As lifespans increase, there is good chance that many of us will live into our 90s. This is going to create new avenues for wealth managers to make money. Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch Wealth Management is seeking to latch on to these opportunities.

“In 2014, the company convened multiple business lines for a strategic meeting. They reviewed the new demographic changes and asked leaders from each group to consider how longevity would impact their business and to identify needs and opportunities it created.

Initially, the company asked: “What is on people’s minds when they think about retirement?” Research projects and in-depth studies on the question produced a comprehensive framework for financial advisors that helped people get to and navigate through retirement. It is called the 7 Life Priorities. The program enhances the retirement planning by focusing well beyond just financial health to encompass all 7 major areas in which life priorities change in retirement: Family, work, health, home, giving, leisure, and, of course, finances.

New initiatives, research, tools, checklists, training, and education were also created to enhance the use of the new framework and the institution’s longevity strategy. The goal was to be sure each client and their advisor could address the simple question: “Are You Fit to Live to 100?””
The article describes the six program that Merrill has unveiled to capitalise on this opportunity:

“A Specially Trained Longevity Advisor Force: Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch Wealth Management hired the industry’s first financial gerontologist in 2014 to help the more than 14,000 financial advisors better understand the needs of their clients…The financial gerontologist, provides training, education, resources and one-on-one attention to engage clients on the topics of aging, longevity, retirement, and life planning….A supplemental training module on Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s disease was added recently, and a training program across different life stages has also been developed.

New Tools and Resources for Clients to Prepare for Longevity:…A Preparing for Longevity Checklist was created that outlines points to consider at every stage of retirement, including: Planning for the Future (ages 50-59); Medicare and Required Distributions, Social Security and Withdrawal Strategy (ages 60- 70 ½). Additional checklists and assessment tools were created, e.g., How Sound is Your Estate Plan? And What’s Your Investment Personality?…

Forums for Discussions on Longevity and Related Issues: Communities across the country have held meetings for clients, business, civic and nonprofit representatives to start dialogues about longevity and its impact on local communities….
Financial Education for Clients: …The company partnered with Khan Academy to create financial literacy videos and online resources, called Better Money Habits, on a broad range of topics, and including content focused on caregiving.

New Tools for the Unique Planning Needs of Women: In 2018, Merrill Lynch conducted research on women and financial wellness. It identified a $1 million wealth gap for women by the time they reach retirement, due to the wage gap and career interruptions, and on average longer lifespans than men. These findings led to a new initiatives, tools and checklists focused specifically on women’s life journeys, including parenting and elder caregiving. The research also found that women’s number one financial regret is not investing more of their money, so their financial advisors now plan with a goals-based approach that takes into account a woman’s longer lifespan and unique planning needs towards financial wellness.…

“Longevity will become the core organizing principle for all financial services companies,” according to Russ Hill, Chairman and CEO of Halbert Hargrove Global Advisors, a financial services industry expert. “It will be necessary for considerations of time,” as lifespan and health span will be the new paradigm.”

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