The ClientWise Blog

“It is sad to grow old but nice to ripen”

Posted by Lisa Hanna on Dec 23, 2010 11:47:00 AM


"It is sad to grow old, but nice to ripen."...Brigitte Bardot

According to a series of articles in the NY Times column “The New Old Age”, adults over the age of 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population. So, what are all these elderly people doing with their lives?

Well, as you might imagine, some are living the life they dreamed of, but a growing number are still working…some out of necessity and some just because they want to keep busy.

Those with financial security and good health are living the retirement lifestyle they planned. Those who aren’t in good health need someone to take care of them; oftentimes this burden rests with their children, another relative, or a home health aide. The elderly who aren’t financially secure need help, too; again this burden typically falls on their children’s shoulders.

However, more and more seniors are taking matters into their own hands and continuing to work to support themselves…or just for the fun of it. In fact, for many seniors, the jobs they are getting are the most fulfilling they’ve ever had.

Recently, I had some work done in my house and needed to get a room painted. The carpenter I used recommended a painter he has referred to other clients, so I had him come over to give me an estimate. When I opened the door, I was surprised to see an elderly gentleman standing before me dressed in his painting whites and holding a clipboard.

While he was measuring the area to be painted, we chatted. Clearly, he was well past retirement age, but he was still working…painting. He told me that he doesn’t need the money, but wants to keep working because some of his friends retired, then got sick and/or passed away. He doesn’t want to spend his days on the couch in front of the television. His theory is that if he keeps working, keeps active, and keeps his mind engaged, he’ll live longer. A lot of today’s seniors feel the same way.

However, finding a job when you’re well past retirement age is not an easy task. There are several obstacles that get in the way, including age discrimination, available jobs (currently there is a 5.7% unemployment rate for people over 75), and competition from younger workers.

These statistics are worth noting:

  • According to the AARP, in the past 20 years the oldest group of workers (the 75-plus work force) has increased enormously to approximately 1.3 million as of 2009. This number was just under half a million in 1989.
  • Since oftentimes it’s the woman who outlives her husband, a growing proportion of this work force, almost 44%, are women.
  • A large percentage of working seniors are putting in long hours. More than 42% of the people in this age group who are working are holding full-time jobs, according to the Census Bureau.
  • A quarter of older workers switch occupations after age 50, according to Richard Johnson, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. The federal Department of Labor estimates that between 2006 and 2016, the number of workers over age 55 will rise 36.5%. That increase will create the grayest labor force since the government began tracking this data, according to Richard Johnson, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.
  • Of workers over age 65, more than 90% say they enjoy their jobs — a higher proportion than among young people, Mr. Johnson noted.

As a financial advisor, you should be doing everything you can to help your clients formulate an appropriate retirement strategy. But, what else can you be doing to support your clients who are approaching retirement age?

  • Start the new year with a new plan for your clients who are seniors now...or “soon to be” seniors.
  • Create a "Retirement Checklist" which would include a comprehensive review of all retirement-related issues, e.g. assets, documents, accounts, etc.
  • Engage your clients in a retirement conversation...that doesn't necessarily involve money.
  • Become familiar with some of the excellent informational resources available. For example, this book..."Get Inspired to Retire, Over 150 ideas to help find your retirement" is a great first step.
  • Team up with a local university or host a volunteer night to connect seniors with local organizations who can use their valuable time and talents.
  • Remind seniors to take care of themselves, physically, spiritually and mentally; consider hosting a “Get Fit” night with local doctors or experts in the fields of Alzheimer's, dementia, heart problems, cancer or arthritis.
  • Organize a “Getting Old and Taking Control” day for seniors and their children with executives from various local senior organizations, such as nursing homes, home health aides, assisted living housing, long term care choices, etc. Having information such as this available long before it’s needed, so it can be reviewed in advance is much more beneficial than having to rush around and find such a service in an emergency.

When we talk to financial advisors, many of them will say that "retirees" are one of their target markets. What is becoming more apparent each day is that the "retiree" population is remarkably heterogeneous. For advisors who want to specialize in "retirees", it might make more sense to further isolate sub-sets of this growing demographic and become an expert in the needs and concerns of more homogeneous groups.

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