When Joseph Birkofer asks for in-take information from prospective clients, he includes queries about their parents, including expectations for longevity.
"It's part of the risk management," says Birkofer, a partner at Legacy Asset Management in Houston.
Birkofer then uses the longevity topic to segue into questions about their parents' financial situation. Most of his clients believe their parents' present financial situation remains out of jeopardy but when they compute their parents' retirement age, assets and life expectancy, they start to foresee the risk that their parents' money may be exhausted and they may have to plan for their own time or assets serving as substitutes.
"I don’t get a lot of pushback," Birkofer says about raising these issues with clients. After introducing the subject, he typically inquires about what conversations his clients and their parents have engaged in about the future. Have they talked about possibly pooling assets—sharing households—as a way to stretch limited resources further? Have they talked about long-term care insurance?
One client was 53 years old when she began to consider how to help her elderly mother, who had about $7 million in assets, a sizable sum, until you factor the decade longer her mother has lived since then. "We have tried to make the money last as long as possible," Birkofer says.
Dusty Wallace also asks "in our very first meeting, about a prospect's parents." Are they financially set, Wallace, who is the director of financial planning and the compliance officer at Lee Financial in Dallas, Texas, wants to know.
Younger clients often "have no idea," she says. Some clients insist they don't expect to have any obligations for their parents because of their family dynamics. "We accept that," says Wallace.
Miriam Rozen is a staff writer for Texas Lawyer who writes about financial advisors.
This story is part of a 30-day series on better serving seniors.