Two States Share Title for Highest Percentage of Seniors

They both need more financial advisors but face stark contrasting demographics that create different challenges.

By Ed Prince

They’re on opposite ends of the Eastern Seaboard and as different as winter and summer. But Maine and Florida share a demographic distinction that presents challenges and opportunities for financial planners.

The Pine Tree State and the Sunshine State are first and second, respectively, in having the highest percentages of senior citizens in the nation.

And in Maine, most financial planners are themselves approaching retirement age, meaning elderly clients can lose the only advisor they’ve ever worked with.

Maine residents 65 and older were 21.2% of the state’s total population in 2020, an increase of 57.2% since 2000, according to USAFacts, a nonprofit organization that studies demographic trends. In Florida, seniors made up 20.7% of the population, an increase of 59.1%.

The seemingly similar statistics mask stark demographic differences.

Michael Zmistowski, founder of the Financial Planning Association of Florida, notes that the huge influx of seniors to Florida — 1 million from 2000 to 2020, according to USAFacts — almost equals Maine’s total population of 1.3 million.

“So even though the percentages may give you that impression that they’re kind of equal in the way with older people, with math, not so much,” Zmistowski says, also noting Florida’s rapid overall population growth.

Florida is the nation’s fastest-growing state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, increasing by 1.9% between 2021 and 2022. “For the third most-populous state to also be the fastest growing is notable because it requires significant population gains,” the bureau says.

More Maine seniors, fewer of everybody else

The graying of Maine is quite different. From 2018 to 2023 the 65-and-older set increased 24.6%, but the rest of the population declined by 5%, according to a report by the Maine Office of the State Economist. “As Baby Boomers continue to age, the population pyramid will continue to appear top-heavy as the share of the population 65+ grows while the share of the population under age 18 contracts,” the office says.

So, what does that mean for financial planners in those states? At first glance, it’s mostly upside, says Derek Tharp, CFP, head of Conscious Capital in Portland, Maine.

“You’re going to have more people who are in that distribution phase of retirement rather than accumulators, or people who are pre-retirement,” says Tharp, who is also an associate professor of finance at the University of Southern Maine. “Retirees have always been the biggest chunk of most advisors’ practices, so it may not have a huge impact compared to what people see in other places in the country.”

Mackenzie Parsons, principal of Cornerstone Financial Planning in Portland, agrees Maine’s senior population has been good for business, noting that 70% of her clients are over 60, and 35% are over 70.

But both Tharp and Parson acknowledge the aging demographic is a problem for society as a whole.

“We’re not a very large population to begin with,” Parsons says. “And when you have an aging population and … a working population that is not able to support the aging, we do have quite a few problems, with finding assisted living, in finding healthcare workers and things like that. … Getting into a retirement community or getting into a nursing home can be a challenge just because that population is so large, and I know that they’re struggling to find workers to help support it.”

Tharp, the university professor, notes that school and college enrollment is declining as Maine’s college-age population decreases. “Just overall, it’s been kind of a demographic challenge,” he says.

Retirement planners are retiring

Both warn that the Maine financial planning community faces its own demographic challenge as many of its members themselves approaching retirement age. According to the national Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board), more than half of CFP professionals in Maine are over age 60.

“This is a persistent thing — that our advisors are too old,” Tharp says. “We need new, more people in it.”

But he notes that some advisors get into the business in their 40s and 50s after holding corporate jobs.

“And so maybe that demographic problem is a little overstated … because the nature of it does tend to be an older profession in terms of changing from a career, a large corporation where you have a lot of connections,” he says. “Becoming a career-changer in financial planning can be very useful in a way that somebody starting out in their 20s isn’t going to have that same sort of network.”

Parsons concurs that the graying of Maine’s financial planning community is a problem.

“Absolutely. I just heard about a neighboring county where there are two financial planners that just retired. Where are those clients going to go?”

Tharp says advisors who are planning to retire themselves should plan for their older clients, because an individual in their 80s may find it difficult to find a new professional.

“What sort of plan is in place for the retirement of my only advisor? Especially if somebody has been working with somebody who’s similar age. They started working together 20 years ago. There’s a lot of solo, individual financial advisors out there,” Tharp says.

“That’s one thing I would really encourage people to explore. What’s the plan? Is a company going to come in and take over the business so that they continue to get that service? …. Really think through that ahead of time. Because … they’re in their mid-80s, and their advisor’s now retiring. That can be a really tough time to be trying to navigate the advisor marketplace, which is confusing enough and complicated enough as it is, but even more so at the point where they’re dealing with cognitive declines or just needing a little more assistance in different ways as they age.”

Bringing in new blood

Both Tharp and Parsons are doing their bit to bring young people into the financial planning profession, Tharp as a finance professor, and Parsons through outreach to schools.

“I try to participate in some of the local elementary schools and high schools by doing presentations that talk about the career or the field of financial planning,” says Parsons. “Unless you know someone that does it, I think that that career path doesn’t come up that often. So, we’ve been trying to get out into the community and talk about financial planning as a career path, because there is a need for more financial planners and younger financial planners.”

Florida’s degree program

Florida also has a graying financial planning community, although the problem is not as acute as Maine’s, according to the CFP Board. In Florida, less than a third of CFP professionals are over age 60, but the average age of CFP professionals there is slightly older than in Maine. Florida’s CFP professionals are slightly older on average than the national average age, which is under age 50.

Recognizing the need for new blood, Zmistowski has successfully advocated for the creation of a financial planning degree program in the Florida state university system.

“Financial planning is really where the future is,” Zmistowski says, because many people turning 65 and older are “unable to take care of themselves financially. It’s the rare person and the rare couple that really knows what they’re doing. So, we’re going to need a lot more.”

Additional Reading: Arriving Now: Faster Passenger Trains from Miami to Orlando

In 2014, Zmistowski says, he began pressing state education officials, starting with then-Chancellor Marshall M. Criser III, to create a financial planning degree program.

“We have five universities in the state of Florida that all have degree programs in personal financial planning. That should tell you something right there,” he says.

Asked if the university system is turning out enough financial planners to meet the demand in Florida, he says, “No, I think there’s so much more opportunity. I think those programs are going to grow and grow and grow.”

Dr. Timothy Greer, assistant professor of instruction in the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance at the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus, agrees, also citing the aging of Florida financial planners.

“Not only is Florida seeing a large number of seniors — those over 65 — moving to Florida, but the financial planning community is also aging as well. And so, we need to train the replacements to help meet that demand,” Greer says.

Overcrowding headaches

Zmistowski says that while Florida doesn’t have Maine’s dilemma — a shrinking under-65 demographic — the Sunshine State’s large senior population does create problems.

“A lot of traffic jams, roads that aren’t built to handle the numbers of people that are coming into the state every year. … These enclaves where huge populations of 65 and over are living are just spreading out all over the place.

“I have a client couple who had a beautiful home in Sarasota, on the water, really lovely. They called me one day and said, ‘We’re moving to Ocala’ … and the reason that they’re moving is because they could no longer stand the traffic in Sarasota.

“So, it’s not just me thinking about it. I’m experiencing that clients are getting fed up with the growth, at least in the areas where you have water,” Zmistowski says.

Advisors in Maine face the other side of that situation.

“There are some clients who have moved from Maine to Florida,” Tharp says. “You might be dealing with clients who originally you met in the area but are no longer in the area because they’ve sought out one of the more common retirement destinations.”

 In a four-decade career in journalism, Ed Prince has served as an editor with many of New Jersey’s leading newspapers, including the Star-Ledger, Asbury Park Press and Home News Tribune.

 

 

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