What to do when your adviser retires — just as you are heading into retirement, too

February 22, 2018

Category: Estate Planning, Future Planning, Retirement

Ted Rechtshaffen 
February 6, 2018
6:30 AM EST

Four main points to think about when looking for a new professional

Joe and Mary were finally headed into retirement.

They were in good financial shape, and many things seemed to be falling into place. But just as they started to move ahead with confidence, the first shoe dropped. Joe’s doctor of 25 years was retiring. He would have to find a new one. Then it was their accountant, her dentist and finally their financial adviser. It made sense.

They had met most of these service providers more than 20 years ago. Like Joe and Mary, these people had put in long careers and were headed to a new stage themselves.

While it was understandable, Joe and Mary weren’t happy about it — although they were kind of relieved in one case because they didn’t want to have to fire their 70-year-old accountant. In addition to the extra time and effort spent looking for new professionals, they had to think about what they were looking for.

The last thing they wanted was to find new people that were also going to retire in the next few years. The antidote to that was to hire professionals in their 20s. The obvious problem is that these people are so young that Joe and Mary might have trouble relating to them, let alone wonder whether these professionals would have the experience that would help them feel comfortable.

In many cases, the people retiring would introduce Joe and Mary to someone who could take over the role. While that can be helpful, this is really an opportunity for Joe and Mary to once again find someone who is the right fit. It is possible that a newly introduced replacement is a good fit, but quite likely it isn’t.

What do Joe and Mary need to consider?

Age The usual thought is to find someone between their mid 30s and early 50s. The age rationale is to try to find someone old enough to have the experience needed, but young enough that they won’t themselves be retiring in a few years.

Changing roles for the couple When Joe and Mary first found their existing professionals, they were in a very different place from where they are today. Joe handled all the financial issues himself. Today, that is still largely true, but both Joe and Mary believe this may not be true in the near future. As they’ve seen with many friends, the husband had suddenly died or had a stroke, and the wife ended up with full financial responsibilities and wasn’t prepared. Joe and Mary were going to make sure that whoever they worked with on finances was someone they both felt comfortable with. As it turns out, they are now doing many things together that they used to do separately. How does that factor into adviser choices?

Location and convenience Regardless of the type of adviser, while Joe and Mary have more time to make appointments, do they want to drive downtown if they don’t have to? Do they want to go to that building with the tight parking lot, or have to climb two flights of stairs? Both out of necessity and convenience, they may want to work (where possible) with advisers that might consider coming to them or at least be in a location that is easy for them to get to.

The needs of 65-year-olds vs. 40-year-olds A doctor or a financial adviser that is great for a 40 year old, may not be the ideal when you are 65. Time, patience, service and empathy are now bigger priorities than speed, technology and lowest cost. Thinking through how one has changed and might be changing over the next 20 years is not a simple thing, but it is worth doing when looking for new professionals.

Beyond technical expertise, there is a lot of emotional intelligence that is sometimes more appreciated by Joe and Mary today than when they were 40. For example, some of their issues revolve around their adult children. They want to help them a little financially, but only two of the three children need help. How should they manage the process? In addition, Joe’s father is now 88 and living on his own. He has financial issues and health issues, but still wants to handle everything himself. Joe likes to discuss these issues with his advisers. Will the new advisers have the wisdom, patience and empathy to help him?

The reality is that finding professionals who are a good fit is not easy. Asking friends, doing research online, and having a few face-to-face meetings is usually the best way to find people. Advisers who are young enough to be around for many more years, but mature enough to work well with older clients, are a relatively rare commodity. Joe and Mary may need to spend a bit of time and an attempt or two to find the right people for them.

While this retirement issue wasn’t in their brochure, it is often an important part of the journey to set any retiree along a smoother path for the next stage of life.

Ted Rechtshaffen is President and Wealth Advisor at TriDelta Financial, a boutique wealth management firm focusing on investment counselling and estate planning. tedr@tridelta.ca