FINANCIAL GERONTOLOGISTS SPECIALIZE IN THE ISSUES OF AGING
AND FINANCIAL PLANNING FOR BABY BOOMERS
BY MONICA HATCHER
Posted on Sun, Jan. 22, 2006
No e-mail, no phone consultations, no office appointments. Financial advisor Andy Moss does most business with his elder clients in their living rooms. It may seem ''old school'' he says, but it's there, over coffee and family photo albums, that they feel most comfortable discussing intimate matters -- hopes, fears, plans for the future, and, of course, how to pay for it all.
As a registered financial gerontologist, he's among a growing number of planners, advisors and wealth managers who are preparing to meet the surge of baby boomers entering retirement with a new set of skills and sensibilities.
Still relatively obscure, financial gerontology is a growing specialty within the financial planning field that examines ''the intersection of money, health, and aging,'' according to John Migliaccio, president of the American Institute of Financial Gerontology based in Deerfield Beach.
''It's concept based,'' said Moss, an investment professional for 14 years. "It's different in that it doesn't take the cookie-cutter mentality to financial planning.''
The financial needs of a 60-, 70- or 80-year-old can vary widely. The designation has helped him approach clients about the realistic spending priorities in their future, he said.
'A 60-year-old in good health sometimes shuts down when you talk to them about long-term care insurance because they think that they are too young, or in good health, but I try to tell them, 'Your health is your wealth.' Premiums and prices are much less expensive when you are young and in great health.''
Accumulating wealth is only half the focus of financial gerontology.
''One of the most pressing issues we examine is the wealth span,'' Migliaccio said, or the financial implications of increased longevity.
A CHANGING SCIENCE
Margaret Lynn Duggar, a Tallahassee-based consultant who served as state director of aging and adult services under governors Bob Graham and Bob Martinez, said money management for the elderly is a changing science.
''It used to be that older people built their wealth over time and didn't live long enough to need to make a lot of changes -- you did your financial planning, built your wealth and then you only lived long enough to kind of implement your plan,'' Duggar said. "But so much has changed so fast, and people are living longer. They need financial advisors who are knowledgeable and skilled in issues related to the older adult.''
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that a man turning 65 will live an average of 16.6 additional years; his wife, 19.5. Those numbers are increasing along with those entering the retirement bracket.
The baby boomer generation, the 78 million people born between 1946 and 1964, will start hitting 65 in 2011.
An RFG, or registered financial gerontologist, should be prepared at least to assemble a team of professionals to facilitate the influx, Migliaccio said, including accountants, financial planners, loan officers, elder-law attorneys, and insurance brokers.
The American Society on Aging and Widener University collaborated in 2003 to found the Deerfield Beach institute which confers the designation after successful completion of its three-day program offered around the country.
Migliaccio said about 175 people have passed the courses and are working as RFGs.
Whether the RFG designation will have any real worth to advisors in terms of attracting clients remains to be seen.
But Moss, who is 37, believes it has helped.
''It's worked for me. It lets me click with [clients] a little more. It helps them understand how someone who is not their age -- and why the products and services I provide them -- make sense.''
Later this month, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which just created a new degree program offering a master of business administration and a master of science in gerontology, will host the institute's next program. It costs $1,250 and requires continuing education credits and an annual membership fee to keep the certification active.
Robert Wyatt, vice president, reverse mortgage lending, at Fifth Third Bank in Fort Meyers, recognizes the field is pioneering new territory. He plans to ensure his employees stay abreast of the latest.
Indeed, over the past year, he has mandated all loan officers in the reverse mortgage department become certified senior advisors, a similarly focused professional designation.
Wyatt said he wants to become certified in financial gerontology as well if it will help him understand customers. "We'd like to think that we are pioneering in senior needs and senior products as our clients mature. Anytime you can be on the same page with your clients, the communication channel is going to be a lot more clear.''