Founder and CEO
Ben D. Jones
Managing Director, Intermediary Distribution
BMO Global Asset Management
Product Strategy Manager
BMO Global Asset Management
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As life expectancy numbers continue to increase, the need for more careful and more precise financial planning for retirement has increased with it. A startup called Genivity, one of the winners of BMO’s 1871 FinTech partnership program in 2017, is helping financial advisors have better conversations with their clients by incorporating health history insights into the financial planning process.
Heather Holmes, founder and CEO of Genivity, joins the podcast to discuss common misconceptions about longevity and the financial planning process that has historically surrounded it. Plus, she discusses Ben’s and Emily’s results of Genivity’s HALO assessment, where clients fill out information related to their health, family history and more to help advisors set a framework for the client’s retirement plan.
In this episode:
- Longevity: What really goes into it?
- How Genivity works
- Reviewing HALO results for Ben and Emily
- Using technology like HALO as a lead generation tool
Like what you hear?
The BMO Harris/1871 Innovation Program is focused on engaging and mentoring early-stage technology startups that have innovative solutions in lending, financial planning, digital tools and data analytics.
Heather Holmes – A financial advisor is much more involved in your life over the long-term than a physician is. The physician will see you, treat you, send you on your way. One of the things that really surprised my co-founder, both of us, was just how little planning was actually happening around health in financial planning and how little evidence or science was actually brought into it. What I’d like to share with advisors coming out of this today is that these are critical conversations, and you’re going to face this with every single one of your clients. The time and the opportunity is now to really differentiate yourself from your other advisors by starting with these conversations. These are the things that your clients want to talk about, but aren’t sure if you’re equipped to do it. If you’re one of the ones who can really get in there and understand this, you’re going to be so far ahead of the game and really be able to differentiate who you are and your practice from the rest.
Ben Jones – Welcome to Better Conversations. Better Outcomes. presented by BMO Global Asset Management. I’m Ben Jones.
Emily Larsen – And I’m Emily Larsen. On this show, we explore the world of wealth advising from every angle, providing actionable ideas designed to improve outcomes for advisors and their clients.
Disclosure – The views expressed here are those of the participants and note those of BMO Global Asset Management, its affiliates, or subsidiaries.
Emily Larsen – Over the last century, we’ve witnessed a secular trend of steadily improving longevity. This improvement in average life span has extended the length of time people are spending in retirement, and has increased the pressure on funding these golden years. However, that only tells part of the story, because while averages are helpful, each individual has different genetics and behaviors that impact their longevity. Today we have a guest who’s helping advisors become more precise about health and longevity planning. This precision is helping advisors have better conversations with their clients, which is leading to more informed decisions in terms of retirement, healthcare, and end of life care.
Ben Jones – That guest Emily referenced…
Heather Holmes – My name is Heather Holmes. I’m the CEO and founder of Genivity. I came from the corporate world and loved my job and had this amazing career. I traveled around the world. It was awesome. Sometimes people thought it was absolutely nuts. Like what are you doing, walking away from that job to start a startup, and it really was this evolution for me of being an entrepreneur at my company and having these ideas go, and then the fiscal year would change, and so then priorities would change. Then somewhere I would see some startup, and I would see a version of this idea then come and become a success. I was like, I just have to do this. Finally, with this idea, I realize I just couldn’t sit on the sidelines. I had to go in and go all in on it. It was a scary moment and a difficult decision trying to get to that point, but the minute that I made the commitment, I’ve never looked back. It’s so much fun to get up every day and work on something that you believe in, and that you love, and be surrounded by people on a team that also believe in that vision. Then, to hear the feedback from the customers as to how it’s helping them is like the best fuel to keep driving. It’s not easy. I don’t want to give the illusion that it is. It’s definitely difficult. Anybody who’s an entrepreneur will tell you it’s a roller coaster, but the fun of it is truly fun, and we’re at such a good spot right now with what we see with our customers.
Emily Larsen – Genivity is a fintech startup that was founded to bring health history insights into the financial planning process. Ben and I sat down at BMO’s offices in downtown Chicago to speak with Heather about Genivity’s HALO Assessment Tool. HALO — which stands for health analysis and longevity optimizer — is a software based application for advisors. Clients fill out a short survey that asks questions about their health, family history, behaviors, and desired retirement age. Then, the analysis is sent to the clients’ advisors in order to help direct conversations related to their financial planning for retirement, wealth transfer, and more.
Ben Jones – We had a lot of fun with this one, because both Emily and I took the HALO assessment in advance of our conversation with Heather. To share some real life examples of how this works, we’re going to go over our individual results later in the episode as a bit of a compare and contrast. First, we talked to Heather about some of the factors that go into calculating longevity and some misconceptions around this topic. Now, prior to this, most financial planners tended to use some sort of Monte Carlo scenario that ran out someone’s assets to say 91 years old or 85 years old, and they said that’s good enough. Tell me a little bit about when you think about longevity, what are some of the key contributors that would change that dynamic both positively and negatively. What are kind of those key risks that drive longevity?
Heather Holmes – Yeah, and I think longevity is one of the key risks that people really need to be paying more attention to, especially as life expectancies continue to increase. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions around longevity or what goes into it, and I think a lot of people think well, I have these risks in my family from a health perspective, so I’m doomed. The reality is that’s not the case. So much of longevity is tied to things that you can control, and lifestyle behavior risk factors, and that’s the message that we really want to convey to everybody is that this is your choose your own adventure and while you may be dealt some genes from your family, most of these things are things that are within your control if you want to take action on them. No judgement if you don’t, but there’s something you can do. Obviously, smoking is one of the biggest impacts. That will take off about 10 years off of your life right off of the gate, but things like exercise, your weight, and one of the most interesting things about longevity around your weight or your BMI is that having too high of a BMI is of course not a good thing, but also having too low of a BMI is not as well. The actual range for what your doctor would tell you is a good healthy BMI is on the fringe of what would be considered the ideal BMI for longevity. The ideal BMI for longevity is a little bit above being that healthy BMI, and so yeah, the science is really clear on that.
Ben Jones – I feel a lot healthier now.
Heather Holmes – Yes my co-founder always says, now you can feel comfortable having that extra piece of cake, just maybe not the whole thing.
Ben Jones – So, there’s the hereditary risk that you get from your family. There’s behavior risk, which you talked about. Then, what is health risk? I’ve read that on some of the papers that you’ve written.
Heather Holmes – Yeah, so heredity risk is looking at your family health history, and what family health history is, is looking — obviously, you’ve shared genes with your loved ones, but what’s the best predictor is family health history because you also share or tend to share a similar environment, where you grew up, and similar diet, and similar things like that. It’s really the interaction of lifestyle environment and those genes that tell your genes whether to turn on or off, kind of like a Christmas tree light. You really need to look at all of those things to understand risk for somebody.
Ben Jones – That makes a lot of sense. Why is health and longevity an important topic for families? I can tell you, I have two parents that are living. I have one grandparent that’s still alive, and I don’t think that I’ve ever had a discussion about longevity with any of them. It made me feel, when I read some of this stuff; you made me feel like I’ve been a poor son.
Heather Holmes – I think the real thing is the stuff that you want to know as a son is what are their wishes? Do they want to stay in their home as they age? Who are they expecting to care for them? I think it’s about 70% of retirees have in their mind exactly which child they expect is going to step in and start providing care for them when they need it. I think it’s about only 10% of those children actually have been told by their parents that they’re the one that they’re expecting. You can imagine if you’re busy in your career, you’re doing all of the things that you need to do and your stuff and now something happens to your parents, and they’re counting on you to be the one to step in, that’s not only going to take a lot of your time and a lot of just kind of emotional support, but potentially financial support as well. How does that factor into your financial plan? That could be derailing for some people. It’s important to understand where they stand on those things and what their wishes are so that now you can make adjustments to your plan and you can understand where that fits in, in your life.
Ben Jones – Is the big conversation here is about who’s going to be the caretaker or care-taking in general?
Heather Holmes – Yeah.
Ben Jones – Yeah, and we talked to Dr. Amy D’Aprix on this topic at length. It can be pretty emotionally charged. It’s definitely a place where the intersection of money and emotions run strong.
Heather Holmes – Right.
Ben Jones – So, for those listeners that want, they should definitely go check out the conversations that could be had there on how to engage in that discussion. Now, once an FA decides to use this information, how do they start, and how does it enhance their conversations with a client?
Heather Holmes – Yeah, so what we built with Genivity was a way to make it really simple for advisors to be able to get the key information they need from a planning perspective, and give the client a way to understand the risk. Our software is client-facing, and that was designed deliberately so that they can answer these questions, they can go through this in the privacy of their own home, although we do find that it drives much deeper conversations if the advisor and the client do it together. Then, the outputs of what we do, it goes into a report for the advisor with the detailed cost for both out of pocket pre-retirement, because that’s when — we talked about HSAs or touched on that a little bit. There’s different types of strategies you can talk about there, as well as what are the out of pocket costs you need to think about in retirement separate from those elder care costs. The real key thing is to start understanding across the client, what are their wishes? Similar to what you would want to know about a parent. Also, from the client perspective, are there other family members that they might need to step in and get involved with so that the advisor can be able to start thinking about that from a cross perspective and a financial planning perspective as well.
Ben Jones – Walk me through how this works. So, an advisor decides to leverage the Genivity tool, and they send their client to — they either sit down with their client, or they send them to a website. You fill out the survey. I’ve got to tell you, I timed myself because I wanted to see. I think you told me it would take less than 10 minutes, and I think it actually took less than four, so it’s very quick. Doesn’t take a significant amount of time, or I didn’t put enough time into it. One or the other, but they fill out this thing and then does the client get a report, or does then the report go to the financial advisor? Walk me through kind of the back office mechanics here.
Heather Holmes – Yeah, so the assessment lives on the advisor’s website, or if they don’t have one, we can host it for them, so that they introduce it to the client that way. The client will go through the assessment as you explained, and then at the end the client will see a snapshot of their results, because we want them to see something and it’s an interactive result, so they can see if there’s anything that they can improve on, how that can improve their longevity reduced costs. The meat of what we do is the analysis. That full analysis goes directly to the advisor for two reasons: one, it’s a great way for the advisor to have that hook for a follow on meeting to sit down and follow up with the client. But we also want them to have all of the numbers, so they can look at those in advance and be able to think about how they want to approach that conversation with them.
Ben Jones – So, let’s first tackle the numbers. We’ll tackle them in reverse order. The number comes out and it says: Ben, you’re going to live to be 84 years old. How much weight should the financial advisor put on planning to 84, or do they need to plan to stress test that and provide some birth room on the back side, just in case they outlive that.
Heather Holmes – Yeah, well I think in your report we actually saw you have a 50% chance of living to being 91 or older, so great for you on that part.
Ben Jones – My poor wife.
Heather Holmes – What I think was — one of the things I thought was really interesting for you was that when you go into the full analysis, we’ll show you what your probability is living from any age from today, all the way out to 110. We’ll show you what the actuarial average is as well. Now, you and your advisor can figure out what number do you feel most comfortable planning out to.
Ben Jones – Does it tell you what year I’m going to get Alzheimer’s?
Heather Holmes – No, we do not tell you something like that. That would be very tricky.
Ben Jones – No positive <laughter> decline predictions.
Heather Holmes – But, what I thought was very interesting was that you had I think like a 24% probability of living to be 100 or older.
Ben Jones – True to line with my hereditary.
Heather Holmes – Based on what we understand about your risk profile, so I think those are things and for the average man that would be I think maybe around 5% is what I’m looking at here, or even less than that. I think that shows that you’re well above average in that aspect. You probably want to make a decision more personalized to you than just taking an average number of saying, I’m going to live to 90, or whatever, whatever the traditional way is of doing it.
Ben Jones – So, the numbers aren’t concrete. They provide some good discussion as to where or how you would tailor a plan. An advisor allows to stress test it. Then, the second thing is you’re going to get this report, and the advisor gets to go have a discussion. Who should the advisor have that discussion with?
Heather Holmes – Yeah, well the starting point should be with the client. If they’re a couple, they should be together, because as you mentioned if you’re — a very long life, your wife’s going to be also involved, and the science is the science, that men tend to pass away earlier than their wives, and tend to need the care, where the wife will tend to step in a little bit more with the caregiver.
Ben Jones – That’s why I said my poor wife, yes.
Heather Holmes – Yeah, so I think it’s an important conversation to make sure both are on the same page about that and understanding kind of what is that path that we want? Because what we also show you is at what phase in retirement are — like how many active years of your retirement will you have? What we call your go-go years. Then, how many years of potential slow-go years, which are those years where you’re going to start having challenges with those daily activities of living. You’re going to start needing some help. We give you an idea of how many years that would be for you, how many that would be for your wife, and where do those match up together so that you can understand from a planning perspective, how do you want to do that. If you want to stay in your house, maybe that involves doing some remodeling during your next remodel that will allow you to stay in the home as well, but it really starts helping the advisor open up those conversations, so that they can plan with you first to be able to protect against that risk, as well as a cost.
Ben Jones – Now, you have this discussion with the couple, and then you want them to engage in a discussion about care-taking with their kids. Every family has got an eye-roller. How do you get like kind of buy-in from the rest of the family?
Heather Holmes – Yeah, well in every family there’s going to be the alpha child, and in every family there’s going to be the one who’s going to be probably more involved with the care-taking. That’s why it’s really important for the advisor to be able to identify both personalities. Because the alpha child, you’re going to be able to identify pretty quickly, and that’s the one you’re going to want to focus on as far as the relationship because when it comes time for wealth transfer they’re going to be the ones who are going to be the most vocal driving things with the rest of the siblings. Then, identifying who the care-giving child is, or the one who seems like they’re going to be more involved in that will be important, because that’s the one that you’re going to really foster the relationship when the crisis happens. The reality is, a crisis is going to happen, this moment is going to happen for every single one of your clients, so if you know that’s a fact that’s going to happen, you need to be able to establish and at least understand who is that person going to be, so you have your point person in that relationship when that moment happens.
Ben Jones – It’s interesting you brought up two things I think are really important for people who are listening. I think the idea of identifying the personalities of the children. I mean, we haven’t had a guest on the show talk about that, but that seems like a really great idea for advisors to really understand who’s making the decisions, who’s doing the care-taking. They may be the same person, but then in bigger families they may be very different people, or you might have more than one of each personality, which could get a little interesting.
Heather Holmes – Yeah, and you want to be able to have threads to both of them, right? Then, you can then target your conversations more tailored based on understanding those personalities and what’s kind of driving them. I think that it really helps you then create more connection to the household, which is ultimately what you want.
Ben Jones – Then you said something else. You call them the go-go years. I have long heard, and I think most of the research has supported this but correct me where I’m wrong here, that spending in retirement tends to take on a U, or a half-pipe type shape, so using some skier vernacular. You spend a lot in the early part of your retirement, you’re traveling and doing all of those things, and then you start to slow down and then healthcare tends to eat up a lot of spending. Is that still the case for the majority of people, or has that kind of more flattened out?
Heather Holmes – Well, I would say that’s a big part of it, and that’s what we try to help illustrate for advisors and their clients. Emily, one of the things I thought was super interesting, in your results, you want to go and enjoy your life outside of work at a much earlier age than Ben. What we’re projecting is that you’re looking at 40 active go-go years in retirement, so if you want to talk about how to plan for that, right? I mean, I don’t know all of the activities and the things that you like to do, but 40 years of making sure that you have the finances available to cover those things before you move into those slow-go years, where obviously then the active part in the spending is going to slow down. That’s where you’re going to start seeing the rise in the healthcare costs. Understanding health is really valuable for understanding the active part of your life.
Emily Larsen – In my assessment, I show 40 active go-go years of retirement, primarily because I chose a very early retirement age of 43 for this exercise. I’ll give a little background into why I did this. It’s certainly aspirational. Both my husband and I have watched our parents move into retirement in their late 60s and very quickly realize they had less active years in retirement than they had initially envisioned. With this as the inspiration, and us wanting to prioritize the number of active years we have in retirement, I put in again a very aspirational retirement age of 43, so that we have enough years to do all of the things we want to do and retire early. Another thing I learned from my HALO assessment results is that I’ll have about five slow-go years — meaning, five years at the end of my retirement, at the end of my life, that I will not be as active. Heather pointed out that woman often have more slow-go years, partially because those with male partners will generally outlive them, and because some of those years are spent taken care of those partners.
Ben Jones – As we mentioned earlier, because of my family history, I’m more likely than other men my age to live past the age of 90, so I need to factor that into my financial plan — especially when it comes to funding that type of longevity. My results stated that I’ll have about 15 go-go years of active retirement, and three slow-go years of assisted retirement. One thing that the HALO results did calculate is the different options for care when I reach those slow-go years, which really provided me some questions to think about. For example, do I want to stay in my house and receive care there, or move into an assisted living facility. The financial cost of each of these options is adjusted for inflation and laid out in a really easy to read format, which allows you to talk with your clients and help them start thinking about their desires now when it’s important to start planning for the funding needs. In other words, how much do they need to save in order to make those desires a reality? So armed with all of this personalized information, how can advisors deliver personalized results?
Heather Holmes – We’re giving you our projections so that you can do more personalized planning. So these are meant to be directional to help you. Obviously what we truly believe the first and most important way to think about planning is how long do you want to make the money last for, and so really looking at longevity, especially people who have that much higher arch out past 100 to be able to understand that risk. So I think once you have that number, you can now back your way into everything else into the financial plan. The second key thing is looking at those active go-go years we talked a lot about and making sure that matches up with the spending that you’re wanting to do and how you want to live your life there. Then of course it’s those slow-go years, and making the critical decisions about where you want to be. Most people choose they want to stay in their home. So it’s how do you plan for making those changes now so that you’ll be able to do it. But even if you are in your home, there is a significant cost to it. So, we give you all the numbers for all the different care options that you can have during those slow-go years in today’s dollars, also built out with inflation for when we anticipate you’ll need it. Those are big numbers, so you want to make sure that, when you get to that point in your life, that you’ve gotten that taken care of, and you’re not having to be facing tough choices when you’re feeling most vulnerable.
Ben Jones – Genivity was one of the winners of BMO’s 1871 Fintech partnership program in 2017, which among other things included iterating the product with feedback from a group of advisors at BMO. The HALO assessment tool is now being used by advisors around the country, and Heather shared anecdotal stories about how it’s worked for them. But, this one really caught my attention.
Heather Holmes – One little example I can share, another one of our customers, we didn’t know they were doing this, but they went to their local news station. It’s in actually quite a bit market in Detroit. The news station did a story about them. Actually, it was a whole story about HALO. They got flooded with leads. They ended up with I think over 450 leads coming in after just seeing the story. On the story, they didn’t give the firm’s website or anything like that. So the people who watched the story actually had to do a lot of work. They had to go to the news station’s site, find the link there, then go to the advisor’s site, and then find HALO and take the assessment. And they were just over the moon. That’s already lead to several clients being high net worth prospects coming in. They were saying of all the programs and all the initiatives that they do to try to grow their business and referrals, they’ve never had anything be as successful as that one story.
Emily Larsen – Lastly, I asked Heather what her BHAG, or big hairy audacious goal is for her company and its future.
Heather Holmes – Yeah, I mean twofold. From the individual level, we want to make sure that no one — not you, not your loved ones; nobody is going into retirement or runs out of money into retirement due to health and elder care costs, which are the number one cause of bankruptcy in retirement. And we don’t want anyone at that moment to feel vulnerable. For us though, our big goal is that we wanted to really change the entire way that you look at financial planning, and we really believe if you can start at the end game in mind, which is longevity, you can truly back your way into that. So if you think of things from target-date funds to everything else, what’s the most important thing you need to know is how long to make the money last for, not what day you’re going to retire. So we really see having an ability to shift how different products are offered to make it much more intuitive and more meaningful and reliable for people.
Ben Jones – And so, if you were going to write your own warning label for this episode, or your advice today, what would that warning label say?
Heather Holmes – The warning label that I would say about what we do is that it may change what you think about your retirement. The reason why I say that is when you realize that maybe you’re going to work so long, and then you’re not going to have so many of those go-go years as you thought in retirement, you may shift your plan. And I think that’s a reality that — the warning label that I’d put on it is. You may have different plans coming out of this.
Ben Jones – For those that are out there listening to this that want to follow the work that you and your company are doing, what’s the best way for them to just keep in tune with your thoughts and everything.
Heather Holmes – The first would be, I would say go sign up for our newsletter on our website. The second would be follow us on LinkedIn. We try to keep things active there with what’s going on and some of our thoughts on the industry.
Ben Jones – Thank you so much for taking the time, walking over here to have a conversation with us today. I really enjoyed this. In fact, I had a couple things that I noted that I need to go back and have some conversations with myself and my spouse about. Make sure that she’s okay taking care of me for four years when she’s 89 years old. But now, I really thank you so much for taking the time.
Heather Holmes – No, thank you. I really appreciate it. It’s been a lot of fun with you both.
Emily Larsen – The Genivity website is www.genivity.com if you want to learn more. You’ll also have a chance to compare and contrast Ben and my report results. If you want to check them out, they’ll be in the show notes page for this episode. Thanks for listening, and here’s hoping we all have many go-go years ahead.
Ben Jones – Thank you for listening to Better Conversations. Better Outcomes. This podcast is presented by BMO Global Asset Management. To access the resources discussed in today’s show, please visit us at www.bmogam.com/betterconversations.
Emily Larsen – We love feedback, and would love to hear what you thought about today’s episode. You can send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Ben Jones – And we really respond.
Emily Larsen – We do.
Ben Jones – If you thought of someone during today’s episode, we would be flattered if you’d take a moment and share this podcast with them. You can listen and subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, or whatever your favorite podcast provider is. And, of course, we would very greatly appreciate if you’d take a moment to rate or review us on that app. Until next time, I’m Ben Jones.
Emily Larsen – And I’m Emily Larsen. From all of us at BMO Global Asset Management, hoping you have a productive and wonderful week.
Ben Jones – This show and resources are supported by a very talented team of dedicated professionals at BMO, including Pat Bordak, Gayle Gipson, Matt Perry, Derek Devereaux. The show is edited and produced by Jonah Geil-Neufeld and Annie Fassler of Puddle Creative. And these are the real people that make this show happen, so thank you.
Disclosure – The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of BMO Global Asset Management, its affiliates, or subsidiaries. This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any company, industry, strategy, or security. This presentation may contain forward looking statements. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements as actual results could vary. This presentation is for general information purposes only and does not constitute investment, legal, or tax advice and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment product or service. Individual investors are to consult with an investment, legal, and/or tax professional about their personal situation. Past performance is not indicative of future results. BMO Asset Management Corp. is the investment advisor to the BMO Funds. BMO Investment Distributors, LLC is the distributor. Member FINRA/SIPC. BMO Asset Management Corp. and BMO Investment Distributors are affiliated companies. Further information can be found at www.bmo.com.