A veteran advisor might want to reconsider how they define what a family is. Because in the years they have been in practice, their clients' family dynamics may have changed.
The modern family comes in many different shapes and sizes, but there is a disconnect in the way advisors approach planning for them, according to a recent UBS Investor Survey titled Beyond the Picket Fence: Financial challenges of the modern American family.
A number of contemporary family issues an advisor might find themselves counseling clients through include the costs of divorce, children from multiple marriages, inheritance claims and very recently, legalized same sex marriage.
It's important to identify the specific set of challenges advisors can face when dealing with a variety of clients, UBS says.
"The main takeaway from my perspective is that advisors should be cognizant that many of their clients are not fitting into the definition of what we think of as a traditional family," says Ann Bjerke, senior wealth strategist at UBS' advanced planning group. "Especially among wealthy families, modern families are almost as common as traditional families."
Scroll below to see the study's findings along with some best practice tips for advisors, or see the slideshow version here. -- Maddy Perkins
How would you categorize your client's family?
It's no surprise that it's important to ask your client about their family the first time you sit down with them. But understanding your client's individual family dynamics will help you better assess your client's financial needs. Asking questions about marital status, children and family history can help paint a better picture of your client's family dynamics.
"When advisors are approaching all clients they should be determining what the family situation is of each client," says Bjerke. "Tailoring their advice to make sure they're addressing all of the concerns and complications that might be arising as a result of the client's specific family situation may be different than what we traditionally think of."
Modern families are almost as common as traditional families
Not only is the modern wealthy family evolving, but it's also become more common. According to the survey, there are nearly just as many modern families as traditional ones.
"The concern is that financial advisors are using a one-size-fits-all approach to how they advise families," says Bjerke. "They should be cognizant of the fact that these families and their clients are not fitting this traditional mold."
Blended families tend to have more complicated financial lives
With almost half of American marriages ending in divorce, blended families in particular have become the most common modern family type among high-net-worth investors, according to the study's findings. Respondents reported being in a blended family made life more complicated emotionally and financially. Often, children from multiple marriages can increase expenses and make parenting more difficult. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they worried their spouse's children from previous marriages did not fully accept them.
Same-sex couples need different advice
Advisors need to update their approach to same-sex couples following the Obergefell decision. Bjerke reminds advisors that it's important to understand the history of each same-sex couple you work with.
"Understanding the relationship that same sex couples have is critical, whether they've previously entered into a domestic partnership or whether they are married," she says. "If they're married, now they're treated under federal law and state law exactly the same as the hetero sexual couple. This makes it easier for planning for retirement planning, estate planning, income tax planning etc."
Bjerke adds it's also important to check and see if your client has been working with a tax advisor to get a look at the way they have been approaching income taxes specifically in previous years.
Multigenerational families struggle with competing financial priorities
Clients who are responsible for supporting adult family members often struggle to balance the financial needs of the whole family in addition to planning their own retirement. According to the survey, more than half of parents with adult children living in their home worry about maintaining their current financial situation and are less confident about retiring and being able to afford their own long-term care.