Conventional wisdom is that young people do almost everything online, including financial planning. But some advisors report that their retired clients may be even more eager to get access online.
"It's the older client who has a little bit more time" who wants to use online tools, says Edward "Ned" Lubell, whose UBS team in Palm Beach, Fla., has more than $1 billion in assets under management.
At UBS, Lubell doesn’t offer clients an online trading option, but he does offer performance reporting and archival information through the Web. Helping older clients understand how to use these tools liberates his team members to do other tasks.
Jonathan Robertson has also gone the extra mile to help older clients to become more capable online. Robertson is an advisor with Abacus Planning Group, in Columbia, S.C., which has $836 million in assets under management. His firm's older clients are tutored in setting up and using Intuit's products, including Quicken for budgeting and Mint for seeing bank balances and transactions, as well as their own banks' online tools and their brokerage accounts' performance data.
If the clients want to place their own trades, Abacus advisors set up a "play" account with an amount of money that is negligible relative to their total assets. The firm may also give older clients, specifically those with high net worth, access to customized databases, using a system developed by Citrix.
"They can see what's happening," says Robertson about his retired clients' online options. Like Lubell's team, Robertson's firm has benefited from investing time up front to introduce older clients to online tools because it reduces the number of mundane requests that advisors get from these clients in the long run.
But don’t go too far and encourage older clients to constantly check their balances online, warns Sheryl Rowling, the founder of Rowling & Associates in San Diego, which has $260 million in assets under management.
She knows her clients use online tools, but she discourages them from repeatedly checking their accounts. "I encourage people to look at their quarterly statements," she says. But she cautions them against checking their portfolio every day. That could cause them to start "to have emotions that are not appropriate," she says.
Then, their portfolio becomes an object of obsession. "If it goes up, they think can spend," she says, "and they get worried if it goes down a little. It’s not healthy."
Miriam Rozen is a reporter for Texas Lawyer who writes about financial planning and services.
This story is part of a 30-day series on better serving seniors.