Financial and Wealth Planning: Building Your Expertise by Developing a Strategy for Life Planning that Includes Aging and Costs of Care

By Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA

If you are a financial or wealth planner do you have the expertise to develop plans for aging, caregiving, and healthcare costs? Financial and wealth planners support clients to grow assets and manage wealth for the purpose of life planning. How will your clients manage when they are older if you did not focus effectively on  this critical part of planning?

Expertise is associated with the letters after names: CFP, CFA, ChFC, or CLU. If you are a financial or wealth planner do you have the expertise to help clients develop life plans that include planning for health, aging, and care needs? Are you aware of how a financial plan might change when your client becomes a caregiver or a care receiver? Do you know the costs of care?

Many financial plans focus on the today of career, raising families, having children, and paying college expenses. Fewer plans focus on healthcare, aging, and care needs after retirement. Implementing a broader strategy of life planning that includes building relationship with experts in complementary areas will make you a better resource for your clients.

financial planningWhen creating a plan, how many financial and wealth planners consider the snags related to health, aging, and caregiving that take life off course and significantly impact financial plans? These snags include income tax planning, insurance including disability, health, and long-term care insurance, choosing financial and healthcare fiduciaries, estate planning, charitable giving, paying for care after retirement, and possible incapacity due to cognitive impairment.

As a caregiving advocate and professional fiduciary, I served my clients in the role of trustee, financial power of attorney, bill payer, and personal representative of the estate. Many of the financial and wealth planners I worked with were familiar with the terminology but not the day to day extensive responsibility of these roles. Managing the care of aging adults has financial and healthcare components.Knowledge about money and navigating care is essential.

In my discussions only a small portion of financial and wealth planners were familiar and able to discuss the costs of healthcare and care after retirement including paying for costs of in-home care or cost of care in a care community. There were gaps in awareness about the potential of family financial abuse or the potential of will contests.

The potential of family disagreements about money were uncomfortable subjects. Less mentioned were the effects of Alzheimer’s or dementia on the ability of clients to make financial decisions or manage money. Many planners were unsure of their responsibility when concerns were identified. Knowledge about the extent of the stress of caregiving responsibilities was limited.

Why the gaps? Many financial or wealth planners are a few years past college or middle-aged. Few have lived long enough to support a client through physical disability, retirement, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, planning to take money out of accounts to pay for long term care, or death. Most have parents and grandparents still living.

When you have limited direct life experience related to healthcare, aging issues or the daily challenges of living as an older adult, how do you support clients plan for these unexpected aspects of life? Having your client say to another professional, “my financial planner didn’t tell me that,” will not reflect positively on your breadth of knowledge related to life planning..

Clients rely on you to be the expert today when they are healthy. They rely on you in the future, when they become a caregiver or need significant care and funds to pay for care. Financial planners and wealth planners gain expertise during a career. How do financial and wealth planners become a trusted resource for clients in the area where expertise may be lacking?

Aspects of Life Planning for Healthcare and Aging are Broad

Healthcare expenses, challenges of aging, and costs of care may quickly exhaust investment savings after retirement. Are you aware of the costs of care? An assisted living community ranges from $5-10,000 a month depending on needs. If your client wants to remain in their home, 24-hour in-home care ranges from $15-20,000 a month. Aging with health concerns is costly. We all want the option of how and where we will receive care.

Are you planning appropriately to meet the needs and desires of your clients? Have you asked questions that identify plans to address care needs when illness occurs? Does your client know who will provide care? Have care needs been discussed with family members? Is there no family available to provide care? Has he or she expressed a desire for where care will be provided? Do you know the questions to ask?

A supplement to the Wall Street Journal provided by Barron’s magazine listed the Top 100 Independent Advisors.(1)  Consolidation of financial advisor firms was mentioned as a trend of the future. Several advisors who moved into to management positions were profiled.

A trend not mentioned but of note by reading of the article, were a limited number of advisory firms reporting the importance of estate planning, certified public accounting, wealth transfers, healthcare, philanthropic coaching, and other non-financial but lifecare planning needs. Some firms have establishing networks with estate planning attorneys, insurance professionals, certified public accountants, and healthcare advocates to round out the expertise offered to clients.

For firms willing to invest the time to build a team of trusted experts, this is process is viewed as offering a team collaborative approach of specialists for financial and wealth planning clients. This is process similar to healthcare, where a team of individuals with different backgrounds creates what is called a care plan or a treatment plan for a client.

Caregiving Advocacy Intersects with Life Planning

In my role as a caregiving advocate, the first process was to assess, identify, and create a plan to address client needs. Creating a care plan is much like creating an encyclopedia of a client’s life. No area of life was considered unapproachable. These are subjects best discussed prior to crises when making rational decisions seems easier.

Many times the conversations occurred after a hospitalization, broken hip, or diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Many plans occurred as the result of a care crises. Care and financial discussions to pay for care make individuals feel uncomfortable. No one wants to talk about disability or death. The benefit of these difficult conversations is that being proactive allows choices rather than having choices eliminated.

Discussions included assets available to pay for care. Whether applying for Medicaid was an eventual possibility. Medicaid is best discussed earlier rather than later. Legal matters of trusts, financial and medical power of attorneys, and wills including the possibility of adult children disagreeing about appointments or a possible diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease were discussed. Information about preferences for care, known challenges of an imperfect healthcare system, the possibility of medical errors, end of life, pre-paid burial or cremation plans were all reviewed.

Family caregivers and care receivers experience significant amounts of stress. The Caring Generation Library® for family caregivers and professionals offers free information in 30 categories. [sg_popup id=”3″ event=”click”]A monthly newsletter[/sg_popup] is available for family caregivers and professionals in the areas of: financial, legal, and healthcare. My book, The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes®, offers insights and practical tips to a wide variety of life experiences for caregivers and care receivers.

Healthcare considerations and care preferences effect money and financial plans. The other area of legal was discussed related to my experience as an appointed fiduciary. Examples of what went right and what went wrong were discussed to allow clients to be proactive. My team of legal experts were referred to my clients if the clients had not completed documents or realized that their documents may benefit from an update. A certified public accountant was referred for tax matters. Other experts were referred for other needs.

Preserving Your Reputation By Growing Your Network and Your Expertise

Common and repeated statements of surprise from my clients over more than twenty years included:

  • I wish we had known about you years ago. You could have saved us time and money.
  • My doctor or healthcare professional didn’t tell me that.
  • My financial or wealth planner didn’t talk about Medicaid.
  • My estate planning attorney wrote my living will but didn’t mention accommodating for things that might go wrong.
  • How could I have known that my children would financially exploit me?
  • I never expected to be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. This changes the game.
  • The care community didn’t tell me that my parent would be asked to leave if X occurred.
  • What do you mean Medicare doesn’t pay for “that”!

We all want to avoid hearing these statement by our clients, “my X didn’t tell me that,”that effects our expertise and reputation.Planning for life is complicated. A team approach including legal, healthcare, insurance, certified public accountants and related experts is beneficial and necessary to address all possibilities are considered. Collaborating with professionals in similar areas delivers a better result for our clients..

Creating a partial financial or wealth plan—without addressing life planning—may place your client in an unexpected situation in the future saying, “my financial or wealth planner didn’t tell me that.” If this is not the reputation you desire to build, it may be time to consider developing a new strategy for financial and wealth planning that includes life planning.Begin by building relationships with trusted experts one step at a time. Attending national conferences or becoming a member in national group that support life planning will help you begin making your goal of becoming a trusted expert a reality.


  • Garmhausen, Steve. (9/20/18) The Top 10 Independent Advisors. (Special Supplement Reprinted from the 9/17/18 Issue of Baron’s). Wall Street Journal, S1-S12.

©2018 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved.

Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA, a National Certified Guardian and Certified Senior Advisor, is a caregiving and elder care expert, advocate, and speaker. Pamela offers family caregivers programming and support to navigate the challenges of providing, navigating, and planning for care. She guides professionals practicing in estate planning, elder and probate law, and financial planning to create plans to address unexpected concerns identified in her past role as a professional fiduciary. Healthcare professionals are supported by Pamela’s expertise to increase responsiveness and sensitivity to the extensive range of care challenges faced by care recipients and caregivers.

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