Financial-gerontology program attracts advisers
By Deborah Nason
June 5, 2006
NEW YORK - Rosanne Grande is one of a growing number of advisers applying the concept of "financial gerontology" to their practices.
Financial gerontology is the practical application of social gerontology to financial services. Ms. Grande earned the Registered Financial Gerontologist designation last year following her personal experience of caring for her own mother for 10 years.
"After my mom passed away, it made me want to help people who didn't have a family member to take care of them," she said. "We're the only fee-only firm on Long Island -- an area with nearly 3 million people -- that offers financial gerontology," said Ms. Grande, managing director of R.W. Roge & Co. in Bohemia, N.Y.
The certified financial planning firm has $225 million under management.
Introduced in 2003, the RFG designation is conferred by the American Institute of Financial Gerontology of Deerfield Beach, Fla., which was co-founded by Neal Cutler, a professor at Widener University in Chester, Pa.
"Our mission is to bring gerontology to financial professionals," he said. "They're selling trust."
About 150 people have earned the designation, which is based on six four-hour classes and offered at Widener and other locations around the United States.
A knowledge of financial gerontology will help advisers to understand the implications of changing demographics, Mr. Cutler said.
Plans focus on a "senior sandwich generation," comprising grandparents in their late 80s and 90s, and their baby boomer children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, he said.
Indeed, Ms. Grande said, about 20% of her practice comprises retirees with living parents. She said the RFG courses helped her understand the non-financial aspects of aging that affect clients and their parents.
Rob Cooper, owner of Senior Resource Alliances of Atlanta in Roswell, Ga., said that the benefit of the RFG program is that "it allows for a more comprehensive conversation with families to plan more appropriately than a generic plan."
Prior to earning the RFG designation, he said, "I had been a cynic. I've questioned the need for so many designations. But [the RFG] comes from academia, versus other [designations] which may be sponsored by industry groups."
With nearly $20 million under management, Mr. Cooper specializes in asset distribution, retirement income and long-term-care planning.
"[Having the RFG designation] separates you from the pack, but I don't do a lot of direct marketing," said Gary Crooms, president and owner of Lewisville, Texas-based Senior Information Services. "Most of what I do is relationship marketing to [social service] referral sources, because that group is more familiar with the term 'gerontologist.'"
The focus of Mr. Crooms' practice is on late-life estate and financial planning….the role of the financial adviser is broadening, especially with regard to the elderly, Mr. Crooms said.
"Many [advisers] market to seniors … [without being] plugged into the whole system. But the financial guy is in the middle now of a person's health-care concerns and the legal side," Mr. Crooms said.
"If you can relieve clients of problems that are physical, emotional or financial, such as helping them find housing for their elderly parents, you have a client for life," Ms. Grande added.