In January of 1990, Steve Mathieu’s father died suddenly of a heart attack. Mathieu, a financial and estate planner for clients age 55 and up, was then in his 30’s and working with clients of a similar age. But with the death his father, he was thrust into helping his mother cope with long-term care requirements, estate planning and tax issues.
Then an elderly aunt died, and Mathieu once again found himself dealing with all the concerns thrown up by aging and retirement. A short while later he was invited to speak to a group of 30 older people on the issues of elder care—and when his talk was over, 25 of them requested follow-up meetings.
“There was a dramatic void at the time of planners addressing these issues,” he says. “No-one was dealing with questions like ‘where do I get medical care?’ ‘How will I make my income last for the rest of my life?’ ‘If I have a stroke tomorrow, how will my loved ones access my assets?’” So Mathieu began speaking to different groups on retirement matters and his business “just exploded.”
Mathieu, who is based in Manchester, New Hampshire, never looked back. His practice boomed and has been directed at elderly clients for the past 20 years. During that time, he has seen the need for this type of specialization continue to grow, even as the number of planners qualified to address matters related to aging and longevity has declined.
Today, with the baby boomers retiring, the need is greater than ever. But “during the past ten years, the total number of financial planners has diminished by 50%,” Mathieu says, and even though those who remain in the profession are increasingly focused on retirees, “their numbers aren’t sufficient to compensate for the decline.”
A major reason for the decline, Mathieu says, is the “devastating” impact of Dodd-Frank on independent advisors. The law requires planners to take dedicated courses on each product that they recommend, which, he says, is both completely gratuitous and impossibly time consuming. To cope, he says, some advisors are reducing their service level and not offering the same range of products as they did before. Also, “Many people are in the position of losing their advisors, who are quitting the business in frustration.” The result, he says, is that “a huge number of people aren’t getting the help that they need.”
But those advisors like Mathieu who remain in the profession “are seeing their businesses explode.”