Financial Literacy

Educating Multiple Generations

Longer life expectancies and better medical care mean many families find themselves caring for elderly loved ones, whether at home or by paying for expensive long-term care. To compound matters, many of today’s 50-somethings also find themselves “sandwiched” between supporting elderly parents and 30-year-old children who have yet to become financially stable.

“These are difficult conversations when we try to explain to an individual they may have to give up their own financial independence so that their parents can have 100 percent of what they want.’” said Darren Zagarola, CFP®, CPA, PFS, a partner with EKS Associates. “It’s difficult when you’ve got a sandwich generation telling their parent that they have to prioritize their own needs over their parents’ … But it’s a necessary part of planning.”

EKS Associates, based in Princeton, N.J., provides comprehensive financial life planning on a fee-only basis to clients from across the income spectrum. The firm – which has served the Princeton community for more than 30 years – does not maintain a minimum to invest and, instead, sets hourly or retainer rates in line with the complexity of a client’s needs.

The Population Reference Bureau, a non-profit organization, predicts that Americans over 65 will comprise 24 percent of the population by 2060, compared to 15 percent for 2016. As lifespans increase, families will more frequently grapple with sequential retirements, the need for more robust retirement planning, and rising disability and health costs for loved ones. In this environment, a financial planner who can see past numbers to the people behind them will be essential.

“When people come in for a financial plan, we’re doing such a comprehensive review that we’re asking them about their family history, their views on money… we learn more and more about our clients as we go through the process and it creates a great relationship,” Zagarola told “Advisors Magazine” during a recent interview.

EKS Associates’ comprehensive approach allows clients to tell their financial story – the wants, needs, and dreams that make up their financial future. By getting to the story, Zagarola can build a custom financial plan for clients that points them from where they are now, to where they want to be.

The firm prioritizes financial literacy education as part of the storytelling process. Zagarola has gifted financial plans to clients’ children, taught adult education courses in Princeton, and works to ensure clients understand the reasons underpinning his recommendations. And, crucially, he gets clients to tell their stories with an eye toward the future.

“People sometimes worry that they will be judged on what they’ve done in the past … but we don’t focus on that. When you ask them what they want, it leads to a different relationship with those clients,” he said.

Zagarola’s approach has garnered considerable notice. In 2018, he was named a Five Star Professional Wealth Manager, the sixth time he received that honor. Additionally, he’s been featured on television and radio shows such as “It’s Your Money,” “Investing Climate,” and “Business for Breakfast” and quoted in “The New York Times” and “The Wall Street Journal.”

Focusing on client stories over spreadsheets and returns allows Zagarola to build strong relationships with his clients, and often their relatives.

“We have very long-lasting relationships,” he said. “We have multiple generations of clients within the firm and it’s because of the approach that we have, which focuses more on the qualitative side than the quantitative side.”

For more information on EKS Associates, visit:

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