be your clients after the deaths of their parents and-not least of all-provide the most valuable service of planning for your client's eventual care needs.
This is the positive slant. There's a negative slant too. That is, what dangers might the Parent Care Solution be preventing? "The plaintiff's bar will find new claimants in the children of clients," says Taylor. "You're going to start seeing lawsuits brought by the children against advisors for wasting inheritance assets, due to nothing more than spending down those assets for the client-parent's care." In other words, a tension develops between the client-parent's need for costly care and the children's desire to maximize their inheritance.
Taking it a step further, Taylor sees another danger. "Some parents of boomers will even be spending the children's own retirement money because the parents will have run out of their own. No one's addressing that issue in the marketplace." Of course, most advisors know this is the worst of all possible scenarios, since 70 million boomers are presently rushing toward age 59 1/2 and their own retirements are underfunded. "Plus, the children will be living longer than ever," adds Taylor.
You can learn pretty much everything you want to know about Parent Care Solution at www.parentcaresolution.com. "Why do I put my entire process up on the Web?" Taylor asks. "I hope I get lots of imitators because then there will be more people trying to solve this problem. Just remember: financial advisors are in the cat-bird seat to act as relationship managers between the generations going forward."
David J. Drucker, MBA, CFP, a financial advisor since 1981, now writes, speaks and consults with other advisors.