Benjamin J. Chuckrow shuns the “cookie-cutter approach” with clients because they all have different needs.
But for all his clients Chuckrow, a senior vice president and branch manager for Wells Fargo Advisors in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., identifies when their retirement plans face threats from parents or children.
He broaches touchy questions such as: What is the life expectancies of clients’ parents? What is the cost of their long-term-care needs? What are the potential costs of the job insecurities of adult children?
Financial advisors must address those particulars at the outset of retirement planning, Chuckrow says.
Otherwise, family financial pressures may derail a client’s focus on retirement at critical junctures.
In addition, an advisor informed of potential familial costs should craft a checklist of creative ways to keep clients from robbing their own retirement plans to cover other generations’ needs.
As an example, Chuckrow points to a recent tactic he used with a client whose 90-year-old father needed to get into an assisted-living residence quickly. The father owned a home of considerable value.
Chuckrow suggested that the family not use the client’s retirement assets or sell that home at a fire sale price to raise funds for the down payment required at the assisted-living facility. Instead, he advised them to have the father use the house as collateral and set up a short-term prime interest credit line.
“Eventually, the house sold, and it was seamless,” Chuckrow says, noting that the interest costs on the credit line were worth the advantages gained.
With another client, he helped her and her vigorous 74-year-old mother walk through the likelihood of the latter’s longevity and the probabilities therefore that her resources would run out before she died. As a result of the frank discussion, Chuckrow won the approval of both women to consider more equity in the mother’s investment portfolio, thereby increasing the older woman’s expected rate of return and reducing the probability that the daughter’s retirement assets would be tapped for her mom’s needs.
Clients’ children — the other side of the generational sandwich — also pose a threat to retirement plans.
“More often than not it’s been their kids that have been the bigger retirement road bump for my clients’ retirement plans,” says Benjamin Birken, an advisor at Woodward Financial Advisors Inc. in Chapel Hill, N.C.
He has strategies that help clients avoid dipping into retirement accounts to help young adult children “quote unquote ‘find their way,’” he says.
Those include talking to clients about setting up timelines of support so that the adult offspring recognize that, for example, three years in the future they will either have a lower-cost lifestyle or be paying for the high living themselves.
Alternatively, Birken recommends that clients compose a list of their adult children’s expenses that they will cover such as health insurance premiums and cell phone bills but not vacations, for instance.
“You don’t want to have them to support a lifestyle that the kid himself is never going to be able to afford,” he said.
Miriam Rozen is a staff writer for Texas Lawyer who writes about financial advisors.
This story is part of a 30-day series on retirement planning strategies.