Don’t be fooled by the pretty leaves. Fall is all about prepping for bad news on the horizon.
It’s fair to ask whether a similar scenario is playing out in senior living. We certainly are hearing more about changes that will be required as this pandemic worsens.
But for my money, what the field could really use – perhaps even more so than targeted retooling – is a person along the lines of a John C. Bogle. Or better yet, more than one.
For those unfamiliar with the late founder of the Vanguard Group, Bogle was what might be called a traitor to his class. At a time when most investment managers were focused primarily on enriching themselves, he embraced a radically different approach: put the customer first. How? By introducing everyday investors to the world to low- and no-load passive funds that mirror market results.
Many of Bogle’s money-managing contemporaries initially scoffed at his goal of simply replicating market performance as cheaply as possible. Investors would fare better by hiring managers who can beat the market, they insisted. But as many studies have shown, outperforming the market is something very few people can do over time. Especially once fees and other baked-in costs are considered.
So here’s a question: Do most senior living operators today seem to behave more like those self-proclaimed stock-picking experts, or more like Bogle? It’s a bit of a loaded question. I’ve yet to meet an operator who acts anything like Bogle. But I’ve met plenty who believe they alone have solved the riddle of serving America’s seniors.
Sure, many will talk about the customer coming first. No harm in that. But in reality, most have shown scant interest in meeting the needs of prospects with less than $4,000 a month in disposable income. Some also like to refer to another popular buzzword: value. But since when is larding up on as many basic and supplemental charges as possible delivering value? Sounds more like caveat emptor.
If you ever visit Vanguard’s headquarters in Valley Forge, PA, you’re likely to see something curious: a statue of Bogle. What’s curious is not the statute itself, but that so many of Bogle’s customers stop by to say thanks.
I can only hope there’s another Bogle working his or her way through the senior living ranks right now. If there is, two predictions about this person’s future can safely be made.
One is that she or he will encounter plenty of experts who insist that focusing on anything other than maximizing revenue is foolhardy. The other is that if this person can survive the inevitable naysayer crucible, senior living will get markedly better. At least, as far as customers are concerned.
And with a little luck, this human outlier might eventually be memorialized with a visit-worthy monument.