When Nathan Kupusa began working with senior clients a few years into his career as a financial advisor, he quickly recognized that these clients have unique planning considerations – and not only with respect to their finances.

Kupusa found that older clients require an entirely different approach to financial planning – one that incorporates health and lifestyle factors into the process, and which requires much patience and sensitivity on the part of the advisor. He has since built a firm dedicated to guiding seniors through their finances as well as other aspects of their lives.

“Planning in this segment is a lot different from planning in a younger age bracket,” says Kupusa, president and owner of Burlington, Ont.-based Solutions for Aging Inc., an associated general agency affiliated with Mississauga, Ont.-based IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. “It takes more expertise and more empathy toward the client. We believe that you need to have a proper program built around this.”

Solutions for Aging was launched in 2008 as a partnership between Kupusa, who had been working as an insurance and investment advisor for about 10 years, and Jill Voytek, a gerontologist. The firm provides advanced wealth planning for seniors and their families, along with a suite of health and lifestyle planning services.

Kupusa, 39, decided to focus on the seniors market about seven years into his career as an advisor. Upon evaluating his book of business, he came to the conclusion that all of his favourite clients – and his most profitable ones – were in this older demographic.

“I realized that these are the clients that I enjoy the most,” he says. “And I really can build long-term relationships with them.”

Seniors represent an underserved market that offers significant opportunity for advisors, a fact that became clear to Kupusa: “I realized very quickly that this is a hole that we’re all missing as financial advisors. Most advisors focus on helping their clients get to age 65 and their retirement date. We focus on helping clients and their families from [age] 65 on.”

Clients have no shortage of financial planning challenges and considerations after they turn 65, Kupusa says. As goals shift away from accumulating assets at this phase of life, senior clients tend to need guidance in factors such as generating income, managing spending, health-care costs and estate planning.

These planning needs require a different approach than what many advisors are used to, Kupusa says. Unlike younger clients, who often are focused on investment returns, he says, older clients are much more focused on their health and their family.

“What motivates someone who is in their 60s or in their retirement years or in their senior years is a lot different from what motivates a 30-year-old,” Kupusa says. “[Seniors] don’t necessarily need the slickest, fastest investment. But they need a sense of security.”

Kupusa designed the financial planning program at Solutions for Aging to reflect the values and goals common to clients in this demographic. The firm employs 13 insurance and investment advisors who specialize in helping clients develop a long-term financial plan that accounts for factors such as retirement income, funding retirement living and long-term care, as well as estate considerations.

At Kupusa’s firm, the conversation extends well beyond a client’s finances. Kupusa has found that health is, by far, the top concern among older clients, so he makes health a central part of the planning process. By incorporating gerontology and health considerations into the financial planning process – rather than treating these considerations as an afterthought – senior clients become much more engaged than they would be by a conventional approach to financial planning.

“When you’re going through the most difficult time in your life,” Kupusa says, “watching your loved one get sick and trying to navigate the health-care system, health-care planning rises to the top first because that’s what the priority is.”

The services offered by Solutions for Aging are customized to each client’s unique situation, depending upon the areas in which a client needs the most support.

In some cases, Voytek sits in on meetings between a client and his or her financial advisor in order to be able to address any health and lifestyle challenges the client is facing and to offer insights on how these challenges might affect the client’s finances. In other cases, health and lifestyle planning considerations are handled separately from the financial planning process.

In addition to the gerontology expertise that Voytek brings to the business, clients at Solutions for Aging have access to nurses and other health-care professionals under a partnership with Mississauga, Ont.-based home and community health-care services provider Bayshore HealthCare Ltd. Solutions for Aging’s clients and their families can get advice and guidance on such issues as housing transition and care co-ordination, health crisis preparedness and management, navigation of government health programs, caregiver resources and strategies for effective communication with an aging parent.

The Solutions for Aging business model is designed to involve not only the senior, but also his or her caregivers and family members. Clients’ caregivers and holders of powers of attorney often sit in on client meetings because many of the decisions being made affect those supporters directly.

“We designed the program to engage the family as well,” Kupusa says.

That approach has been an effective way of keeping assets within the firm when clients pass away, Kupusa says, because the advisors have already established relationships with the clients’ children.

“When the assets change hands and go to the next generation,” he says, “the support that we provide will then be onto the next generation.”

Although there’s a significant age gap between Kupusa and many of his clients – his oldest client is 95 – his experience in working with clients in this age group, as well as his elder planning counsellor designation, have helped Kupusa understand and emphasize with seniors’ needs and concerns.

“Clients want someone with experience,” he says. “They want someone they can trust [and] they want someone who will be with them for a long period of time.”

Working with seniors can be an emotional experience, too, Kupusa says, because clients in this group often are dealing with stressful events such as serious illnesses and the loss of loved ones.

“We have clients who break down in front of us every single week,” he says, “because they’re dealing with the most stressful time of their lives, and they’re not knowing which way to turn.”

Although that level of emotion occasionally presents challenges in client meetings, Kupusa says, it’s rewarding to help clients and their families navigate such difficult situations.

“It’s a very motivating thing,” he says. “You’re providing support on some of the most important things in these clients’ lives.”

Solutions for Aging operates only in Ontario, but Kupusa hopes to expand the firm across Canada. He is particularly interested in establishing a presence in regions and cities with a high population of seniors, such as Victoria. He hopes to have 100 advisors across the country eventually.

With many baby boomers beginning to make the transition into retirement, Kupusa expects that demand for his firm’s services will grow significantly in the next few years.

“{Seniors] is the largest demographic,” he says. “I believe that this is the wave of the future. And I believe that we’re uniquely positioned.”

Aside from the business, Kupusa spends much of his time with his wife, Tara, and their two-year-old son, Reed. Kupusa also enjoys skiing, staying active and spending time at his cottage near Buckhorn, Ont.

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