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April 19, 2023
Among the many important discussions at The College’s inaugural 2023 FinServe Network Summit was a topic advisors often consider a primary focus area: retirement planning.
With recession fears constantly looming, inflation soaring, and new regulations, including the SECURE 2.0 Act, clients frequently name retirement security as their top financial priority – putting the onus on advisors to be prepared for these important conversations.
Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) Program Director Eric Ludwig, CFP® hosted the panel discussion on retirement planning along with four members of The College’s FinServe Network who work primarily with clients in this area. Subjects ranged from inflation and taxation to shifts in banking systems, financial literacy, and more.
Preparation Means Greater Security
Ludwig started off the conversation by noting the two biggest disruptors for retirement planning today – recession fears and inflation – and how these combined worries can cause anxiety about retirement security for many clients.
FinServe Network advisors said that while they have seen an increase in concern from clients, they also see current turbulence as an opportunity to encourage clients to engage more with them. “I think fear typically comes from not knowing, so if you’ve talked with clients beforehand and prepared for different situations, you can create momentum like in football planning,” said Padric Scott, AEP®, CFP®, CAP®, ChFC®, CLU®, WMCP®, CCFC, President and CEO of Crossroad Capital Partners. “Seeing the excitement in them to get to planning and stick with the plan all comes from setting expectations early on.”
Jason Austell, CFP®, MSFS, ChFC®, CLU®, CASL®, RICP®, AEP®, CAP®, a financial planner at MassMutual Carolinas, agreed, saying that advisors need to equip themselves with a toolbox of knowledge and strategies and be prepared to alter their planning depending on shifts in the financial landscape. “What we use today may not be exactly what we need next week, next year, and so forth,” he said. “It helps to have a baseline of confidence in a portion of a client’s money and know they’re not going to lose that, so they can take more but appropriate risks with what they have left and try to build up assets that will support their needs long-term.”
Keeping Clients in the Loop
Ludwig also noted that since the stock market crash of 2008, various types of assets and planning strategies have experienced ups and downs in effectiveness that have forced advisors to rethink how they approach retirement planning – including the relatively recent end to a long period of low interest rates due to rising inflation. Several of the advisors present shared stories of clients they’d worked with who were caught by surprise when unexpected situations disrupted their planning and emphasized the value of preparing for any eventuality – and educating clients while doing it.
“One of my clients and her husband are in their late 70s and believed they didn’t need any help with their retirement planning,” said Nancy Du, MBA RICP®, CFP®, a financial advisor at Ashford Advisors. “But then in 2022 the stock market tanked and her husband was diagnosed with dementia. She panicked and sold everything they owned in the market, thinking it was the right thing to do, before coming to me for help. Since then we’ve ensured they have a good portfolio, pension plan, and annuities to support their retirement lifestyle and care, but it reinforces the idea that people need to be aware of their situation and their goals.”
The power of working with informed clients was a recurring theme and one that Terry Parham, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, RICP®, WMCP®, a financial planner and co-founder of Innovative Wealth Building, elaborated on, pointing out the power of resources like RISA profiles and retirement styles. “It’s a natural human tendency to see people going a certain direction from social media or the news and go that direction too,” he said. “It’s like Costco on a Saturday: long lines everywhere, and as soon as a new one opens, everyone jumps in that line and makes it long again. We need to look at the specifics of each client’s situation and help them realize that we live in a dynamic world where truths about money are always changing.”
Getting Ahead of Retirement Planning
Overall, the panel of advisors agreed that one of the keys to sound retirement planning is to work more closely with clients and form a relationship founded on both business and personal levels. The panelists repeatedly returned to the themes of proper planning made well in advance of crisis situations to help reduce the risk of running out of money in retirement and being proactive rather than reactive.
“I always ask people, would you rather be punching someone in the mouth or getting punched in the mouth?” said Scott. “Allowing your money to be wasted with unnecessary taxes when you could have planned against it is like allowing Uncle Sam to punch you in the mouth. Why not get ahead of all that? If you’re delaying Social Security for a lower income base, front-run some of those dollars so you can then think long-term. If you end up in a situation where you have a lot of extra income, you’re not going to be using it anyway, and you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s so important to get the lay of the land, find the mines you need to navigate with your clients and adjust accordingly.”