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Advising later life clients during a pandemic

Clients need financial advice just as much in the ‘new normal’, if not more

At the time of writing, face-to-face meetings with elderly clients are a no-go. Yet the need among clients for sound financial advice is arguably even greater than it was before the lockdown. So for this week’s Tax Angle, we look at some of the practical considerations around advising later life clients during a pandemic.

This topic will also be the focus of the upcoming Octopus Online Show on 26 June. For more details, and to register to watch the show, click here. 

The first point to stress is that there is a definite appetite among clients to hear from their financial adviser.

“I’d say people are almost more keen to look at their finances because they’ve got little else to do,” says Felix Milton, a chartered financial planner based in Devon.

“A lot of clients are seeing their cash reserves build up, because there’s not the availability of things to spend it on.”

Tish Hanifan, founder and joint chair of the Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA), agrees. “Later life clients want some help to try to navigate the financial changes that they’re finding,” she says.

“There is a behavioural bias towards making short-term decisions, which actually have long-term implications, and which, when you’re right in the heart of that yourself, it’s very hard to step aside and do what might long term be the best thing. So a really good role for an adviser is to be a person who can give them that objective guidance, through short-term decision making and long-term objectives.”

Clients and advisers are adjusting to the new normal

The good news is, after an initial quiet period around the time the lockdown started, when the hope was that this would be a short-term blip, there are signs that advisers and clients are now adjusting to the new reality.

“We’re hearing two things,” says Hanifan. “We’re hearing that clients are making contact. And then we’re hearing from advisers who as yet haven’t made contact, but feel they really need to.”

In particular, there has been an increased interest in estate planning advice.

“Solicitors have seen a huge increase in people asking about wills and power of attorney,” says Hanifan. This echoes a similar uptick over the last few weeks in advisers talking to Octopus about inheritance tax investments.

The key point is, the need among clients for financial advice remains substantial. For some clients, that need will be greater than it was just a few months ago.

"This is a time for compassionate conversations,” says Hanifan, who adds that advisers should not be afraid to make the first move and contact clients to see how events may have affected how they feel about their planning.