Financial Advisors for Elders
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Financial Advisors for Elders
Can anyone recommend a great, not too expensive, financial planner
to help a soon-to-be senior make a plan for her nest egg? My almost
60 year old mother is selling the family house to downsize. She has
no retirement account and works part-time with no extra for
savings, so the house is her retirement. We would like it to last
for the next several decades (her mother is still going strong in
her mid-80s, and her grandmother lived past 100).
We would like someone experienced with working with independent
senior women, who can help her make a budget and set realistic
expectations about what she can afford long-term. She currently
lives quite a bit above her means (with the help of various family
members who are sick of being treated like bank accounts) and
although she seems to know that this can't continue, she can't
figure out how to adjust her lifestyle accordingly.
Prefer someone near Walnut Creek or Berkeley, but will travel for
the right person. Thanks!
Need to make mom's money last
I highly recommend Daniel Jew of Edward Jones. He works with
a number of women in that age group, has given me wonderful
advice and support, and is great at communicating around
sensitive and often confusing issues. He also helps his
clients make really good and appropriate decisions. His
office is on Grand Ave. in Oakland (490) and phone number is
Greg Bernhardt in Clayton near Concord has made some extremely wise
investments for my parents. My father recently passed away and Greg has
kindly answered all my questions, concerns and has given me some very sound
advice regarding their finances and he isn't even charging me for his help.
My parents, now mom, receive a nice monthly income because Greg believes in
conservative investing and set them up well. I highly recommend him. He is
honest, patient and knows what is out there and will help steer you away from
what is not good out there. anon
My father died recently and was the financial planner/investor in the family. My
mother has been left with the good fortune of having more than enough funds
for herself but is totally ignorant and unable to manage her money. She is naive
and seems to think that my brother can manage the assets even though he has
NO experience (and no money of his own). She is also extremely cheap and
doesn't appear to want to hire professionals to do so. My brother has the
unfortunate combination of naivete and arrogance about his ability to do so- not
a good combination. I am not good at money management but at least I
recognize this and want to get professionals involved. My mother is
overwhelmed and because she is cheap, she is surrendering herself to my
brother's offer to manage the assets (stock portfolio)- help!
Any advice about how to approach my mother?
Any recommendations for a good financial adviser? Please no self-solicitations!
troubled and anxious about $
I'm financially sophisticated, but when my mom became
incapable of handling her finances and I had to take over, I
hired a ''fee-only'' financial planner to do a plan for her.
It covered her projected expenses as well as suggesting an
appropriate investment portfolio. The fee-only part is key,
because otherwise you get somebody whose motivation is to
sell you investments.
I've interviewed a few and worked with two - by far the best
one is Peggy Cabiness
My mom is cheap too, but also she was at the time in her
life where she was trying to avoid new and confusing
activities. I basically bullied her into agreeing. One
argument I used was that having a professional plan
protected me from being sued by siblings if the investments
make her do it
I think you put far too much faith in financial advisers.
Managing assets is not rocket science and no one can
foretell the future. I am guessing that if your brother is
reasonably intelligent, and willing to educate himself, he
can do as well as 99% of financial advisers. In fact, he can
probably do better than a financial adviser if he charges
less than they do. The really clear thing is that your mom
is frugal and doesn't want to pay to have her money managed.
Since no problems have come up, why not honor her wishes?
Why not learn about investments together? Get some magazine
and books and read up on different ways to invest, discuss
the possibilities, and make decisions together. That way you
will all be less naive. If you all decide in the end to get
an adviser, you will be more knowledgeable about what to
I recently met with this woman and found her very helpful,
straight forward and thoughtful. She's a senior herself
which gave me more confidence that she understood my
situation, questions and concerns. Her name is Mary Grodin,
Grodin Financial Services, phone: 510. 357.3715, email:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Her office is in San Leandro.
Let me know if you have other questions about her services.
When we were searching for a financial advisor for
ourselves, one of the people I spoke with was Susan
Gavrich, whose business is called Moneywell Financial
Planning. They're in Alameda, and I recall she specializes
in situations exactly like your mother's -- helping women
dealing with new financial responsibilities, whether as a
result of widowhood, divorce, etc. So she might be a very
good fit for your mom, and really be able to communicate
with her. I was very impressed with her, and think she'd
really understand your mom's situation and needs for the
future. If you go to moneywell.com, her contact
information is there. She is focussed on people with a
larger asset pool that we had (you mentioned your mom was
well situated), which is why we didn't go with her
ourselves. We use Sara Ellefsen of Golden Gate Financial
Planning, in San Francisco, and really like her. She can
be reached at (415) 344-0549. I'd definitely go with
someone fee-based, rather than with someone affiliated with
one of the big firms (EJones, Ameriprise) or otherwise on
commission. It can be a big chunk up front, or as a
percentage of assets, but can really pay off in the long
run. Good luck to you, and I'm sorry for the loss of your
Straight off, let me tell you that I may not answer your
question directly but perhaps some of my experiences may be
helpful. Also, I am not an investment professional so take
my advice with a grain of salt. Assuming that your mother is
no longer generating any income other than social security
(make sure to inquire about survivor's benefits for her from
Social Security) and the income from her investments, it is
rather important that you guys get her into investments that
will not be subject to market volatility. Generally that
means cash and fixed income. Now, the reality of the market
is that the yields for these are pathetic but at least
principal is protected. An area where yields are still good
are municipal bonds which are debt issued by states and
municipalities. Probably good to avoid very long durations
(2 years) The only problem there is that, as you know from
the news, a lot of municipalities are distressed. This will
require some reading but that is not impossible. What is
unrealistic is expecting that you will outperform the stock
market. To think otherwise is to put your mother's welfare
at risk. One final set of thoughts: make sure that your
mother has a Power of Attorney in place for health care and
an Advance Directive. Her doctor's office should have some
boiler plate on this and you will not need an attorney. Make
sure that she has a will in place at minimum, a trust if it
makes sense to minimize her probate exposure. Finally, she
should consider a general power of attorney so that her
bills can get paid should she become incapacitated. Good luck.
My financial advisor works very well with elderly people.
She has knowledge and compassion. The fee is deducted from
the investments so there is no out of pocket charge. I
highly recommend Lan Shaw of Edward Jones. She can be
reached at 704-8854 in Berkeley.
Hi there! Such a tough situation that we are seeing more and
more of.... Please try Lan Shaw with Edward Jones. She has a
warm, solution-oriented approach and can be reached by phone
at 510-704-8854 (office) or by email:
email@example.com. Good luck!
Stephanie Huie, Senior Helpers Berkeley Office
I have a simple solution for you, and I hope the fact that I
have a background in wealth management lends credence to
this suggestion....you don't necessarily need anything
fancy, and kudos to your mom for being ''cheap''. Many
investors suffer poor returns largely as a result of
overpaying for advice, commissions, etc.
Use Vanguard. Vanguard is one of the largest and most
respected fund companies, and most importantly, it is owned
by its investors....this allows it to provide some of the
least expensive mutual funds available. Vanguard focuses on
very efficient, inexpensive index investments (i.e, just
buying the whole market, bypassing expensive
security-picking, which generally winds up underperforming
the broad market anyway) but they have many excellent
actively managed funds as well.
If I've already lost you...never fear. One of the most
appealing options is simply to use one of Vanguard's ''All in
One Funds''. These funds are each designed to be
appropriate for a specific investor class; for example, your
mom could use the ''Retirement'' portfolio...the most
conservative. It includes about 65% in broad bond index
investments, 30% in global stocks, and 5% in cash. And get
this...expenses are 0.18% Yes, you read that right...less
than one fifth of one percent! Compare that to an advisor
who could easily charge you five times as much. The all
in one fund automatically rebalances...so if stocks go up,
for example, Vanguard trims them back and adds the proceeds
to the bonds and cash...this ensures that you ''buy low, sell
high'' without you having to do a thing. Your mom can
literally buy this one fund, never make another investment
decision the rest of her life, and be assured of
outperforming the vast majority of all active funds,
investment advisors, etc...mostly because of the ultra low
As to your brother...that's another matter. Ideally he
shouldn't touch the money of course, but perhaps as a
concession to family harmony, if he throws a fit, your mom
could give him 5% of her portfolio to manage, with clear
instructions on her risk tolerance, etc. If he turns out to
be the next Warren Buffett, well your mom can rethink things.
If you have further questions, I'd be happy to answer in an
entirely un-self-promotional way. Good luck.
My elder mother-in-law has recently expressed anxiety about managing
her finances and is ready for some help in this area. I'm not sure
exactly what kind of service would be best for her and would welcome
advice in that area as well as recommendations of specific people. She
has plenty of money that she and her husband put into a trust before
he died a few years ago. Most of the money is in CDs and treasury
bonds. Since he handled most of their finances, her knowledge about
where things are seems a little shaky, and she has little knowledge
about how things are doing. My husband has looked at some documents
that indicate she is letting CDs expire and rollover without any real
management. She is also concerned that there could be some accounts
that may be sitting dormant, which we know can be a problem. She would
like someone who can look at the trust, help inventory the assets, and
perhaps provide some help in managing the assets. I'm not sure if that
person would need to be an attorney (the one who did the trust has
since retired) or just a financial management professional. My MIL is
pleasant and cooperative but can be a little confused at times (ask
the same question two different ways, and you're likely to get two
different answers), so someone who patient and experienced dealing
with seniors would be essential. She's a worrier, so alleviating her
anxiety is a significant part of this equation. Thanks for your help.
For help with your finances for your mother in law, she'll
love DeYoe Wealth Management (510) 848-0012. They are so
helpful, knowledgeable and they will be able to simplify
and make it easy for your MIL. I've been with them for 5
years now and they will make you and your mother in law
feel like family. Ask for either Jonathan DeYoe or John
I work with Lan Shaw of Edward Jones in Berkeley on Allston
Way. She is extremely patient and goes out of her way to
explain things. She has taken more time with me than I feel
I deserve. I know that she also has a focus of working with
elderly clients as she's told some stories about issues
she's dealt with. Her number is 704 8854 and email is
A well-cared for investor
I'd like to recommend Julie Asti of Asti Financial Management. She is a
advisor, and I'm extremely happy with the work she has done for me. She can
look over your mother-in-law's financial situation, discuss the situation with
her and with you, and help make recommendations to organize your MIL's
You can email Julie (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone her at 510-558-8557.
To start, I recommend that you talk to Scott Durcanin at Charles Schwab in San
Francisco: 415.667.6218. (He may have a counterpart at the Schwab office in
Berkeley, but we have been very happy with Scott.) His advice is free and he
help you assess the situation and decide what level of management your
mother-in-law needs, if any. There are various levels of service (some free,
some not) available at Schwab (assuming she becomes a client) and he can also
recommend a list of outside advisors that best suit her needs and style,
including how hands-on she wants to be. Through Scott my husband and I
interviewed several private managers (who keep their company accounts at
Schwab) and put some assets at CSI Capital Management in SF. However, we
did not want to put all of our assets under management, and Scott offers
suggestions about the rest. I believe that with treasury bills and CDs, one
Schwab's own services would likely be sufficient, but Scott could best advise
that. He's also a nice guy.
Susan of Berkeley
A basic starting question would be: do the assets need to
be used now (to live on), later (retirement), or never (to
pass on to heirs). If there is a need for an estate
planning attorney or CPA, he has a number of people he
generally works with who he knows and trusts.
I highly recommend that you talk with any advisor you are
considering working with and ask a lot of questions about
the recommendations you get - especially with the ''shaky
knowledge'' of your MIL - to make sure she is not being taken
Greg Guardiano at DA Financial in Lafayette is great with
seniors, very patient and caring. His number is 925-254-7100.
I can whole-heartedly recommend Samantha Dinh with Edward
Jones in Montclair. She has many elderly clients and
besides being extremely knowledgeable about money, she is
warm, sympathetic, & understanding about the problems of
aging & finances. My husband is in his 70s, was very fearful
& resistant to change around money until I introduced him to
Samantha. Her phone number is 339-1840, and I can assure
you that you will be glad you got to know her.
My mother saw a financial advisor but that person did not
specialize in elders' issues; my brother is in charge...
Long story. I suggest consulting w/ elder care attorney
who can guide you w/o any financial benefit. Maybe there
is some sort of professional accrediation for financial
advisors who specialize in this area. So many people don't
plan ahead for the ''rainy day.'' Where I work at the
hospital, I have to tell their adult kids/spouses (usually)
that THIS IS the rainy day. Hopefully, they've saved and
have good social support.
You can call or write to California Advocates for Nursing
Home Reform - www.canhr.org or Family Caregiver Alliance -
www.caregiver.org -for local referrals.
As a geriatric specialist I know these two agencies to be
premier in the area of referral and family caregiver/elder
My elderly parents live independently in Berkeley. They want to stay in their longtime home but it is becoming difficult. I am looking for a reasonably priced professional to help the family sort out their finances to see what they can afford in terms of in-home care or assisted living, whether we should refinance the mortgage or sell the house, and how to consolidate their investments, file taxes and plan for long-term care, estate planning, etc. It seems like a mix between a financial planner, an accountant and a lawyer familiar with real estate and estate planning matters. Is there such a person in the East Bay?
Ask Family Caregiver Alliance in San Francisco for information. I
believe they can refer you to someone. You need an assessment of
their needs as well as finances--a long-term strategy.
phone: (415) 434.3388, (800) 445.8106
My 87-year old mother lives alone in what was the family home.
She's generally competent and alert, though both her memory and
her common sense are waivering. She did a very good job as
money manager for the family, the result of which is that she
now has a fair amount left over. She has increasingly been
agreeing to sales presentations for mortgages, energy-efficient
windows, ''lifetime'' exterior painting, etc. She thinks that
she's doing this for the ''free stuff'' (she has 4 George
Foreman grills stacked in a closet), but she is quite
vulnerable to the cleverness of financial predators and their
advance guard, telemarketers. Last year, she re-financed her
house 3 times, forfeiting $60k in pre-payment penalties and
closing costs and winding up with a 7.5% rate, when she's well
qualified for much better. The situation is becoming alarming
and we're beginning to think that we're going to have to do
something proactively. We'd welcome thoughts on how to limit
the damage she can do herself. For many reasons, we can't
consider conservatorship. Thanks for your help.
''Do Not Call'' fan
I am a care manager for older adults (clients mostly in Marin). A few
things come to mind. First, it sounds like your mom may be using the
telemarketers as part of her social structure. I would look at
programs and events (lectures) that would get her engaged. Second,
can you change her phone number and get her bills forwarded to you?
At the very least I would screen her mail if at all possible. Get
your name on all of her accounts. Can you also get on the title of
her house? That would slow people down. When is the last time she
went to her doctor? Has she been diagnosed with memory loss? Does she
listen to her doctor? Can you get him/her to help? I would be happy
to brainstorm with you (no charge of course). You are not alone and
there are a lot of creative ways to help. Helping in these situations
is exactly why I picked this job!
There are CPAs who specialize in ''Eldercare''- check out
aicpa.org- they may have a referral database, that or the
California Society of CPAs. From what I understand, they can
serve as a financial intermediary- where your mom would still
have her financial independence but also a 3rd party with
integrity to bounce things off of. They can even handle all
bill paying, etc. This could also be a good step towards
shoring things up for her future years and/or estate planning.
Not sure how amenable she'll be to the conversation, but check
a couple of the CPAs out, see which one you think would be a
good fit, and see what they recommend as an approach. Here are
a couple of good articles:
Another suggestion is the scare tactic. You can express
concern for her safety, or the approach that ''you worked so
hard to save what you've saved, you don't want to lose it to a
swindler- you deserve better''
A CPA but not in this area!
Sounds like a serious matter. I have a friend whose father LOST the
family home recently for similar reasons. He was taken for a ride and
invested all his money to a swindler who told him not to tell his
family because family members, he claimed, were only interested in
their inheritance and not in investment of his money. Do you have
other siblings who could support you in being more pro-active with
your mom? Could you take away her phone use? Perhaps it's time to
think about assisted care for her. My parents are 83 and they are in
a progressive care situation already.
Many older people are vulnerable to solicitors of all sorts
because they are lonely, and thus welcome the attention with its
opportunity for conversation and company.
How about getting her a live-in companion since it sounds like
she could afford it? That could short-circuit some of her
vulnerability, and one of the the companion's jobs could be to
My parents are getting ready to retire, and are trying to
figure out exactly when to stop working, when to begin drawing
down their state and private pension(s) and social security,
how to diversify their stock holdings in their 401K, and what
the tax implications for all that will be...... and they are
asking me what to do and there is NO WAY I am going to try and
guess at what would be right for them. So I am trying to help
them find a financial planner. We are interested in a **FEE
BASED** rather than commission based financial advisor that has
the Certified Financial Planner designation, that really
specializes in retirement planning, evaluating various pension
options, social security issues, and tax implications, etc. Any
ideas??? People to call?? Thanks in advance for your help!
Carmen Cheung with Mass Mutual Financial Group does the kind of
financial planning that you are looking for. She specializes in working
with retirement planning. I would recommend her, not based on
personal experience with her work, but through knowing her and having
confidence in her integrity. ccheung[at]finsvcs.com or 415 743-1002
I highly recommend you call Jarrett Topel in Oakland. He
specializes in retirement planning, is a CFP, and was a tax
preparer before that, so he is very knowledgeable in those
areas. I believe his first meeting is free, and we were also
looking for a fee based planner, which is how he works. His
number is 510-655-4400. Good luck
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