The Elements

By Ruthann P. Lacey, P.C.   |   February 21, 2017

Key Tips for Financial Advisors on Servicing Aging Clients

Categories: Clients, Elder Abuse

Seniors, Elders, Aging Adults, People of Age, Old People, Mature Adults, Geriatric?  All people perceive age in different ways at different times in their lives, and Baby Boomers are an entirely unpredictable bunch.

Today, more than ever, financial advisors need to develop a comfortable relationship by listening to how clients present themselves. We need to adapt our views on aging before we speak when it comes to the way individuals identify themselves in their personal aging process.

Some individuals feel that using “elderly” can be perceived similar to using terms such as “deaf” or “disabled” which creates a category without acknowledging that that category is composed of individuals. In other words, it’s perceived similar to saying “those people.”

active elderly couple

How Views on Aging Change Throughout Life
  • As teenagers – 20 seems over the hill and anyone over 30 is irrelevant.
  • Those over 30 usually stop looking back and start looking forward – dreading turning 40.
  • Speaking of the hill –  we see 50 as half a hundred – need I say more?
  • Perhaps if you have taken good care of yourself, remain in good health and have an upbeat attitude you find that you get a second wind at 60 and again begin to look forward to all those Golden Years ahead! For these people life is good and other people begin to notice you and make positive comments about “hoping to be like you at that age.”  Take this as a compliment!
  • Today more individuals seem to be working or volunteering into their 70s. It could be due to financial necessity or a career choice. They are maintaining or building their finances.
  • So then many people find themselves in their 90s and wonder how they got there – but they turn out to be movers and shakers – literally. They might move a little slower, but these individuals have spirit and just won’t let themselves be stopped.
  • Now per this CNN article – enter the fastest growing age group. Centenarians (aged 100+) have increased by 44% since the year 2000.
Considerations for the Financial Planning Professional

Does your client identify themselves through a younger persona? Have you heard that 60 is the new 30? Increasingly, products are created to make older individuals appear and feel younger. These are the individuals that continually shift the ‘Elderly Line’ like it’s drawn in the ever-shifting desert sand. Safe to say that they do not think of themselves as elderly, they won’t act elderly and they will require assets to support their active lifestyle.

Age and planning options can be relevant to career choices. In addition to their personal lifestyle and their financial standing, consider how your client identifies their age with their work ethic and career lifestyle. In addition to chronological aging and psychological aging you also need to qualify how an individual perceives their aging as it involves their contribution to their community and to their society. 

Sound familiar? At 70, a Billionaire becomes the oldest President of the United States. At 35, Serena Williams won the Australian Open – that is really old in court years.

Defining “Elderly”

America may never be able to have a single formulary to agree on who is “elderly” (pardon the label!) at what age. Some agencies in states, like Rhode Island, identify 60 as the age an individual is regarded as elderly. In Hawaii a 55 year old is considered elderly.

Nationally, the IRS Tax Counseling for the Elderly has a program that offers free tax advice to anyone 60 or older. An individual can collect full Social Security benefits at 66 if born 1943-1954, at 65 if born 1955-1959 and will gradually rise to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. This handy Social Security calculator can help determine specifics. 

Even the medical community models have issues with identifying who is elderly. Some assign the age of 75 while others look at 65 as the typical threshold.

By proactively understanding how clients perceive themselves at their present age – at all times throughout your ongoing relationship – you’ll see their view change and that change might not be what you expected. In addition, you are also aging and your views regarding “age” are changing, too. 

financial advisor elderly client

Finally, your client(s) will have family members of varying ages and these family members are getting older along with each of their individual views and financial interests evolving as well. These constantly altered views will impact the process of change as it relates to themselves, to your client and to you as their planning professional.

In Conclusion

On the lighter side, there are possible exceptions in an individual’s thinking because Boomers are whole heartily rejecting terms like senior citizen and elderly while universally embracing these same terms in order to be eligible for their “senior discounts” in retail and dining situations.  

Either way, your clients may consider “elderly” more of a state of mind than an actual age, although certain legal and financial criteria, principals and protections still apply at various ages. And the critical question for your expert financial planning advice may not be whether someone else thinks of themselves or even you as elderly, but how you think of each other as it relates to their strategic “planning for life.”


Ruthann P. Lacey, P.C.
Elder and Special Needs Law

Ruthann Lacey is an alumna of Trinity College and Emory University School of Law, is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia and Washington, D.C., and is a Certified Elder Law Attorney. Her practice concentrates on planning for the unique and complex concerns of the elder population, and of children and adults with special needs.

Ruthann is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), the Special Needs Alliance, a charter member of the Council of Advanced Practitioners, and a member of the District of Columbia Bar, the Georgia Bar Association, and the Atlanta Bar Association. Ruthann has been selected as a “Super Lawyer” every year since 2006; was named one of the Top 50 Women Attorneys in Georgia in 2007, 2009, and 2010; and was included in the “Georgia Trend” selection of Georgia’s Top Attorneys in 2012, all based on surveys of her peers. Ms. Lacey has an AV rating in Martindale-Hubbell, and was included in the 2013 Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers.

Ruthann is past chair of the Elder Law Section of the Georgia Bar, serves on the Continuity of Law Practice Committee of the Georgia Bar, belongs to the Fiduciary Law Section of the Georgia Bar Association, and is a Life Fellow with the Lawyers Foundation of Georgia. She is a member of the Elder Law and Small Firm Sections of the Atlanta Bar Association.

Ruthann belongs to the DeKalb Estate Planning Council, is a member of the board of Family Initiative Residences, Inc., and is actively involved with several volunteer and charitable organizations. She is a past Director of the National Elder Law Foundation.

Ruthann is an active speaker on the local, state and national levels, to both professional and public groups and organizations. Recent engagements include serving as Program Chair for the fifteenth annual Institute of Continuing Legal Education in Georgia Special Needs Trust program; presenting at the 2015 Missouri NAELA Annual Elder Law Symposium; presenting at the 2015 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association Annual Convention; presenting with the ICLE Webinar Series; presenting at the 8th Annual Utah Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Medicaid Planning 2011 program; presenting at the 9th Annual Utah Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Medicaid Planning 2012 program; presenting at the Stetson University 2011 Special Needs Trusts – The National Conference; serving as a guest Professor of Law at John Marshall Law School; serving on the faculty of Southern Trust School; presenting at the NAELA Symposium and at NAELA Fundamentals Day; facilitating at the NAELA Advanced Practitioner’s Program; presenting to the Alabama Bar Institute for Continuing Legal Education; the Tennessee Bar Association; Medicaid Irrevocable Qualified Income Trust Training; The Coca-Cola Company; the Financial Planning Association; the Cobb County Bar Association Elder Law Section; Emory University’s Senior University; Delta Employees Credit Union; the People’s Law School; the Atlanta Bar Association’s Legal Eagles CLE Series; the Atlanta Special Needs Trust Discussion Group; Georgia State University; the Joint Conference on Law and Aging; the Georgia Chapter of the Huntington’s Disease Society; Church groups; Civic groups; Alzheimer’s Support Groups; and AARP Chapters. She also has been an Instructor of Estates, Trusts and Wills and Legal Research at the National Center for Paralegal Training, has drafted Elder Law legislation for submission to the Georgia General Assembly, and is an editor and published writer.

Among other accomplishments, Ruthann has been published in the Georgia Bar Journal, Family Law Quarterly (a publication of the American Bar Association), Georgia Probate Notes, Exceptional Parent, Money Matters, Inside Money, Senior News, and NAELA News, edited the Medicaid chapters in A Will is Not Enough in Georgia, contributed to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Long-Term Care Planning, and The CPA’s Guide to Long-Term Care Planning, has appeared as a guest on the Clark Howard Show, the Layman’s Lawyer, Money Matters, Inside Money, People to People, Professional Review, and Atlanta Issues, has been mentioned in Consumers Digest, has been cited in Elder Care and Nursing Home Litigation in Georgia, and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlanta Journal – Constitution, The Family Connection, and the American Bar Association Journal.

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