Denis Beaulieu readily relates to many of his senior clients - except in one major way. While Beaulieu, a financial advisor with Raymond James Ltd. in Whitby, Ont., prefers to call his older clients "retirees," that's a word he doesn't want to apply to himself just yet.
"Personally, I'm not ready to retire. I may be 66, but I don't feel it," Beaulieu says. "Sure, I could spend more time golfing or doing other things. But if you own your own business, you can customize how you work and do other things as well as maintain your clients."
Beaulieu estimates that about half of his practice is devoted to retirees, most of whom started with him a number of years ago when they were in the accumulation stage of their lives. It's a situation that many in the financial planning profession are experiencing.
"We've had clients with us for over 20 years [who joined] at a time when they were still working," Beaulieu says. "Then, they retired and turned to us and said: 'OK, now what do we do?' It's an evolution for every advisor."
Beaulieu notes, however, that there is considerable variation among his older clients, with many more working long past the "gold watch" age of 65; others are working part-time. Most are living longer than previous generations did. Says Beaulieu: "It's a new retirement-aging paradigm."
Beaulieu views himself as a coach, encouraging his retiree clients to understand how their money can work for them and to increase their level of financial literacy. Each of Beaulieu's retired clients receives a customized, diversified plan, monitored closely as economic conditions shift and the needs and wants of clients change as they get older.
In addition, all clients get at least two sit-down meetings a year. Retirees sometimes require two or three more.
Nevertheless, Beaulieu says, some retirees have no idea how to deal with money, often because they never have had to do so in the past. Widows, for example, who never did so much as pay a bill while their husbands were alive, are left with no clue about how to keep the household books or even where their husbands kept the paperwork.
But, Beaulieu says, a bigger reason for developing his clients' financial literacy is to ensure that they are not taken in by fraudsters: "Financial literacy isn't just knowing the difference between an RRSP and a tax-free savings account. Financial literacy requires you to know what questions you should ask someone who calls you to find out if he's a liar. That's the level of literacy I'm talking about. We need to arm seniors with the tools they need so they don't get scammed. Greed and fear are what makes scam artists successful."
Beaulieu entered the financial planning industry about 30 years ago. After receiving his degree in commerce from Carleton University, he moved to Montreal, taking a job with a foreign exchange/precious metals firm. In 1983, he was downsized.
A friend told Beaulieu about a relatively new field called "financial planning." He was immediately intrigued by a career that would allow him to be self-employed while doing something he knew he would enjoy - using his business background to advise people about their financial plans.
Beaulieu started by earning the certified financial planner designation, then added the more advanced registered financial planner designation. He also is licensed to sell securities and became a chartered investment manager. This suite of designations equipped him to offer his clients financial advice informed by qualifications in several areas.
Beaulieu says a major challenge for all advisors with retired clients is to plan balanced investment strategies for those clients that will supply sufficient income for their retirement. Beaulieu uses a variety of investment vehicles, including exchange-traded funds, bonds and guaranteed investment certificates, to accomplish that goal.
As retirees live longer and healthier lives, one of their biggest concerns, Beaulieu says, is their fear they will run out of money. Many clients are concerned that if they do get ill, they won't be able to afford help.
For many clients, says Beaulieu, this is a fearful mindset that creeps in after about three or four years into retirement. "For some retirees," he says, "they are now at the beginning of Act 3 in a three-act play, and many feel they are just waiting for the curtain to close."
Men and women tend to handle this situation differently, says Beaulieu. Men generally continue to travel and spend and "make do" with what's left. But some women, especially widows, are so concerned about running out of money that they simply stop spending. One of Beaulieu's clients almost gave up on an annual snowbird trip to Florida this year because she began to believe she couldn't afford it. It was only after Beaulieu gave her an estimate of the increased cost of the trip and assured her that she had more than enough to cover her trip that she calmly made her travel plans.
Another issue that seems to trip up older clients is the future of the family cottage. Aging Canadians who inherited the cottage from their parents now want to pass on the property to their children.
"One time," says Beaulieu, "I had to point out to the client that his children were in British Columbia and might not be able to get to the cottage that often. Frequently, when you tell [clients] it might be a good idea to sell either the cottage or the house, they will sell the house."
Beaulieu sees a number of his retiree clients suffering with cognitive difficulties as they live longer. More and more often, spouses or adult children call Beaulieu informing him about such a situation. His job then is to ensure that the proper powers of attorney are in place and to help allay fears about increased costs of looking after an older parent, because of the need for either live-in help or assisted-living facilities.
"Spouses are usually devastated by the situation," Beaulieu says, "and will not pay attention unless they have a good advisor who has patience and is willing to listen."
When Beaulieu does decide to slow down, he plans to spend more time with his wife, Karen Webster, and to continue teaching adults how to play tennis.
Beaulieu also hopes to stay busy as a member of his local chapter of Rotary International. He also is chairman of the Bowmanville Hospital Foundation, the charitable arm of Lakeridge Health Corp., in Bowmanville, Ont.
Beaulieu also enjoys cooking and wine tasting. A music fan, he favours jazz, including travelling to cities such as New York to visit jazz clubs.
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