The impact of an aging population will radically change those firms that provide investments to retirees. Demographic shifts are sharply and permanently altering the way companies operate.
Many brokerage representatives, especially younger ones, are less successful dealing with senior adult clients. Many younger brokers lack sensitivity and patience in dealing with retirees, and thus can be less effective.
Those who are selling to older investors in face-to-face situations need to make adjustments in their presentations. National Institute of Aging research shows that more than 90% of people over the age of 60 require corrective lenses so they can see or read at a normal distance.
While most people with vision problems wear corrective lenses, it is not always possible to determine whether a person is able to see clearly. Signs that are not obvious include squinting, frowning, grimacing, and a tendency toward reaching out and touching people.
Techniques for brokers in dealing with retirees who might have vision problems are:
*Seat the person in a chair away from the glare of sunlight or interior light, such as overhead light that creates glare on a shiny desk surface. Proper lighting is important.
*Sit close to the person, preferably face to face. Keep your face visible to the person and have the person look directly at you. Looking away is a sign that the person's attention has strayed.
*In the course of presenting material, increase the use of gestures. Use words and visual descriptions that are more common to seniors and minimize investment jargon.
*Reduce unnecessary movement, such as frequently getting out of a chair and moving around. This is distracting. Equally distracting is moving quickly or rushing around to gather material.
Hearing loss is more widespread, more gradual, and often is not acknowledged by seniors. Hearing problems are more difficult for a broker to discern. What are clues suggesting that a person may have hearing problems? Among them: leaning toward you, speaking in a loud voice, showing no reaction to questions, a lack of attention, or moving to position an ear closer.
Here are some techniques for brokers for dealing with seniors who might have hearing problems:
*Change your normal voice level. Speak in a slightly louder voice. Enunciate clearly, slowly, but not patronizingly. Speak in a lower-pitched voice.
*Speak in a logical sequence, in clear, short sentences and pause between sentences. Repeat or rephrase important points. Use word pictures to explain concepts and materials. Use gestures to clarify points. Don't change the topic abruptly.
*Keep your face visible, and make sure the person is looking at you. Sit at the same level as the person to make it easier to hear the words or read lips. Use shorter sentences.
In conclusion, retirees have become the primary client target of investment professionals. Older clients have many assets and significant planning needs. An awareness of the aging process and its effects can make selling investments to retirees more effective.
Mr. Sullivan is a Charlotte, N.C.-based consultant who advises financial services firms on marketing to senior citizens.