On Purpose

Supporting Financial Professionals and Their Aging Clients

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We talked with Barbara about:

  • The story that brought her into gerontology and how she serves financial professionals
  • The growing aging population and the issues they face that financial professionals can help with
  • Some of the ways financial professionals can identify problems with aging clients before they arise 

About Barbara Micheletti:

Barbara Micheletti is the founder and CEO of Interrupting Aging. Using her gerontology (the study of aging) expertise and financial services background, she transforms how financial professionals engage with their aging clients. Starting as an insurance agent in 2006, she built a successful business but faced significant challenges two years later when Brooke Corporation went bankrupt while she was also experiencing personal financial hardship. Emerging stronger, Barbara learned resilience, crisis management, and the importance of transparency. Today, she emphasizes the importance of holistic financial planning for all life stages. Through Interrupting Aging, Barbara inspires a positive approach to aging, guiding financial professionals to better support their aging clients both financially and emotionally.

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Full Audio Transcript:

Lauren (00:05):

All right, well, we have Barbara Micheletti who's joining us today, and you all are in for a treat. I'm excited to pass over the mic here and for her to share a little bit more about her background but she is the founder and CEO of Interrupting Aging. I'm going to pass it on over before I try to take the wind out of her sails and let her share a little bit more about what she does and her background for an aging population. Over to you.

Barbara (00:35):

Well, thank you, Lauren. I really appreciate the offer and the opportunity to be here, so I want to thank you for that.

Lauren (00:41):


Barbara (00:42):

I don't know if you want to start off with why, my why story or where you want to go from here.

Lauren (00:47):

Yeah, let's go ahead and just start there. I feel like hearing a little bit more about your background, how you got into the space, why you founded this company, tell me a little bit more.

Barbara (00:58):

Well, it started off back in 1998 when I became a gerontologist. Now I often explain what a gerontologist is after 26 years of being one. It simply means we studied the aging body from midlife to the whole lifespan but we focus on older and elderly people and what they go through and experience — their life experiences. So I like to say I love to help people love growing older is what I like to say that I do. But also it also started off a little bit tumultuousness when I started my insurance career. So let me give you a little history on that. Back in 2006, I started off as an insurance agent where I opened my insurance agency.

I literally went from being a stay-at-home mom one day to the next day becoming this insurance agency owner and a franchise owner for a company called Brooke Corporation. Now, this journey was very challenging in that right after I started my insurance company with zero clients — zero clients back in the day — I built that up from 2006 to 2008 and even got use of a company car in 2008. I experienced extremely challenging circumstances where not only I was a franchise owner of Brooke Corporation where Brooke Corporation committed investor fraud and was sentenced and went bankrupt in 2008 and subsequently went to court and all that through the Securities and Exchange Commission. But I also experienced personal financial betrayal from my ex-spouse while we were going through a divorce. And it took me a long time to understand and grasp the depth and severity of that financial devastation.

Now I tell you this because what I gained from that, and you like to think about it as how Nietzsche said, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, but also how a diamond is forged from intense pressure. Well, I like to think that's where I came from and that's why I do what I do today and why I'm such a big advocate, especially for women in this space. What that taught me and what I bring to my clients today is it taught me resilience, how to be resilient in the face of absolutely adverse circumstances where you have no choice but to commit to a path and to follow that path. So it taught me resilience, it taught me crisis management because literally that year as the corporation went bankrupt, they literally dropped every single franchise owner and there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of us.

But as I went through my own personal financial betrayal in my own family dynamic, I had to take that whole crisis management onto a new level and learn how to navigate not only personally but professionally. So what did I do? I was able to contact every single client I had and let them know this is what happened. So I was very transparent and very honest with them, letting them know this is what happened. I'm regrouping at another company called B&B Insurance Agency and I'm going to bring you over to this new company. Then I contacted, back then it was 1,111 insurance carriers, and I reached out to them. They knew exactly what was going on because a lot of them lost money too because premiums were kept by this corporation. So they lost a lot of money. So they were happy I was able to have that resilience and go through this crisis management and commit to the strategic problem-solving by taking all these clients and bringing them over and putting them right back into their policies. So every single client followed me. Every single insurance carrier took me back. So that taught me how to quickly adapt and it taught me the value of transparency and being a fiduciary to your clients, and that's what brought me to where I'm at today, talking with my clients, helping my financial professionals, the insurance professionals, to be that fiduciary, to demonstrate the transparency and the integrity with their clients so they in turn will trust them to know and do the right thing for them.

Lauren (05:26):

I think so much you talked about is so much in the heart of entrepreneurship, like grit, tenacity, being able to work under extreme pressure, keep that smile, right? It's that perseverance that sometimes it's always like people see the surface, they see the top, but they don't see everything else that's going on underneath. So you sharing that it brings to light. Some of these real challenges we go through but they kind of thicken our skin, especially if you go to start your own venture or it's going to thicken your skin somewhere along the way to be able to have that stamina. So tell us a little bit more. You talked a lot about you working in the financial services space. How about a little bit of how you got here and you're working currently with an aging population. You talked about fiduciary. I know there's a component to listening to your clients. Tell us a little bit more about why this demographic and what you're doing to help others. I think it mostly is in the wealth management and insurance space — support for this audience? Can you share a little bit more about that and what this audience looks like when we say aging demographics. I know that's a lot of questions there but I'd love to unpack that a little bit more.

Barbara (06:42):

That's okay. We can dive right into that. So the reason I chose the aging population is because of that gerontology background, and again, gerontology simply means aging —we're all aging, and here's the thing, we are living in this rapidly aging population. We're living to age 100 really is this new normal. When you do a Monte Carlo, they often advise financial professionals use age 100 as that benchmark. And I can say as an aging expert, as a gerontologist, we are living in an aging population. So the aging population, and you and I, Lauren talked about this offline here for a few minutes and I'll talk about what that means quickly. So an aging population is to be clear, we are aging the minute we're born. We don't start aging at 40 or at 65. We don't become old. We're aging throughout our entire life. We just don't think about it until we start developing physical pains or maybe a mental cognitive pain or our employer tells us now we're a federally protected workplace employee. I have that insurance background, business insurance background, to know we're a federally protected employee at the age of 40.

So our society has a bit of a challenging time when it comes to what our age is and an aging population. But from a financial planning perspective, we do want to focus on our financial professionals helping people of all ages financially plan. So what brought me in was the gerontology, and then the other story I'll share with you, another one of my why stories is when I was that insurance agent, I had regrouped my company B&B Insurance, and then I sold it to a national brokerage and I became a top producing salesperson, a commercial salesperson for that organization. It was during my tenure as a business insurance advisor that I can't tell you, Lauren, how many clients I helped, not only with their commercial insurance portfolio but with their personal aging issues as well. And some of the most devastating ones were the cognitive impairments I was able to step up as a gerontologist to help my clients with. That in part helped me transition over. I made the decision, I couldn't help them as just an insurance agent. It ultimately led me to where I'm at today.

Lauren (09:06):

Okay. So just to take a step back and sorry for this is maybe a little bit of the marketer in me like, okay, I want to narrow it a little bit more and I can understand the definition too of right, we're aging all throughout our lives, but is there a particular demographic that you're primarily focused on — ages 40 to 60 or to 80 — that you really kind of zero in on when you're working with these professionals? Do you mind sharing a little bit more on that side?

Barbara (09:33):

I do, and that's a very good question because I do focus on those age 40 and above. We'd like to see financial planning happen in people's 20s and 30s for sure. But when we hit age 40, that's when we start developing chronic diseases. Oftentimes we could hit 'em in our 30s — women, we develop a thyroid impairment in our 30s, which is very typical for us, which now that's considered a chronic disease. So we start developing as a whole men and women chronic diseases in our 40s, financially preparing for this aging issue and our financial planning. We want to focus on those age 40 and above and thinking about not only our financial planning and that retirement goal we have but also thinking about what are these current and future aging issues we have.

Lauren (10:26):

So then in kind of furthering that definition, 40 and above, you had alluded to health issues and you had also talked about earlier folks who have these mental stopgaps. Is there aging? So how do I say, what kind of challenges are you pulling apart, just maybe some examples like you had the health issues, what other conversations are you having to help individuals or really maybe to help advisors or insurance agents work with these individuals through these aging issues?

Barbara (11:06):

So one of the aging issues you brought up is the cognitive issue. One of the most devastating diseases any of us could face is dementia. So there's the dementias as an umbrella. If you think of dementia as an umbrella term, and under the umbrella term you can have Alzheimer's, you can have Lewy body dementia, you can have frontotemporal dementia. So those are some of the more, I say, popular ones. Alzheimer's by far is the most widespread and unfortunately it could be close to 7 million people now who live in the United States with Alzheimer's. Two-thirds are women. So it's a future aging issue we want to think about from a financial perspective. So for the financial professional to have their conversation with a single woman or a single man or a couple, that conversation absolutely wants to come up, have you financially prepared for the chance it's abnormal aging. It's not normal. We all don't develop that. But have you thought about if this happens to you, will your spouse be your caregiver and be the husband as well? Just more women develop this. So to have a financial plan, have the conversation in advance, not when you start seeing signs. And even if you do start seeing those red flags of a cognitive impairment, of which financial decision-making is one of the first to go, then have that conversation as soon as possible. 

Lauren (12:48):

So then are you coaching advisors and folks in the insurance space on how to have these conversations and then also how to listen for these things so they can best support their clients? Is that really the engagement?

Barbara (13:04):

Exactly. Listen and look. So I like to tell my clients, financial and insurance professionals, asset managers, bankers, you name it, that you are an ideal set of eyes and ears for your clients because they see them on somewhat of a regular basis, whether it's annual, whether it's every six months, but you can see physically how they are acting, how their body is holding up. I mean, we're just breaking down over decades, right? As we age, if we're lucky to get into old age, our body just simply breaks down; this is just our natural aging process. Some people's bodies break down even more. So sometimes when our bodies break down, it can also trigger a cognitive issue, a brain issue. So that's something financial professionals could look with their eyes and with their ears. So getting to know their clients, really understanding their clients, very similar to how a coach understands his or her players, very similar to that for financial professionals to really understand their clients, and that way you can better predict their future behavior.

Lauren (14:18):

Helping them and helping them get better. Coach. That makes sense. Exactly. Yeah. So then, okay, so this is probably also the marketer hat in me. So once you start to be able to really know what to pick up on those nuances or the things like you said, you look and you listen, a lot of times you think about creating an experience that really helps to optimize it for that particular demographic. Do you also work with advisors, insurance agents on updating maybe their onboarding process for that audience or meeting frequencies or maybe even a gifting strategy or outreach approach? What is your involvement in that part of it to make sure people are heard how they want to be heard?

Barbara (15:05):

I think that's such a great question because as with any relationship, we want to be as authentic as we can be. We want to be as transparent as we can be as we get to trust that other person. So as the financial, the insurance professionals, the asset managers, the bankers, any money expert, they want to have this type of candid conversation with their client to say, look, we're playing on the same team. My job here is to understand as much as I can to help you to have this long-term relationship with you and to understand your family dynamic, to understand what you are looking for as you age with your money. What are your values, what do you value? And understanding these can change with time because we humans, we change with time, we evolve, we meet new people, we form new opinions, we digest more information, and it changes how we integrate this new information with what our existing information is.

And we come to different conclusions. Family dynamics can break down, relationships can break down, bodies can break down. So it's such an ideal spot for this money professional to be able to start the conversation with their client, having that transparency, saying to the client, let's be candid. I want to help you and I'm here to help you. And when you're letting me know what's going on in your life, I can better help you plan not only for now, but for your future from a holistic financial planning approach, not just a traditional one. And that's not to say we need to throw out the baby in the bathwater, traditional financial planning, asset protection investment, because I did take my Series 65 and the securities industry exam; I was going to become that financial advisor until I became this consultant. But having the traditional financial planning process in place along with holistic financial planning, look at people as a whole human as they age and encompassing their aging process, their health, their mental health, physical health, their family dynamic, their legacy, what you talked about, what kind of legacy do they want to leave, what inheritance, the estate planning, all those things.

Lauren (17:28):

Yeah, so helpful. There's a lot to cover. And I also really appreciate what you talked about earlier too, of there not being a formulated process. You have to be able to be nimble and adjust as individuals are moving but being able to have that thinking and to be able to know how to listen and to look and listen, as you said earlier, I think it's a real tool, right? There's an art in all of that.

Barbara (17:52):

Absolutely. Absolutely. But to your point, you can, so we talk about having a system, we talk about having a repeatable process, and especially if we're in the RIA space or a broker-dealer, but I know your audience is more of an RIA space, you can create a repeatable, easily repeatable process with this because while we humans are unique and it's very personal, and that's why it's called personal financial planning, we can create a repeatable process when we're talking to every single client, no matter they're a solo aging woman or a man or a couple or a suddenly single person where women live longer. So they're often more on the single side than men. We can create an easily repeatable process for this.

Lauren (18:46):

It's so true. If you have that repeatable process it takes out some of the thinking that's been done, right? But then it is paired with that human side and that touch.

Barbara (18:58):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. 

Lauren (19:00)

Okay. So I just want to be mindful of time. This is helpful to be able to appreciate you unpacking some of this, sharing a little bit more about your background because you have had so many conversations with different folks, you've really helped them to listen and learn. Are there any key things you feel like, gosh, if just the general population knew more about, I don’t know —maybe fraud-related issues or caring for their loved ones — what to expect and thinking forward about that? Are there themes you often see that come up? And I'm just asking because these might be conversations that could turn into webinar topics for advisors or for insurance agents, or they could be partnership opportunities or what have you, and things that would be helpful for an aging population to know about.

Barbara (19:53):

Well, you touched on one of my, I say favorite topics, but because of what I experienced earlier in my career, well at the beginning of my insurance career back in 2006 forward was financial fraud. I saw the investor fraud. I saw the personal fraud. So because of that, and here's another thing I didn't tell you until right now, back when I was in graduate school and I had no idea I was predetermining my future, back in graduate school when I was in my early 30s, I was an older student at my gerontology graduate school, and I took marketing as a minor because I always loved business. I chose senior financial fraud as my thesis. So I talked about and I wrote about all those years ago, telemarketing, fraud, mail fraud, senior fraud. 

And it still goes on. And the numbers were horrible back then, and I had it when I worked in a bank back then with a client, and it just struck me so much. So I resurrected that research I did back in 1998, believe it or not, and I updated it with current numbers back in 2021 when I really was getting this business going and the numbers were frightening. So I created a national presentation I call The Wolf Who Ate Grandma, and it's on senior financial fraud. And I am part of a senior financial fraud mastermind group where we are presenting to government entities. We've presented already to others at Elder Justice and the Department of Justice. So I'm very honored to be with that group of colleagues. But fraud is something that's very near and dear to my heart. It happens all the time. It's everywhere all the time. And it's something financial professionals really want to deeply learn more about along with the aging issues of older people, because there are certain things we go through in our aging process that sometimes increases the likelihood of being financially frauded.

Lauren (21:53):

Yep, it's so true and it's such a scary thing. And I feel like it's one of those things where you've got to learn about it before it happens, not after the fact. 

Barbara (22:01):

Exactly. And the caregiving you spoke of, the caregiving, that's such an intimate component with that as well, because if you're a couple, you've got that financial fraud, that is a possibility. But when you're a couple or when you're by yourself, you could be caring for an adult child or something. But the caregiving is another untold story. There's so many caregivers, the numbers are staggering. The number of people I meet, I meet a lot of men, believe it or not, who are caregivers, and we don't talk about them as much, and I wish we did. Forty, 40% of US men are caregivers but we don't talk about that. So caregiving is a huge financial piece financial professionals can talk to their clients about. Are you a caregiver now? Will you be a future caregiver to your spouse, your mom, your dad, your grandma, your grandpa?

Lauren (22:54):

Yes. Oh my goodness. There's so much to unpack just as you're talking about this. I feel like I can see there's a lot to learn, and I think as we kind of talked about in the beginning, sort of that definition of aging, it's important to learn this I think even before it becomes an issue. So that education is really key. And I feel like financial advisors in particular are in such a place to be able to have a stage to be able to share that. And so it's really a place they can help to further empower individuals. So I appreciate you sharing a little bit more about your insights and working with this demographic. So Barb, thank you again. We'll make sure to include a link to your website with more details.

Barbara (23:37):

Thank you so much, Lauren.

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