Skip to main content
high net worth

With an estimated 1.6 million Canadians now clocking in at 75 years or older the country’s banks and wealth management firms are paying close attention to the changing needs of older seniors.Getty Images/iStockphoto

Eighty is the new 60 among many of Gary Brent's older clients at HighView Financial Group, a boutique investment counselling firm in the Greater Toronto Area that caters to high-net-worth Canadians.

But whether they're in the pink of health or feeling the ravages of time, these wealthy individuals face unique wealth-management challenges as they live out their remaining retirement years.

"What many of them are finding is that the financial planning they did 10 years ago is actually no longer in step with their reality today," says Mr. Brent, who is chairman and chief strategist at HighView. "Maybe they thought they would have slowed down by the time they turned 80 or 85, but in fact many of them are still engaged fully in their lives.

"Or maybe it's the opposite, where they thought they'd continue travelling into their 80s and 90s but are now dealing with serious health issues."

With an estimated 1.6 million Canadians now clocking in at 75 years or older – a number that's expected to more than double to 3.3 million by 2036, according to Statistics Canada – the country's banks and wealth management firms are paying close attention to the changing needs of older seniors, and tweaking their approach to meet these needs.

Lorne Steinberg, president of Lorne Steinberg Wealth Management in Montreal, says Canadians' longer lifespans need to be taken into account when managing the portfolios of older investors.

"If you're 75 years old today you might live for 25 more years," he says. "One of the big mistakes that I see a lot of people make is they say, 'I'm 75 years old, so I need to have a more conservative asset allocation."

Instead of defaulting to this conventional approach of moving to "safe" investments such as bonds as they get older, investors should work on maintaining a well-balanced portfolio regardless of their age, says Mr. Steinberg.

"Forget how old you are and ask yourself: 'Where is there relative value and where are there relative risks?' when making investment decisions," he says.

For high-net-worth individuals, managing and preserving wealth often becomes simpler on one hand and more complicated on the other as they enter their elderly years, notes Mr. Brent.

"They're past the stage where they're buying new cars and moving from the house to a condo," he says. "When we meet with them now, it's less focused on investment returns to fund their lifestyle and more about proper education and funding of the future generation and ensuring that they don't become a burden in their old age to their children."

What these translate to, says Mr. Brent, is a greater need for services that go beyond financial planning and wealth management to include estate planning and family wealth counselling, and also services that can help older Canadians maintain their current lifestyles without having to call on their grown children for support.

Elizabeth Dorsch, national director of estate and trust for Bank of Montreal, says the growing demand among wealthy seniors for such services has significantly boosted sign-ups for the bank's Continuity program, which gives private banking clients access to ancillary and lifestyle services, such as filing income tax returns and planning a trip.

The program, which BMO launched more than two years ago, was designed for high-net-worth clients 65 and older.

"Instead of offering all these services on a bespoke basis, we bundle everything into one program that charges one regular fee," says Ms. Dorsch, who notes that the fee, which is based on a percentage of assets invested within the program, works on a sliding scale that gets reduced the more money a client has with BMO.

"So for example, when a client passes away there isn't an additional fee for estate administration because that's been included in the ongoing fee, unless there are external assets that are not part of the Continuity account."

Ms. Dorsch says the most requested services include finding cleaning and landscaping services, travel planning, locating an out-of-town doctor or dentist, packing for a move, and funeral planning.

For clients in declining health, services such as paying the household bills are in high demand – and much appreciated by the clients' chidren, says Ms. Dorsch.

Albrecht Weller, president of Schwaben Capital Group in Toronto, says older people with diminished capacity are more likely to use services that address day-to-day or recurring tasks such as housekeeping and bill payments.

"Oftentimes, children can take over these matters, but sometimes they can't or don't want to or, in some cases, there just isn't any family," says Mr. Weller.

As Schwaben Capital Group's clients have advanced in years, Mr. Weller says he is increasingly stepping up to provide non-financial services such as helping clients find a retirement home or get to a hospital.

Mr. Brent at HighView says many older clients who have counted on the firm to act as their chief investment officer are now also looking for help with lifestyle-related tasks. HighView works with third-party concierge services, such as Modern Concierge Inc. and Silver Sherpa Inc., to meet this need, says Mr. Brent.

While it's easy enough for older people with means to buy these services directly, many prefer the assurance of working with providers referred by a trusted adviser, says Mr. Brent

"There's a system of checks and balances that naturally results when you have multiple professionals working together under the oversight of a firm that really knows the client and their family," he says. "I think we're going to see more of this type of collaborative model in the future."