Countless profiling tools have been developed to help advisors ascertain client goals, objectives, constraints, investment and insurance suitability, and investment risk tolerance. These tools are enormously helpful in facilitating the planning process. But, do they go far enough? Are they asking the right questions? Will they uncover a threat that looms over many of our clients' retirement plans?

There is one potentially enormous risk many advisors miss. In the financial planning process, the risks associated with parental care responsibilities are often overlooked. In the dozens of fact finders we've reviewed by leading firms, the vast majority don't include inquiries about parents or other loved ones. Those fact finders that do explore parental relations fall short in asking questions that lead to helpful planning solutions.

What we don't know, might in fact hurt us ... and our clients. Today over 34 million American adults (16% of the population) provide care to individuals 50 years and older. In fact, 70 million baby boomers are beginning to care for loved ones while entering into their own retirement years. In a December 2008 article, The Wall Street Journal goes on to state that "... more than half of Americans are expected to have elder-care responsibilities within 10 years..."

These statistics are fairly startling, particularly when considering the fragmented support clients get when faced with elder care responsibilities. Here's the problem in a nutshell. We've been busy preparing our clients for retirement, and for savings goals related to their children, but we haven't built into our planning process the reality that clients may also have to care for their parents. By ignoring parental care responsibilities, we expose clients to unnecessary financial and emotional risks, while leaving money on the table for our practice. Consider this scenario:

Your 56-year-old client lives in Manhattan and has to help his mother in Palm Beach, Fla., find at-home care. Her health is deteriorating, means are dwindling and she's likely to need increased care over the next six months.

Sound far-fetched? Not at all. In fact, you can probably think of one or two clients who are dealing with similar issues today. These clients need help on several fronts. They will probably have to identify quality care-management services, implement care plans in remote locations, identify assets available for living and health needs, assess liquidity and income generating ability of those assets and protect those assets.

Now, here's a question for you. Where are those clients going for help? Who cares about these issues? Most likely, they seek help from friends and colleagues. They also turn to the Internet. There are many popular search engines that help individual's research potential elder care solutions.
Internet research sounds harmless to your relationship with your client. But, it's not. Search engines gain intelligence about your client and the issues they face, and sell that information to insurance and investment brokers.

Suddenly your client gets called upon by providers who know something that you might not yet be privy to. In fact, many advisors only learn of life care issues when their clients seek liquidity to pay for care. By then, decisions have been made. New alliances have been formed. A chance to provide a much needed service is missed; so too are product sales opportunities.

Increased care responsibilities are a predictable by-product of aging demographics. We need to help clients prepare for the likelihood of being called upon to assist their parents, and give them the tools they need to respond in times of crisis. Who better than their trusted financial advisor to provide these services? Who better to show clients they care?

A retirement planning process that explores care responsibilities will lead to the implementation of new financial strategies and insurance protections. Your clients will be better prepared for the future. Your relationship will deepen. You'll be addressing a very real issue that others are ignoring. You'll gain entrée to family dynamics and sibling relationships.

It all starts by asking the right questions. Talk to your clients about their parents. Good things will happen for your client, their family, and you.

Randy Bradley is founder and CEO of LifeCare Gateway, a turnkey practice management solution that provides financial advisors with products, solutions, marketing and back-office support to address their clients' life care needs.