Securing Seniors' Futures

Advisors help beyond retirement

As Americans increasingly live longer lives, the need for professional financial advice also grows. People not only need help to prepare for a successful retirement, but also to make sure they can maintain financial security once they enter their golden years.

More than 30 percent of Americans ages 65 and older use a financial advisor to help them manage their money, according to a recent CNBC-Acorns survey. However, the 2020 Financial Literacy Survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found 68 percent of seniors believe they could benefit from professional financial advice. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau projects the number of seniors will almost double to reach 3.8 percent of the population by 2040.

Helping older Americans secure their financial future covers more than just preparing for retirement, according to Richard Shields, CFP®, financial advisor and CEO of Synergy Financial Group of Arizona in Scottsdale. With more Americans living longer, Shields said, he has had many clients ages 95 or older.

“The longevity of our clients is a reflection of their health and how well they take care of themselves,” Shields said, “We want them to focus on their lives. They're not just retiring because they turn 65. Many of our clients gain benefits from continuing to work that have nothing to do with a paycheck.”

people shieldsIn today's world, many older Americans are particularly concerned about their risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Long-term medical care can be extremely expensive, adding extra costs on top of those retirees already face. Shields said his firm helps families prepare for the high cost of nursing homes and medical care, which can otherwise dissipate retirement assets quickly.

“We have also discovered that, with some older clients going into nursing homes, they are sometimes not in the best circumstances,” Shields continued. “We try to help by going the extra yard to make sure their finances are in order, and that the nursing home is doing an appropriate job.”

Shields recently spent three years working to resolve a situation where a residential nursing home had stolen about $70,000 of a client’s assets. Ultimately, the employee was convicted of a felony and a restitution plan is in place. Unfortunately, the client passed away about a year ago.

“There are a lot of areas like that someone needs to be involved in their lives to make things work like they should,” he added. “There's just no way that our systems at Social Security or even the state agencies are prepared to deal with those. I'm involved in trying to right those wrongs.”

Retirement planning is one of many services that Synergy Financial Group provides to clients of all ages. Shields said the firm’s central focus is the client relationship, which he views as long-term and multi-generational. The transition of assets between generations after the death of a parent is challenging and emotional, he said.

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“Clients are like our family and we treat them as such,” he added. “Every one of our clients is unique. They have different visions, needs, and fears. Each client has a portfolio that is built and maintained for them, which we create by researching and selecting a range of investment options.”

Financial education is the foundation of that practice. That applies not just to the firm’s advisors – who maintain multiple licenses designations – but also to clients.

“Our philosophy is to educate our clients so they have a clear understanding of their investments and the purpose they serve within the portfolio,” Shields continued. “Investing can be intimidating within the financial community, so we strive to empower clients to make educated decisions.”

Advisors use a range of investments within each portfolio, and they take time to ensure clients fully understand each aspect. They also use technology to provide clients with access to additional information they can use to expand their financial knowledge.

“Technology continues to evolve in the financial arena,” Shields added. “It is a tremendous tool that should be used in conjunction with an interpersonal relationship between the client and the advisor. We see online platforms as the wave of the future because technology is becoming more available to everybody. But we also see that it lacks the personal touches a financial advisor can provide.”

Since the pandemic, the firm has relied more heavily on videoconference meetings and telephone consultations, particularly for clients in retirement communities who were put in lockdown. When it is necessary to meet in person, Shields said, advisors follow CDC guidelines by wearing masks and social distancing. Although there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face meeting, he said, the firm has easily adapted to what works best for current and prospective clients.

“In our relationships with our clients, we have not dealt with much fear, panic, or upset during the pandemic,” Shields added. “This is due in a large part to our efforts to educate clients on what actions we should take during periods of volatility. We have a concrete, proactive plan so clients did not have to react hastily during what have been unprecedented times.”

For more information on Synergy Financial Group of Arizona, visit


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