How to Find a Financial Advisor for Seniors
5 things to consider when selecting a senior financial advisor
By Melissa Willets
No matter your financial situation, if you’re a senior or nearing retirement, you have specific financial concerns. You need to plan for the rising costs of healthcare, find cost-effective insurance, and arrange for end-of-life care.
Given the complex nature of their finances, many seniors choose to find a certified financial advisor (CFA) to help them navigate their retirement planning. If you’d like to take this route but aren’t sure how to find a financial advisor who is right for you, consider the following five points when selecting a senior financial advisor:
1. Define what you want from a financial planning advisor.
The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) recommends the following steps to find the right advisor for you:
- Discuss with your loved ones what your goals are.
- Create a list of potential financial planning advisors, including referrals.
- Research each one or have a family member help you.
- Meet the candidates.
- Review your goals and make sure the advisor you select can help you accomplish them.
The AARP offers a tool to help you select a certified senior advisor, called Interview an Advisor. It includes a list of questions to ask during your first meeting.
2. Not all senior financial advisors are the same.
Many in the financial industry claim they’re financial advisors, but you’ll want to work with a certified professional. They are trained to deal with the specific challenges you face. A financial advisor for seniors specializes in planning for living on a fixed income, budgeting for long- and short-term health-care costs, investing in retirement accounts, and acting as an estate planning guide. The Certified Financial Planner board provides a list of certified advisors who specialize in financial advising for seniors.
When you find a certified professional, the AARP recommends asking your financial advisor two questions: Is he or she required to act as a fiduciary and does he or she work for a flat fee, rather than on commissions. That means they’ll act in your best interest, rather than to generate higher fees. You can find a financial advisor who works on a fee-only basis on The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) site.
3. Certified senior advisors can help seniors avoid being exploited.
According to the AARP, people over the age of 50 are prime targets for financial scams because they own 67 percent of U.S. bank deposits. But beyond their financial clout, seniors’ health challenges, such as diminished cognitive capacity and social isolation, compound their vulnerability. This is why financial advising for seniors is an increasingly important part of the services CFAs offer. In many cases, they act as the first line of defense against scams.
The good news is the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has enacted new rules in recent years to help seniors. Specifically, CFAs are now required to ask seniors if they would like to designate a trusted contact to be notified if something seems wrong with a transaction. Also, a “safe harbor rule” allows a broker who suspects exploitation to put a 15-day hold on payments while a situation is investigated.
4. Paying for a financial advisor may be worth the investment.
Not only can CFAs walk you through the financial planning process, but they may help increase your financial returns. A study by benefits consultant Aon Hewitt and Financial Engines found that median annual returns for 401(k) holders who sought professional help were 3.32 percentage points higher than for people who invested on their own. That’s even accounting for fees.
5. Senior financial advisors aren’t the only ones who can help.
If you don’t think a financial advisor for seniors is quite right for you, a variety of options are available to help you with your financial planning.
- FINRA’s Securities Helpline for Seniors, at 844-57-HELPS (844-574-3577), is available to help older people gain knowledge about their investments.
- Geriatric-care management services connect older people and their families to resources that benefit their overall well-being, including financial planning.
- Elder-care financial planners are a cost-effective option for financial advising for seniors. EFPs work to develop an affordable financial plan for seniors by helping them cut care costs and take advantage of available public resources.
- Registered financial gerontologists receive specialized training to understand the financial challenges facing today’s seniors, who are living longer than ever. Their goal is to help older people develop a financial plan that will last them well past their normal retirement years.
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