'Holistic' approach a shrewd strategy!

Dr. Amy D'Aprix, a Gerontologist has been hired by BMO as the new face of its retirement planning strategy to coach clients on retirement planning with a 'reality check'.

RBC's Lee Anne Davies is a PhD candidate, studying aging, health and wellness with a focus on "the economic determinants of of wel-being in retirment.

A personal note:

This puts BMO and RBC ahead of the Boomer financial retirement planning curve. Each of the lifestyle issues described by Dr.Amy including matters of health and long term care require money. Our need for capital requires a secure lifetime career. We are living a very long time - longer than ever.


Dan Zwicker


Dr. Amy D'Aprix wants you to know that she is not a banker.
But she is an expert on both the emotional and financial costs of getting old.

The 48-year-old gerontologist says baby boomers need a swift re­ality check-on what life is rea1y like after retirement.

"We have this myth that you have sort of entered nirvana and you are forever happy', D'Aprix said. "The truth is, a lot of people struggle with this."

That's why Bank of Montreal has taken the unusual step of hiring D'Aprix as a life-transition consul­tant to coach clients on retirement planning from a "holistic" lifestyle perspective.

D'Aprix - or Dr. Amy as she's known - does not flog financial products or investment strategies.

Instead, she hosts seminars across Canada and the United States urg­ing clients to "take charge" of their retirement by visualizing their fu­tures with a healthy dose of reality.

Other banks are also taking a new look at how they deal with the enor­mous population of baby boomers - as many as one in three Canadi­ans - who are fast approaching re­tirement age. And it's no wonder: the boomer gene:ration is expected to inherit a staggering $1 trillion be­tween 2009 and 2029, according to one estimate.

No wonder the banks are looking for new ways to serve them.

Royal Bank of Canada, for one, has taken a similar approach with Lee Anne Davies, who holds a master's degree in gerontology as well as an Exec­utive MBA, as head of retirement strategies.

The banks know that money is­sues are just one set of problems that retirees face.

Health problems, including de­pression, are often a reality for many retired people. If they are not sick themselves, many end up caring for a family member who is.

Then there are tough end-of-life choices, such as funeral arrange­ments and life support.

While all these issues take a fi­nancial toll, they are not top-of­-mind for most non-retirees - a staggering 81 percent of whom have no retirement savings, according to BMO.

D'Aprix, an author and public speaker with multimedia charisma, doesn't try to present herself as a financial guru.

''I'm not a banker, no. Absolutely not a banker, believe me," D'Aprix said with a chuckle. "It is weird, isn't it - in the best way possible. It's fascinating because clients love it."

We have this myth that you ... are forever happy. The truth is, a lot of people struggle with retirement.

She may not be a banker, but ''Dr Amy" is arguably a brand of her own. She holds a PhD in social work with a specialty in gerontology. She
also has her Certified Senior Advi­sor designation.

The yonngest of five, D'Aprix grew up outside of Albany, NY, and says her passion for gerontology is root­ed in her childhood
"My parents were older parents for the time, and I had neighbours who were in their 90s and other neighbours who were in their late 80s,' she said.

During the SARS crisis, she came to Toronto as a consultant for Nor­tel Networks and began her love affair with the city. She now lives in Leslieville.

"I would definitely say it was a Canadian first for a bank to hire a gerontologist and a life transition coach to run these types of work­shops and to design an approach to retirement that, I believe, is very unique;' said Caroline Dabu, vice­president, head of retirement, fi­nancial planning strategy, BMO Fi­nancial Group.

At RBC, Lee Anne Davies has been heading up retirement client strat­egy since late 2007. She is also cur­rently a PhD candidate, studying aging, health and wellness with a focus on "the economic determi­nants of well-being in retirement".

Holistic retirement planning may sound new age but it's a shrewd strategy shift for banks, which have traditionally used a stodgy, num­bers-based approach.

Most people, though, have diffi­culty visualizing the future, Dabu said. That makes them reluctant to give, up short-term rewards for long-term gain.
An amiable personality, like a Dr. Amy or a Lee Anne Davies, can make that planning exercise seem less tedious.

Given that most baby boomers will retire over the next 20 years, there is heightened competition for those clients.

"I would say the traditional ap­proach has been looking at retire­ment though a rose-coloured view. Like, 'Gee, I am going to golf six months of the year;" Dabu said.

"Even if you can afford to golf ev­ery day, we get them to realize that maybe that's not going to be so do­able even from a fulfilment per­spective".

D'Aprix also trains BMO's staff on having retirement conversations with clients. That includes broach­ing sensitive topics such as the financial realities of aging.

BMO's strategy has already result­ed in a "significant increase" in as­sets and new clients,
Dabu said, de­clining to provide specifics.

D'Aprix has held about 40 semi­nars so far this year. At least 50 more are booked for 20ll Up to 300 people attend a session.
"The financial and non-financial are hand in glove. You can't separate them," she said

In explaining her approach, D'Aprix notes retirement finances largely hinge on basics like who cli­ents plan to spend their time with.

She also asks them to assess whether they will have sufficient social support, such as help with errands and medical appointments.

"We know that if you have good social support as you age, research shows that you live longer and you live healthier both mentally and physically;' observed D'Aprix. "And you are less likely to end up in a nursing home."

Next, clients are asked to think about what they plan to do to "sus­tain meaning" in their daily lives. One exercise involves filling out a blank 30-day calendar.

Other considerations include where a person plans to live. Snow­birds, for instance, have real-estate issues, tax implications and health insurance costs.
She also asks people to develop a backup plan should they or a loved one run into health problems.

That includes a frank discussion of taboo subjects like depression, which is particularly a concern for men who leave the workforce, D'Aprix said.

Alcoholism is another key health
concern. "We know that a third of seniors who drink abusively didn't start doing so until retirement," she added.

According to the Certified Gener­al Accountants Association of Can­ada, more than half of a person's lifetime health care expenses arise after 65.

People, however, also drastically underestimate the possibility that they might end up as caregivers to a sick parent, D'Aprix said.

Providing care is often over­whelming. In fact, a recent study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that one in six caregivers experiences "distress:'

D'Aprix knows how hard it can be.
She spent nearly a decade looking after her ailing parents before they died.
"My mother was quite disabled for almost eight years before she passed," she said. ''It has emotional, practical and financial implications
in people's lives. And people don't understand that"

Rita Trichur

Business Reporter

Toronto Star

Business & Careers



Experts warn these assumptions don't apply to everyone:

  • I need $1 million to retire

  • I can rely on my company's pen­sion plan

  • CPP will be enough

  • I'll need 70-80 per cent of my pre-retirement income

  • I'll use 4-5 per cent of my savings each year when retired

  • I need to work long past age 65

Source: Bank of Montreal

The above assumptions reflect an outdated model.

The original model did not include a 30 - 40 year retirement horizon.

The assumptions must be validated on an individual basis.

Dan Zwicker, CFP


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