Longevity Advising Proves to Be a ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’

Inspiring clients to envision healthy, happy lives as future centenarians is good for advisors too, says this longevity thought leader.

[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of columns by financial advisor Bradley Jenson on “Thought Leaders in Longevity.” Some of these thought leaders will be well known to the general public; others who may be lesser known are also doing cutting-edge work in longevity].

Jonathan Ainsley has worked in financial services since 1986. He was a senior relationship specialist at Schwab Advisor Services and a business strategy and initiative manager with Merrill Lynch prior to founding InvestInU and launching his Longevity Advisor training program through InvestInU. We recently caught up to discuss longevity advising.

Jenson: How did you get interested in longevity advising?

Ainsley: To help answer that, I’d like to share a story. Just before the lockdown, I was the keynote speaker for 250 Meals on Wheels volunteers on the subject of “Being a Better You.” I asked them to think of the five people in their lives who are most important to them. I invite readers to now do the same. After a short pause to allow them to consider this, I asked them to raise their hand if they had themselves on their list. Not a single hand went up.

Our work at InvestInU is showing that focusing on the relationship we have with ourselves is the next big thing. Longevity advising is an extension of that. In my experience, most of us have a desire to make a difference and longevity advising has become part of that gravitational pull.

While the need for developing human centric advising in the face of FinTech advances is well recognized, the more I pulled on the longevity advising thread, the more I realized that advisors are not being shown the ”how.” Both they and their clients are being underserved. It’s not that there are not already many resources in the longevity space, but our work is pulling those resources together as a powerful deliverable. The industry is scrambling for solutions: more value, more planning engagement, more referrals, deeper relationships, broader connections across gender and generations, offsetting 10+ years of favorable market performance, and redefining human advice. Yet the answer is hiding in plain sight. Our focus has been to develop and deliver the most meaningful outcome, not just for clients but for the advisors themselves. It is quite extraordinary and so much fun!

Jenson: What are some of the milestones that led you to longevity advising?

I started in financial services over 30 years ago in the bond market back in the UK, but I’ve been in Florida now for over 20 years. In 2006, I started as the relationship manager for the northern half of Florida for Schwab Institutional, working with independent advisors and the RIA space. I loved the mantra of being a virtual partner to my advisors. It was in 2008, at a big gathering that Schwab hosts every year, that I heard Ken Dychtwald speak about the topic of the Age Wave and longevity. That started me thinking more about the subject of longevity. Then, in 2012, I joined Merrill Lynch as an internal consultant and was covering a similar geography for about 50 offices at Merrill. Part of my practice management focus was on delivering more behavioral value and leveraging what was called the 7 Life Priorities in Retirement: Family, Giving, Health, Finances, Work, Leisure and Home. I was helping Merrill advisors look beyond the balance sheet to deliver more value in their relationship with their clients.

Merrill also came out with a webinar about living to 100. As I discussed the 100-year life, I heard of the pushback that advisors were getting from clients with thoughts like “I don’t want to be old and decrepit.” With more and more living longer than they expected, not shown in current actuarial tables (due to COVID and opioid statistics), the more it became clear to me that advisors as well as clients were missing the great potential in a healthy, flourishing longevity embracing this longer timeframe we are being gifted. The specific pivot into the longevity space started with me facilitating advisory panels with advisors and their clients, including in The Villages, Florida, with the advisors in turn asking for more training. The training program has been developed as a result of this collaboration and the feedback both from advisors and their clients.

Jenson: Describe the opportunity you see in advising from the perspective of flourishing longevity.

Ansley: It’s proven to be a blue ocean strategy, meaning that most advisors don’t even perceive the great possibility to inspire and engage their clients about their potential for living a healthier, more intentional life toward age 100. There is a real need to rethink the preset notions of retirement and train advisors in that space.

As the recent J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Full Service Investor Satisfaction Study revealed, despite several years of increasing focus on technology investments, “the wealth management industry continues to make little or no progress on its core value proposition: delivering comprehensive advice based on a deep understanding of individual clients.” Advising from the perspective of flourishinglongevity is the very future of financial advice. It will redefine holistic advice.

To the extent that longevity is being discussed at all with clients, it’s done more from the perspective of frailty and the resources that need to be delivered to clients when they are old and frail. But the real excitement in longevity advising has to do with inspiring and energizing clients and the advisors themselves toward envisioning a healthy, happy life as a future centenarian. In my research, through thousands of conversations with advisors and their clients, I can tell you that this is the conversation that is not happening in practice management. If advisors are sailing in the longevity ocean at all—and most aren’t—it’s in the red ocean of frailty longevity. No one has fun doing that. The real action is in the exciting blue ocean of flourishing longevity. With respect to having conversations about flourishing longevity, advisors have not been trained on where and how to start. We have focused on meaningfully addressing that.

Jenson: What are some of the results you have seen as you have coached advisors to deliver on the subject of healthy longevity?

Ainsley:  I’ve seen extraordinary results in advisors themselves as well as their clients. Based on my experience and expertise in the field of seeing what does and doesn’t work (working across the full spectrum of the industry from the Forbes #1 Advisor in the country to lifestyle practices), I have used webinars and developed online video training to introduce the vision of the healthy 100-year life and deliver longevity advising.

Like the vast majority of people, advisors tend to have limiting beliefs about their own potential longevity. By embracing their own potential for living healthier for longer than they imagined, they’ve experienced a renewed excitement for their life and their work. They want to communicate this to their clients. As the advisors in our community have developed their flourishing longevity conversations with their clients, they’ve told me they’ve deepened their relationships with their clients across gender and generations. The differentiation in these conversations in turn is paving the way for effortless referrals through clients being engaged as never before. So, flourishing longevity is good for advisors, good for clients, and leads to referrals.

Advising from the perspective of flourishing longevity grows both the depth and breadth and therefore the value of a financial advisory practice. This is not just a passing fad; it’s the future of human financial advice. Dr. Joseph Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab put it this way: “We might want to start talking about longevity planning, rather than retirement planning.” Exactly. And because this is true, the key practice management need is training advisors to do this.

Jenson: Please describe your Longevity Advisor Training program.

Ainsley:  The program is designed to be simple, fun, and to deliver powerful outcomes. It is an introduction to longevity advising to create a paradigm shift firstly for the advisor and in turn their clients. It is designed to allow for integration and delivery of the other longevity resources, such as MIT AgeLab, AgeWave, Blue Zones, Stanford Center on Longevity, LifePlanning and the various gerontology programs, to name but a few.

There is a free introductory webinar, “How Longevity Advising is Transforming Retirement Planning,” with 1.0 hour of CFP CE credit.

Jenson: Any final thoughts?

Ainsley: Many of us are too busy doing rather than being. Add in the changing dynamics of gerontology and the longer timespan more and more are being gifted. I sense we are only beginning to scratch the flourishing longevity surface.

Jenson:  Well, it sure looks to me like you are providing unique thought leadership in longevity through a transformative practice management for advisors. I look forward to doing this myself. Thank you, Jonathan.

Ainsley:  Brad, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

Additional Reading: Why I Became a ‘Modern Elder” and Why You Should Too 

Bradley Jenson, CFP, CIMA, AIF, is a financial advisor with Duluth, Minn.–based Lake Superior Financial Services, Inc., which offers investment advisory services through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. He is a coauthor of a forthcoming book “Joining the Longevity Revolution: Inspiring Advisors and Clients,” which is expected to be in print in 2022. Brad is also an ordained minister. He can be reached at 218-625-2430. Any opinions are those of Brad and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions of Jonathan Ainsley or InvestinU.

 

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