Predicting the landscape of the planning profession 10 years out is no easy talk. While you're watching Doomsday Preppers and preparing for worst-case economic scenarios, it's good to remember that human ingenuity is alive and well.

Our focus is on powerful trends that we know will significantly affect both our clients and our practices by 2023. Here are a few of the things we're worried about - and the ways in which our firm is preparing for them.

Aging client base: We want to be both coach and problem solver for our aging clients as well as for their boomer children, who often need help navigating thorny issues. At our firm's monthly "Stearns Financial University" meetings, many topics focus on healthy aging concepts and aging conundrums. One example: how to deal with clients who are on the warning track to dementia. Speakers include our internal staff plus outside experts. We have also created a specialized position to help clients facing the challenges of aging. Our director of special client services can help a client shop for geriatric care managers, analyze different types of continuing-care retirement communities or assist our advisors in dealing with a myriad of aging questions.

The 24/7 media machine: From articles to newscasts, from social media to blogs, it can be easy for your clients to get the impression that major, wealth-threatening black swan events are right around every corner. This trend will only get worse by 2023. That creates more behavioral finance challenges. When coupled with "big data" machines that push our buying buttons, fear and greed can hurt our clients' ability to reach their desired financial future. To counter popular media, we hold regular behavioral finance trainings for our own team. And we use our newsletters to highlight research that helps clients recognize when their "buy" buttons may be getting pushed.

Shrinking savings: The convergence of several super trends (in particular, globalization, technology acceleration and the global age wave) may marginalize or eliminate up to 30% of all businesses and careers in the next 10 years. Another 30% or more of careers will be created that don't exist now. These types of transformations have long been part of the U.S. economy, but they are happening faster now.

As a firm, we ask a lot of questions about our client's economic engine and make appropriate adjustments to our savings forecasts. We also help our clients find ways to strengthen their careers or businesses through consulting and coaching.


Dennis Stearns, CFP, is president of Stearns Financial Group, with offices in Chapel Hill and Greensboro, N.C.

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