As baby boomers ebb out of the workforce and into retirement, financial advisers are helping wind down their clients' careers by preparing them for soon-to-be-reduced incomes.

Meet Cyndi Hutchins, Bank of America Merrill Lynch's director of financial gerontology -- one of the country's first such positions at a financial management firm.

Her recent appointment marks the company's first foray into the science of aging. Hutchins works with other Merrill Lynch financial advisers to manage their clients' transitions into retirement. She specializes in settling the fears many aging people have about life without a steady paycheck.

Hutchins recently went back to school to earn a master's degree in gerontology from the University of Southern California to better understand her clients.

Hutchins explained how her newfound knowledge of "what is driving generational challenges" has helped her see the financial concerns of older clients in a whole new light.

Q After almost 30 years in the field, what inspired you to go back to school to focus on gerontology?


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A The focus of my practice as a financial adviser was to help clients put their financial pieces in place and get themselves in a position where they can retire. When I became interested in all this, I started speaking to others -- people and clients -- and got to their thoughts and feelings about retirement. There are a lot of issues covering the baby boomers and their aging we really weren't covering. It was for my own personal knowledge. I wanted to really know what was driving their generational challenges -- for instance, the disappearance of defined-benefit pension plans and how that changed the landscape as baby boomers are facing retirement. It was for my own personal benefit to get to know the client I was dealing with.

Q What about retirement most concerns your clients?

A I think that their No. 1 concern when they think about this idea of retirement and this idea that they could live 20, 30 or 40 years retired is how they're going to pay for health care and what those costs are going to be. They're looking at resources to get guaranteed income in place to cover the out-of-pocket cost of health care. As they're approaching this longevity, they must consider how they might deal with the cost of long-term care and how they might be having to provide for their families' health care, in terms of aging parents or an aging spouse.

Q What can millennials learn from baby boomers, and how will their retirement needs differ from those of their elders?

A Both generations are looking at the possibility of longer lives that could translate to longer retirements. As benefits start to disappear, the millennial generation is thinking that they're 200 percent on their own. The baby boomers are looking at a three-legged stool: pensions, Social Security and their own savings. Baby boomers are looking at one leg of that stool being knocked out: pensions. The millennials are looking at those three-legged stools, and it's possible that two legs are being knocked out: (pensions and Social Security).

Q You said your job allows you to be a pioneer in an emerging field. What's challenging about that, and what about your work do you most enjoy?

A What's exciting about this role now is I'm able to pioneer something, create something, build something that nobody else is doing. I'm able to learn so much about what really is motivating an entire generation and put that education into practice into really changing other peoples' lives.

I think the most challenging part of my job is dealing with their fears -- their excitement and their fear at this idea about living a longer life in retirement. On the one hand, it's seen as an opportunity to really fulfill things on their bucket list or go down paths that they didn't have the time to go down when they were raising families and choosing careers.

Cyndi Hutchins
Title: Director of financial gerontology, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Age: 54
Hometown: Rockdale, Pennsylvania
Residence: Bel Air, Pennsylvania
Education: Milford Mill Academy; Towson University; University of Southern California
Family: Husband, Rick. Daughter, Kellie, 24
Hobbies: Riding her 2011 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra with her husband and exploring