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Neal E. Cutler, PhD: Financial Gerontology

In the late 1980s, educators in the field of retirement planning and financial services began to acknowledge that the clients of financial professionals were increasingly moving through middle age and into older age. They saw that the traditional curricula offered by many financial training programs – often focusing on life insurance, annuities, and tax deferred investments – were incomplete, and concluded that financial education should expand to include the concepts, issues, and “data” of the academic field of social gerontology.

Thus was born the new multidisciplinary field of Financial Gerontology which, over the past fifteen years is emerging as a specialty within professional education as well as an academic sub-discipline of both Gerontology and Business Education.

The broader context in which Financial Gerontology plays a central role is the increasing overlap between business and aging. Such traditional subjects of business education as Human Resource Management, Product Development, Marketing, Pension Administration, and of course Hospital Administration and Health Care (including long-term care) are increasingly seen against the backdrop of an aging society and economy.

Within this broader context, Financial Gerontology begins with a focus on personal financial planning, but quickly expands to embrace both the academic gerontological perspectives and the practical implications of Individual Aging, Population Aging, Family Aging, and Generational Aging – as each of these offers different but complementary views of the linkages among aging and money. An idea that binds much of this together is the “Wealth Span” concept – which applies the more general concepts of Life Span and Health Span to patterns of accumulation and expenditure behavior over increasingly human longer life expectancy.

Two measures of the maturing of a new educational field are its literature and its institutions, and Financial Gerontology has seen the development of both. Since 1990, for example, a bimonthly column titled “Financial Gerontology” has appeared in the Journal of Financial Service Professionals (previously titled the Journal of the American Society of CLU & ChFC). In 1997 1998 the National Council on the Aging sponsored the Financial Gerontology Review. Other publications include the Encyclopedia of Financial Gerontology (1995); a textbook, Advising Mature Clients: The New Science of Wealth Span Planning, published by the J.K. LasserPro division of Wiley & Sons (2002); and The Silver Industries, a special issue of Generations, the journal of the American Society on Aging (2004).

Institutionally, the American Institute of Financial Gerontology (AIFG) was established in 2002 in partnership with the Widener University School of Business Administration and the American Society on Aging. The AIFG [www.aifg.org] is an educational venture that offers academically-grounded education and training in gerontological subjects to professionals who are educated, credentialed, or experienced in finance. The AIFG’s certification program, leading to the Registered Financial Gerontologist (RFG) designation, includes core courses in the Wealth Span, Biology and Psychology of Aging, Ethical and Legal Aspects of Aging, and Financing Longevity, in addition to elective courses in Families and Aging, the National-State-Local Aging Network, Long-term Care Finance, and Marketing to the Mature Consumer. Coming full circle, AIFG is responding to the original goals of those business educators who fifteen years ago conceived of Financial Gerontology as the educational bridge between gerontology and the study and practice of financial services.

Neal E. Cutler, Ph.D. Widener University
Boettner/Gregg Chair in Financial Gerontology
Professor, School of Business Administration
Professor, School of Human Service Professions   

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