by Mitch Anthony

Whether you or your clients observe Christmas, Hanukah, or another holiday, gift giving can play an important role, and make a lasting difference. Giving gifts is a way to express thanks and gratitude to the people we care about. Gifts shouldn’t be about standing in line all night to be the first one at the cash register on “Black Friday”, or trying to outdo a sibling by buying the biggest present. The best and most impactful gifts come from the heart. It truly is the thought that matters.

And that brings me to the focus of this article. Many of your clients want to give their parents a thoughtful gift, but they’re not sure what to do. Mom and Dad may already have everything they want, and they don’t need another throw, sweater, or big screen TV.

If a client’s parents are financially set, why not encourage your client to take his or her parents on an adventure—a once-in-a-lifetime trip with the family to Hawaii, Europe, or perhaps the country of their parents or grandparents. Another idea is to rent a house for a week or two at their favorite vacation getaway, and have a great time golfing, playing games, cooking, or just relaxing. But remember—it should be a place they want to go to. If your dream is to travel to Bordeaux, but Mom and Dad prefer Branson, choose Branson. I guarantee you’ll have the time of your life—and so will Mom and Dad.

If your parents can use some financial help, chances are many of your clients would like to help but aren’t sure how they should go about helping. As a financial life planner, you can help those clients fulfill their goal of wanting to help out one or more parent by helping them design a parental pension.

I’m sure many of us would agree that we owe a great deal to our parents for the sacrifices they made for our benefit. I think of my own father’s decision to turn down higher-paying, more prestigious jobs in larger cities because he wanted to raise us in a small, quiet mid-western city. Consider the following story I was told years ago:

“My sister and I had talked many times about how unjust our father’s retirement situation was and wondered if there was something we could do to make it more enjoyable. He had worked loyally and earnestly for the same company for 30 years. Because of numerous ownership changes over those 30 years, the end result was that Dad’s pension was basically worthless, something like $60 a month. At 65, he began working odd jobs (some he likes and some he doesn’t) to make ends meet. We could see the anxiety in Dad’s eyes even when he said he was quite content. My sister and I talked together about the fact that we had both prospered in our respective professions. Neither of us was yet at the point where we were set for life, but we figured out a way we could help. We had agreed years ago that we would take care of Dad’s needs in his later years should he become ill or frail, but now we realized that the best thing we could do was contribute now while he was still healthy, vibrant, and full of life. Why wait until his life was limited before helping out?”

This brother and sister each contributed enough to fund what I call a “parental pension.” Their father received $500 a month—not a huge sum, but enough to make a difference. The brother told me, “We feel it was the best thing we ever did.” Talk about a meaningful gift!

In the preceding example we see how two people discovered a way to celebrate a loved one by giving their father a margin of comfort and security while he is still vital and mobile enough to enjoy it. Many of your clients have already prepared themselves, at least mentally, for the possibility that they may need to subsidize and support their aging parents’ later years. Some of these people have decided to accelerate that subsidy to lessen the economic anxiety of their parents’ retirement years.

I have met people who took a portion of a windfall they received and created a parental pension for parents who were living exclusively on Social Security payments. These parents had already adapted their lifestyle to the level of income they were forced to live on and enjoyed great freedom and liberty with the added income.

Now that’s something to celebrate.

© 2015 Mitch Anthony

Mitch Anthony is the founder and president of Advisor Insights Inc.and the Financial Life Planning Institute, the leading provider of financial life planning tools and programs for the financial services industry.

For almost two decades, Mitch and his team have provided training and development for both individual advisors and major organizations throughout the world. Mitch personally consults with many of the largest and most-recognizable names in the financial services industry on both financial life planning and relationship development.

Mitch is a consistently top-rated presenter who has spoken to groups ranging from 10 to more than 10,000. He has been named one of the financial services industry’s top “Movers & Shakers” for his pioneering work. Through the Institute, he has partnered with Texas Tech University, the University of Georgia, and Utah Valley University to develop financial life planning programs for their undergraduate programs.

Mitch is a sought-after expert for the media, and a regular columnist for Financial Advisor magazine. His columns have appeared on CBS MarketWatch and in the Journal of Financial Planning. His original comic strip “Stanley Brambles, CFG (Certified Financial Guru)”appears monthly in the print edition of Research magazine. Mitch is also host of the daily radio feature, The Daily Dose, heard on over 100 radio stations nationwide.

Mitch is also the author of many groundbreaking books for advisors and consumers, including perennial bestseller StorySelling for Financial Advisors, cited by “Financial Advisor” magazine as the number one “must-read” book for financial professionals. Mitch’s other books include The New Retirementality (now in its 4th edition), From the Boiler Room to the Living RoomYour Clients for LifeYour Client’s Story, and The Financial Lit-KitThe Cash in the HatThe Bean is Not Green, and Where Did the Money Go?. For information on these books and more resources, click here. Contact Mitch at [email protected].