In this episode, Victor covers the 10 questions you should ask your financial advisor, and an interview with John Walsh of Senior Solutions, a company that specializes in helping seniors and their families downsize as they get older.
Make It Last with Victor Medina is hosted by Victor J. Medina, an estate planning and Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA®) and Certified Financial Planner™ professional (CFP). Through his law firm and independent registered investment advisory company, Victor provides 360º Wealth Protection Strategies for individuals in or nearing retirement.
For more information about Walsh Senior Solutions, visit this link.
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Victor Medina: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Make It Last. I’m your host, Victor Medina. I’m so glad you can join us this Saturday morning. Last week, we talked about “Continuing Care Retirement Communities.”
If you missed that show, I’m urging you to go back and listen to it. You can find all of our shows on iTunes. You can go to Spotify, and that’s Episode 64.
I talked about Continuing Care Retirement Communities as a solution for somebody who’s getting a little older and thinking about how to make sure that their next move might be their last move, and they can stay there all the way through any health crisis that might come along.
There’s a question that comes with that. That’s what you should do with your stuff. What you’re going to be moving into, it’s going to be very different than where you came from.
Thankfully, I’ve got a guest today. His name is John Walsh and he’s the founder of Walsh Senior Solutions. He’s going to join us a little bit later in the show talking about what to do with your stuff. He’s got a lot of experience because he’s done this with his family once already.
Then he’s got a company that helps doing this. We’re going to touch on a lot of topics that may be overlooked as you deal with this transition. Maybe it’s not you that’s going to be dealing with this. Maybe it’s a family member that’s going to be helping with you, maybe a child. It’s going to be important. I think you’re really going to enjoy a lot about that particular topic when we get to it.
Before we do that, I want to spend the first segment giving you 10 questions I think you should ask your advisor. Here’s my belief. I believe that money doesn’t have to be complicated. I’m going to give you these 10 questions, but at the end of the day, anybody that you work with should be somebody on a mission to deliver trust, transparency, and accountability in any advice that you’re giving.
As a trusted advisor, when I’m working with my own clients, I’m there equipping them with the tools they need to make educated decisions regarding their financial future. I spent a lot of time breaking down what we’re going to be doing and why, so that clients aren’t just handing over this blind trust into whatever I’m recommending.
They see what’s going on. They’ve pulled it apart. They agree with what we’re going to be doing, then they’re moving forward with it. Most of our clients walk away with the ability to describe, in detail, the plan that we put together and why to their neighbor. That’s important because, again, we want them empowered by the education that we’re going to be giving them.
I came up with about 10 questions that I think are going to be important. If you’ve got a notepad and pencil, these are going to be important for you to ask any financial advisor that you’re going to talk to that might be helping you manage your money. Let’s go through them.
Our first question is one of the most important, which is fee transparency. You want to ask the advisor how they get paid for the investments they’re recommending. Do some of the investments pay more than others?
Are they paid on commissions on the investments or on any other products, or do they receive any payments from the mutual funds or investment companies they recommend? Aside from what you’re going to be paying them, what other costs are going to be incurred, including expense ratios that are on those specific investments?
You want a full, transparent look at all of the fees that are going to be going on with your investments, not just to your advisor, but within the investments themselves.
The next question has to do with, what is their regulatory presence in the financial world? Specifically, you’re going to ask them whether or not they’re a fiduciary.
I have hit this so many times in the show, because it’s one of the most important things that you can do is make sure that you’ve got safeguards that help you be protected from anybody that’s going to be doing something wrong with your money. Either because they’re not giving you the best advice, or because there’s going to be some access to that.
I can give you an example here. In our account, we don’t have any authority to send any money to a third party. The client has a sign off in a very particular piece of paper if they want us to send any specific money. It’s a one‑time letter of authorization.
The only people that we can send money to is the client themselves at their address of record. That’s a regulatory protection that’s there to make sure that your money is safe along the way.
Next question you want to go to is, what licenses or certification credentials are included in what the team is bringing, or what the financial advisor is bringing?
In our world, and not only do I have a CFP and a designation for retirement income planning called an RICP, but I’m also an attorney and I’ve got a certified elder law designation. From that perspective, those are the credentials that I’m bringing in the certain amount of experience.
Next question might be, what kind of proactive communications? How frequently are you going to be communicating with me, if you’re the client asking them? Do you proactively send out decisions that you’re going to be making within the account?
We do very, very little training in terms of things coming in and out. Most of it’s rebalancing, so I’m not an advisor that’s going to come in with a hot, new, great idea that you should be using, but something to think about.
Next question, question number five, is the access to information. You want to figure out what kind of information about the investments you’re recommending, how is that available? Can you make some independent inquiries or be able to look at that on your own?
When we set up accounts, they’re all managed at Schwab. We give people access to go and look at that at any time, basically do anything that they want.
Next question is for personalized service. What kind of services are they going to be offering? What does the team look like? What additional things are they going to be doing with their education pieces or perks or whatever else?
Question number seven is investment philosophy. You want to have them tell you in the simplest terms what the investment approach is. In our world, we believe in evidence‑based investing. We believe that capital markets work over the long haul. We believe there’s a difference between accumulation strategies and deaccumulation strategies.
We believe that protecting principal is the most important thing that we can do when we start to enter retirement. From that perspective, that’s a quick way of looking at our investment philosophy. Your advisor should be able to do something similar.
Next question is on a client profile. Who is your ideal client? How many clients do you take on a year? For us, our ideal client is really somebody that’s at or nearing retirement. We help in that area.
We wouldn’t necessarily be the best financial advisor for somebody that’s trying to accumulate assets, or do education funding, or debt reduction, or anything like that. We really focus on the retirement space and making sure that we can help make it last.
Last two questions are real quick in terms of client experience and succession. You want to really get a good idea about what the philosophy is to client service and how they ensure that each client receives personal and professional service on every level.
We try to respond to all of our inquiries within a 24‑hour period. I’m always there available for people. That’s what they’re paying for is their access to me and our team.
Within the succession role, you want to make sure that there is a plan in place in case something happens to that particular advisor. For us, of course, my wife has orders, [laughs] for lack of a better term, to take any of the insurance proceeds and other money that I’ve left behind and keep them invested with the firm along the philosophy.
I believe in it so strongly that this is what I want for me and my family. You want an advisor that obviously believes the same. What’s going to happen if something were to happen to their financial advisor? What’s the succession plan? We’ve got one here in the firm and you’re going to want to make sure that your advisor is doing it as well.
Those are really 10 quick questions that I think you should be asking any advisor that you’re going to be interviewing. You’re going to look for those answers. I’ve just given you some of mine as a way to compare those with other people, but you’re going to figure out the ones that are best for you. It’s extremely important to do this homework when you’re going to be choosing a wealth advisor.
Victor: You’re going to be looking for somebody that directly answers these questions. You need to have some detailed documented proof of all the stuff that they’re going to be telling you about. Just don’t take their word for it. Get the information.
When we come back, I’m going to have our special guest John Walsh from Walsh Senior Solutions. Stick with us. We’ll be right back on Make It Last.
Victor: Welcome back to Make It Last. I’m joined today by John Walsh, the Founder and the President of Walsh Senior Solutions. Thank you for joining me today, John.
John Walsh: Thank you, Victor. Good to be here.
Victor: Listen, John, I wanted to bring you onto the show because you’ve got a unique business that you have in terms of helping people. Why don’t you describe it? Tell us a little bit about what Walsh Senior Solutions is and what you do.
John: We are the only senior move management business located in Mercer County that’s part of a National Association of Senior Move Managers. What we do is help seniors and their families through the entire downsizing and decluttering process.
Where that comes about is seniors, certainly those of the baby boomer generation, are getting older and continue to live in houses that might be a bit too big for them or not the right space for them. It comes a situation where either a financial issue or health issue drives a reason to move out of that house.
Essentially, seniors then a lot of times ask their adult children to get involved or the adult children see an issue, whether it’s a health issue or something else, that they need to support their parents through that process.
While they have very busy careers and likely kids and very busy weekends as well, they have to find time to help their parents through this process. It comes very overwhelming for the entire family.
You have a lot of homes that seniors have been living in for a number of decades and they have a lot of excess possessions as we like to call them. There becomes a point in time where essentially a project plan needs to be put in place about what are we going to do, and how are we going to find profitable solutions to mom and dad’s excess possessions.
How are we going to help them through this process of downsizing and moving forward in their lives to a smaller home? Whether it’s something that they rent or own, or something if they’re transitioning into senior living community, whether independent living or assisted living or nursing care.
Victor: My basement is full of my parents’ extra possessions from at least the few moves that they had. How did you get started doing this?
John: It actually started about three years ago. I had a 15‑year career in risk and insurance. I was living in New York City. My sister who’s three years older, she’s a nurse practitioner down in Philadelphia.
We were both an hour drive or so from my parents in our childhood home of Princeton. My mom is in early 70s as is my dad. My sister and I saw some deteriorating health issues with both of them and came to a point where it was severe enough that we got them diagnosed and got them the right medical care.
Through that, we did learn that, unfortunately, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, my dad with Parkinson’s. Through that experience, it was an opportunity for my sister Jane and I to step back and really help my parents through this difficult stage in their lives.
They’re living in a home that is three stories and a basement that they were living in for 20 years that they wanted to retire in. With the health issues, they didn’t really need a house that big. As we all know, with the new tax plan in New Jersey, and certainly Mercer County taxes continue to increase.
They didn’t need to be spending that type of money in that type of home. As they looked forward, my sister and I called a family meeting about three years ago. We addressed a number of financial and health issues and questions that we had.
Through that process, which was, as you can understand, quite difficult to do, certainly, as the adult children, we got a lot of answers. Then, we were able to put a project plan in place. That’s really where the next step came from.
“Mom and dad, you need or want to continue to live in this house? How are we going to move you to a smaller home or rental or as you look toward the future?” My sister has two grandchildren outside of Philadelphia. I was in the process of…
Victor: Let’s be clear, your sister has children that are your parents’ grandchildren?
Victor: Just wanted to make sure.
John: A six‑year‑old and four‑year‑old. My wife and I were getting married during that time as well. It was very hectic for my sister and I. We wanted to make sure that my parents are getting the right medical care.
Also, that we wanted to help them through this process. I took the lead in terms of utilizing some of my natural leadership abilities and skill set of project management. A part of downsizing is you have a lot of balls in the air that you’re juggling as well.
In my old career, I was doing a lot of global insurance programs, but there’s a lot of you’re hurting cats through a certain extent. What we came about is we wanted to create profitable solutions for all my parents’ excess possessions.
Victor: Tell me a little bit more about that. That’s a phrase I think really kind of lands. What does it mean to have a profitable solution for excess possessions?
John: There’s a number of them. We found out that they had a storage unit that had some items in. Once we took a full inventory of all their possessions and we found where they’re going to be moving to, we created a floor plan by measuring all their items, getting the floor plan of the future home.
Then we’re like, “What are your most cherished possessions?” Then make sure that those were going to the future home. Then you had this decision tree of the excess possessions. A lot of them, we brought to local consignment stores.
My parents had lived in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was born in Brazil. We had some antiques from various places around the world that we had to find some local resources to bring in, which was pretty interesting to do that.
There’s the entire donation process as well, whether calling in Vietnam Vets or bringing things to home front down in Trenton. There’s certainly the online selling process as well that is so popular with whether it’s eBay or Let Go or things like that.
All those possible solutions become overwhelming for seniors because you’re essentially…then you have to call a mover. You have to call Vietnam Vets. Essentially, you make a number of phone calls, which is difficult to manage, which I, essentially, begin performing the role of a senior move manager. Helping my parents without knowing that, actually, the role of the senior move manager existed.
Victor: You knew that that was your title at the time.
John: [laughs] It was the unpaid title. Doing some research online, I was connected through this association called the National Association of Senior Move Managers. It’s essentially the national association of realtors for senior movers.
It’s nationwide. It’s based in Illinois. They’ve over a thousand members. It’s growing phenomenally. About 15 percent increase in membership per year as boomers continue to grow, and that age group.
Through the training, the insurance and the bonding that I received from that, I looked at my former career and I looked ahead. I was like, “I want to help seniors and want to make this a transition for them easier than it was for my sister and my family.”
Victor: Did you find a natural affinity for that work though because you had done it before in terms of the organizational stuff? Not just the altruistic wanting to help other people, but it fit you?
John: Absolutely. I was helping my parents and helping some of their friends through that process without…This is before I launched an actual business. I was getting a lot of personal benefit and gain from that.
I saw a potential career going forward to help those in the local area, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania through this process that at some point will happen to every family. For my sister and I, where life touched us on the shoulder pretty quickly and there are some reversals in roles of children and parents.
Learning that whole life and learning more about the elder care community as well with me being a risk insurance, my sister being in healthcare, it was a white space for us in the elder care space. Utilizing the skill set that I have plus the knowledge that I’ve gained over the past couple of years to help families in the area, it was certainly a benefit for sure.
Victor: Sure. Now when we come back, I want to talk a little bit more about some of the struggles that you encountered. Not just dealing with your parents, but also knowing what exists for seniors as well.
I loved the idea that the concept of profitable solutions get not just being money, but the joy that comes from contacting something, some organization like the vets or something like that. I want a little bit more about what some of those options are.
Victor: Stick with us. When we come back with Make It Last, we’ll continue with John Walsh from Walsh Senior Solutions talking about a senior move management and what you can do or look forward to doing if you’re dealing with somebody in your family that is facing a long‑term care crisis and needs to figure out how to get out of their home.
If you just need these resources on your own to figure it out. If it happens to you, what does that actually mean? Stick with us. We’ll be right back on Make It Last.
Victor: Welcome back to Make It Last. I’m here today with John Walsh with Walsh Senior Solutions. He’s the Founder and the President. He’s going to share a little bit about his story about how he arrived in this industry as the only senior move manager in Mercer County. Of course, it started with his own family, he was sharing with us.
John, when we took a break, you had just mentioned a little bit about some of the struggles about the steps that were needed. It sounded like your parents weren’t either aware or capable of handling all of the administrative stuff. Maybe even who to contact and how to do that.
Do you find that that’s common with seniors out there, that they don’t know what resources are available out there to help them with this move that they’re going to need to make?
John: Absolutely. I’ve seen, though, a lot of town have senior resource centers just like Princeton does. Some seniors are hesitant to get involved with that or look into that because they’re scared about their future or might be scared about what is currently going on and they don’t really want to address it.
The adult children as well might be hesitant because, although they might be local to their parents and see them often or they might be away from their parents and only see them seldomly, they don’t want to address what is currently going on.
Once a family meeting was called by our family, then we actually put some next steps in place. Through that process we learned by doing some basic Google searches and asking friends, some doctors, and things in the area.
We started with bringing in a geriatric care manager who came into my parent’s home while my sister and I were there, asked a whole number of questions in terms of health, evaluated my parent’s ability to ambulate. From there, there was some care recommendations coming from that, which is helpful.
We were then connected to an elder care attorney which started some of the legal process, which is very important and critical through the senior care. Through that we updated my parent’s wills. Which, I would say, step number one.
Then step number two is we started the process of, certainly, with my sister being in healthcare, she was deemed the healthcare directive trustee. Me having an MBA in Finance and Marketing, I became the financial trustee. A lot of it became handling their finances.
Then, it became a step further off if they do want to downsize, are they able to live independently? Who makes that decision? As well is a tough one because obviously seniors would like to remain independent ideally.
We did look at, we first called A Place for Mom, which a lot of people know about. It’s a senior care and navigation company. We then also contacted Oasis Senior Advisors. There’s a franchise here in New Jersey which covers all the counties in New Jersey.
Through that, we provided them some information about my parents. They have the ability to look at some religious affiliated communities for seniors care. Some that are close to a golf course. It goes down to that level of detail. Through that legal process with the elder care attorney, it was very helpful because my sister and I became successor powers of attorney.
Then through that we ultimately listed my parents’ house, but the amount of work that had to be done by my sister and I decluttering the house and funding those profitable solutions.
Certainly, for my parents, a lot of that became passing forward men’s and women’s clothing. In terms of local resources beyond Vietnam Vets and Salvation Army, there are usually a lot of local resources in whatever area you are.
Specifically, in Mercer County, there’s one called Dress for Success which deals with female clothing but helps females that are either reentering the workforce or maybe don’t have the proper clothing to go on their first job interview. It becomes an altruistic way to pass forward excess possessions.
Then, it became a step of now that we have the wills updated as the successor powers of attorney, we started to look for where their next home will be. Then, we brought in a realtor once the house was visually decluttered, so we can take some professional photographs.
The amount of work that we’d done allowed us to only have the house on the market for about 20 days before we got a great offer that was ultimately accepted.
Then, it became we were looking for the next home. This was about a year and a half ago. They were able to transition to a smaller rental townhouse still in Princeton.
With my dad developing Parkinson’s and no longer driving. It became a situation of, do they want to still live in New Jersey? Do they want to maybe move to Pennsylvania to be closer to their grandchildren? There was some big family discussions with that.
That’s were having an elder care attorney was very helpful as there were, obviously, some big tax implications between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Throughout some new tax changes with Trump and his presidency. Ultimately, my parents decided to become Pennsylvania residents and, ultimately, live about three or four miles from their grandchildren.
Victor: I think that you have in your parent’s story outlined where all of the steps of the senior move manager can be helpful when you’re playing that role all the way through.
One topic I wanted to cover is talk a little bit about what role the senior move manager can play on the emotional toll that a senior has to go through in order to get rid of this stuff. You had a unique role with your parents because, of course, you were emotionally involved as a child.
If you have somebody from the outside, how does that affect what they have to process in whether or not they have to break the inertia of really starting to think about downsizing and preparing for that move?
John: Absolutely. An outside third party senior move manager can very helpful because, obviously, in certain instances, there can be a lot of family dynamics at play, whether the parents are still married, whether the adult children actually get along, whether the entire family cooperates and is mostly on the same financial page as well.
There’s a lot of services that can be brought. One of them, you’re almost playing a mediator to a certain extent
Victor: Right. Your MBA in Finance should also have included a sub‑specialty in psychology and family dynamics.
John: Absolutely. The possessions in the family’s home are the story of their life. What we like to say is, “We don’t move boxes. We move memories.”
It’s helpful to have someone that is a third party engaged because they won’t have that emotional attachment that an adult child might.
Providing the resources to the senior especially if they’re able to pass on their excess possessions in an altruistic way, whether a Dress for Success or Salvation Army or Vietnam Vets, it helps to break that emotional attachment that they have because they’re passing it forward in a positive way.
Victor: Where can people find more information on not just about your company but if they want to know more about what move management is about and the struggles that people have as they get older? What are some opportunities that they have to learn more?
John: Absolutely. Our website is walshseniorsolutions.com. We’re based here in Princeton, New Jersey. We have a 40 mile service area which covers most of New Jersey plus into Bucks County and down to Philadelphia as well, which is obviously where a lot of New Jersey residents are moving to.
We provide a free in‑home consultation. Don’t be scared about calling us in because there’s a lot of trust that needs to be established between the senior move manager, the senior client, and their adult children as well. We like for it to be a collaborative environment where everybody is aware of what is being discussed or decided upon.
Through the National Association of Senior Move Managers, which their website is nasmm.org. They’re a nationwide organization. Whether you’re in the New Jersey area or other areas, there’s a search option within that nasmm.org website where you can plug in a zip code and it brings up results within 50 miles.
They have a whole lot of tips, tricks, guides, and helpful information on that website as well.
In addition, this October at the Princeton High School, I’ll be teaching a course for a couple of weeks on senior moving and downsizing. That course guide and catalogue will be coming out in mid‑August for the October fall session. Stay tuned for that.
Victor: Great. Do you know days, nights, or what’s it’s going to be?
John: It’ll be Tuesday nights. We’re deciding on the dates.
Victor: Excellent. You can figure out more by going to walshseniorsolutions.com, that’s plural at the end. You can learn about John and his services.
Certainly, if you’re in a position where you’re looking at downsizing where that’s going to come on the horizon. Maybe you’ve got an early diagnosis of something and you know that it’s coming. Maybe you’re and adult child and you can see in your parents the initial decline. Look, where you grew up in the family home isn’t going to be a place where they can stay.
That may not be work that you want to take on, on your own. Engaging the services of a Senior Move Manager, somebody like John and his company can pay dividends just in terms of making sure that, first of all, everything gets done, and you don’t miss any opportunities.
Part of this is really about, as John suggested, finding profitable solutions for your excess possessions. Having somebody with expertise in that area can help with that.
I want to thank John Walsh for being my guest here today. If you want to share this with somebody that you know, remember that you can always find this show on iTunes, on Spotify. You can go to the website at makeitlastradio.com. You can take this episode and share it with a friend.
If you know about somebody that needs this type of service and fact that they can learn about it by listening to this segment, then spread it around wide.
This has been Make it Last where I help you keep your legal ducks in a row and your financial nest eggs secure. We’ll catch you next Saturday. Thanks so much. Bye. Bye.