Four ways financial advisors can help clients with extended care strategy
by Steve SperkaMr. Sperka is Vice President of Solutions Design and Implementation at Thrivent. Visit www.thrivent.com.
As Baby Boomers enter retirement and the aging population grows larger, many individuals are beginning to find themselves in what is known as the “sandwich generation”— the generation of individuals who are responsible for both raising their children as well as providing care for their parents. In fact, according to a 2022 survey from diversified financial services leader Thrivent, more than one-fifth of Americans (21%) are already providing some level of support to an elderly family member.
Because most caregiving is done at home by relatives rather than in facilities by professionals, these familial support systems are often the ones that experience the most financial and emotional strain that comes with providing extended care for those they love. It’s no surprise that Thrivent’s survey found that over half of Americans (56%) are concerned about the financial consequences of extended care.
This anxiety extends well beyond concern for parents. Many people in the caretaker role are also unsure about how they would fund their own care if it became necessary. According to a 2021 Thrivent survey, 75% of Americans said it would be difficult to pay for long-term care and more than half (52%) revealed they wouldn’t be able to fund their care if they needed it today. Without proper planning, future generations will find themselves in a similar situation, carrying the financial and emotional weight that’s often associated with extended care.
The good news is that financial advisors are in an ideal position to help relieve those concerns and provide families with the guidance they need to make wise decisions around extended care planning. This will leave them better prepared for whatever the future holds for them and their loved ones.
Here are four considerations for financial advisors to keep in mind when advising clients.
1. It All Starts With Proactive Conversations
Thrivent’s survey found 70% of Americans believe having an extended care plan for family members before they need care is very important to them. This demonstrates they recognize the value of advance planning. Yet despite this, over 60% of Americans don’t have an extended care plan in place for themselves or their family. Financial advisors can help close this gap by having more upfront and proactive conversations with clients and listening to their unique extended care needs.
In order to have effective conversations about the eldercare journey, financial advisors should help clients understand the realities involved with caregiving. Start by having these conversations early and often, and be direct about the challenges and complexities involved with navigating the systems surrounding extended care. While these conversations can be sensitive, they are critical to improving education and closing the planning gap. Remember: If a client is having a conversation after an extended care event has already occurred, chances are it’s already too late for them to maximize their options and find the right solution that meets their needs.
Thrivent has learned about the many caregiving considerations that financial advisors should be able to address when we introduced a new member benefit, Dari by Homethrive. Dari provides clients with online resources and personalized advice about extended care. Some of the most common questions members have asked include, “Is my mom safe living at home? How do I assess this?” or “My loved one is being discharged from a hospital stay/rehab – now what do I do?” This shows how much information is truly needed to help clients recognize what may be required of them. This can serve as a starting point for developing a long-term care plan.
2. Understand Clients Unique Preferences
When having introductory conversations, financial advisors should take enough time to dig deep, listen, and truly hear a new client’s fears, desires and expectations around aging. This information will help reveal a client’s preferences for how they want to receive care in the future. People will express a wide variety of priorities that need to be considered—and they won’t always be based solely on financial considerations. These insights will inform how to best customize a client’s plan.
Start by educating clients on the options available to them. Remember, many clients are likely not professional caregivers. By sharing some possible scenarios, financial advisors can help them picture what extended care may look like for themselves and their loved ones.
Whether a client decides they’d prefer to age at home with their family or join a professional care facility, it’s critical they understand and know the current cost and availability of care, as well as the relevant technologies for their preferred setting. The reality is many people still have lingering questions in these areas. In fact, Dari by Homethrive saw a 47% increase in inquiries on support due to struggles in understanding health insurance plans and coverage, and saw a 50% increase in inquiries for assistance with purchasing costly and complex durable medical equipment.
Financial advisors will continue to play an essential role in helping address these types of inquiries and inform clients of their options. For example, for clients who prefer a professional facility, financial advisors can help them explore funding sources that provide them with the flexibility to afford the care that suits them best. For clients who feel strongly about receiving care at home, financial advisors can discuss the importance of ensuring their family has the emotional and financial support to provide consistent care – which could span several years in some instances.
3. Extended Care Planning Should Be A Family Discussion
As clients select the strategy that best fits their goals, remind them to involve members of their family in these conversations right at the outset. It’s important to review an extended care plan with family so there is no question about the individual’s wishes in the event of an emergency.
During these conversations, clients should take their family’s feedback into account and look to adjust their plan based on sentiment and financial concerns. While the client may be the one designing their plan, the burden of care often falls to members of their family.
For example, expectations can change throughout the extended care planning journey as every client navigates their own unique situation. They may find that their initial estimation of cost shifts after they realize they may require extra in-home help. Having conversations early allows clients to address these needs and adjust their plan to make room in their budgets to cover the additional costs.
Having an extended care plan is an especially important consideration for women, as 61% of caregivers in the U.S. are female according to the Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 report presented by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and the AARP Public Policy Institute. Unfortunately, the considerable amount of time spent providing that support may come at the expense of thinking about their own extended care needs in the future. Financial advisors have an opportunity to help guide women to have conversations with their loved ones and understand available care options. By being proactive with extended care planning, they can feel confident knowing they’re ready for the future.
While each extended care plan should be personal to a client’s specific needs, they should remember that it will ultimately be their families who are putting their plans into action. As such, conversations around extended care must include all parties responsible for ensuring expectations around care and how it will be provided are crystal clear.
4. A New Foundation For Long Term Financial Wellbeing
Life can be unpredictable, but planning for unforeseen circumstances is not only possible, it is pivotal for being prepared for the future both financially and emotionally. Thrivent’s survey discovered that 87% of adults said they would experience a significant strain to their finances from an extended care event, and 43% would have no financial means to sustain care. This not only underscores the scope of the extended care challenge but demonstrates how it may affect many other aspects of a client’s overall financial wellbeing.
For financial advisors, this means exploring the implications of how funding, or not funding care, will impact clients, as an unplanned extended care event can impede any financial strategy and make it difficult for clients to achieve other important goals, like retirement, funding a child’s education or maintaining their current lifestyle.
The good news is that there are many options available to clients that allows them to personalize their path based on their financial goals and priorities. Whether it’s earmarking funds for extended care for those able to self-fund, a product such as traditional and hybrid long-term care insurance that provides protection as well as other associated benefits, or even partnership policies for those that want to maintain their Medicaid eligibility, financial advisors can help clients identify the funding solution that’s right for their situation.
Ultimately, as the challenge of extended care grows, financial advisors can help clients create a more secure future for themselves and their loved ones by prioritizing planning and thinking through the financial implications. By having proactive conversations and educating clients, financial advisors can help them – and their families – create extended care plans that give them greater financial clarity and confidence about the future.
Thrivent is a diversified financial services organization that helps people achieve financial clarity, enabling lives full of meaning and gratitude. Thrivent and its subsidiary and affiliate companies serve more than 2.3 million clients, offering advice, insurance, investments, banking and generosity products and programs over the phone, online as well as through financial professionals and independent agents nationwide. Thrivent is a Fortune 500 company with $189 billion in assets under management/advisement (as of 12/31/21). Thrivent carries ratings from independent rating agencies which demonstrate the strength and stability of the organization, including an A++ rating from AM Best; an Aa2 rating from Moody’s Investors Service; and an AA+ rating from S&P Global Ratings. Ratings are based on Thrivent’s financial strength and claims-paying ability, but do not apply to investment product performance. For information on these ratings, visit the rating agency’s website. For more information about Thrivent, visit Thrivent.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter.
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