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Retirement Planning Lessons for Emerging Advisers

The leading edge of the baby boomer generation turned 65 back in 2011. Since then, we’ve watched a large percentage of the adviser population move closer to that traditional retirement age. But the transition to retirement has been anything but traditional, as many boomer advisers have chosen to remain ensconced at their firms. It has created an interesting dilemma for emerging advisers waiting to move into more prominent roles. Should we worry about history repeating itself when these emerging advisers age? If so, what lessons can the younger generation learn from watching boomer advisers (not) retire?

Setting the Stage

First, it helps to understand the reasons boomer advisers are increasingly choosing to stay in the business.

It’s not your grandmother’s retirement anymore. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the percentage of 65- to 74-year-olds actively looking for work will increase faster than any other age group through 2026. When you think about it, it’s not particularly surprising. After all, we’re living much longer than was thought possible when the retirement age was conceived back in the 1930s. In fact, the notion of retirement is outdated—it’s becoming much more of a life pivot.

Retiring successfully isn’t just about money. Health and wellness, family relations, leisure and social activities, and personal growth and development are all important. And everyone copes with the question of what’s next differently. The thought of leaving something behind if there isn’t something more profound to move forward to can be paralyzing.

Boomers come from an era that embraced “living to work” as opposed to “working to live.” Work has been the centerpiece of life. Professional achievement and financial compensation have prominent spots on the self-worth scorecard. Advisers have poured their heart and soul into building a business and serving their clients, making many sacrifices along the way. Plus, these advisers have seen and heard firsthand the difference their advice has made on the quality of others’ lives. Who wouldn’t want more of that?

It’s their identity. When boomer advisers were young, they juggled the responsibilities of creating a family and growing a business simultaneously. Then they reached the point where something had to give. Often, it was the passions of an earlier life—hobbies, sports, socializing with friends. After the kids left home, satisfaction was derived from the work itself, rather than from rediscovering those lost passions.

Founderitis is real. Whether consciously or not, a failure to delegate keeps founding advisers in a power position. Rather than developing the next generation of leaders, they hold tightly to responsibility. But none of us can go on indefinitely, which means the business tends to pay the price.

The Lessons in the Data

Nature, nurture and circumstance have all played into the industry landscape we see today. It’s not that it’s a bad thing necessarily, but it has created challenges both for boomer advisers struggling with how to pivot to the next stage and for emerging advisers who are more than ready to take the reins. It also offers some lessons that emerging advisers may want to take to heart as they develop a vision for what they want their life and career to be.

  1. Broaden your horizons. Be careful that work does not become the one and only focus of life. Spend time with your family, nurture your passions and hobbies and try to ensure that fun is an ingredient in everything you do.
  2. Be careful about scorecards. The industry lists many advisers aspire to be named to include quantitative criteria like AUM and wealth of clients served, not qualitative data like family dynamics, life enjoyment or how you give back to society.
  3. Expect to pivot. Emerging advisers have seen firsthand how some boomer advisers are struggling with retirement. This industry is changing fast. A long-term career will undoubtedly include even more pivots than your older colleagues have experienced.
  4. Hire people who are smarter than you and delegate to them if you want a business that will outlast you. That means reinventing yourself to add new leadership value.
  5. Check your attitude and behaviors. Be open to new opportunities.

What does this really say? Build a life—not just a career—and then work hard to protect it!

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.


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The Financial Adviser’s 3-Step Guide to Perseverance

Advisers come to me for coaching as they find themselves working harder and harder to focus on what they want their outcomes to be, only to find that, at some point, they aren’t living up to their own expectations. When this happens, they feel frustrated, disappointed and anxious.

Successful advisers know they must dedicate themselves to working smarter by figuring out what works for them to lead them down the path to greater success, and what activities are time wasters and would be better off retired. The mantra needs to be, “Never give up on reaching your goals, just find innovative ways to persevere.”

William Feather said it best: “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” In order to keep “hanging on,” you must define your purpose, continuously evaluate your activities and let your progress guide you to your destination.

Let’s take a deeper look at some best steps for this process and how they have helped one adviser.

Step 1: Know Your Purpose

If you want to see any great endeavor through to completion, you have to find a great reason to keep going. The best reason of all is knowing your purpose. The most important thing to do initially is define “why” you want to accomplish your goals, not necessarily “how”—that is secondary.

Todd, a 15-year veteran financial adviser, was frustrated at being on a production plateau when I first started coaching him. He asked me how he could work smarter and not just harder. Before getting into the details of what to do, I first needed to know his why. He confided in me that his mission was to help as many people as he could to set themselves up for a comfortable retirement.

Step 2: Evaluate Your Activities and Actions

Once you land on your purpose, it’s important to understand what’s working (or not). In other words, you must evaluate your activities and action steps to analyze if what you are doing is leading you in the right direction.

In Todd’s case, it didn’t take long to determine that he was working hard because he was using the wrong tools. Look at it this way: If your goal is to chop down a tree and you use a baseball bat, it’s going to take you a long time (if you ever get the tree down at all). All Todd needed to do was understand what prospecting tools were best for him, learn how to use them and establish a systematic way to evaluate the results. Over time, we did just that and he started to move people into and through the pipeline.

Step 3: Let Your Progress Guide You

When you know your purpose and sharpen your skill sets, you will increase the likelihood of successful outcomes. If you are struggling, it is so important to remember the proverb, “nothing succeeds like success,” and continue moving forward by using your recent milestones as stepping stones to reach new levels.

Todd saw the fruits of his labors and was excited because he was helping more people—and with much less effort than he had ever done before. In addition, he was no longer frustrated because he was off the production plateau that had prompted him to want to be coached. As a result, I explained that if he wanted to keep helping more people he had to regularly reinforce his purpose and fine-tune his skill sets.

Why The Adviser’s Guide to Perseverance Works

The reason this way of thinking works is because you have a tangible process for motivating persistence. In tough times when you feel like giving up, it is important to have a proven technique for creating tenacity.

If you would like a complimentary coaching session, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.


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Path to Mastery: What Alex Honnold’s Free Solo Climb Can Teach Planners About Creating Conditions for Success

My husband rock climbs, and he introduced me to Alex Honnold a few years back. Honnold is a free solo rock climber that climbed the 3,000-plus sheer face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in 2017—without ropes. By definition, a free solo is a climb without ropes. It’s just you, your bare hands, your shoes and a chalk bag.

It’s beyond words impressive that Honnold accomplished this feat. But what’s truly mind-blowing is that he did this climb—which takes serious climbers with ropes 3 to 5 days—in a blistering 3 hours and 56 minutes. Mind blown.

It’s a performance like Honnold’s that captivates me and that I’ve always sought to understand and replicate. If he can overcome the very real risk of death to climb a rock, why do so many advisers struggle to achieve their goals, much less perform the kind of kick-assery that Honnold and other top performers achieve? I mean if he can climb a near mile of sheer rock with his bare hands, surely you have what it takes to double your practice and take time off.

Honnold’s Success Model

Honnold’s 10-minute Ted Talk has lessons for us all. It’s not obvious, but when Honnold describes his path to mastery, he’s following the success model we use in coaching: mapping, mindset, methods, momentum. Success leaves clues, and when you follow those clues, you get a front-row seat to the thinking, strategies and habits that create the conditions for success:

  • Mapping: Honnold describes how he set the goals for and approached two very different climbs and the difference it made in his performance. The first climb that he expected to be easy was a struggle, and the climb everyone said was impossible was almost effortless. If he can do this, you can create clarity with your Vision and Goals and a map to guide your efforts with a Business Blueprint. What do you envision for your practice and for your life? Create a list of clear goals for all areas of your life—business, family, friends, personal growth, health, finances, recreation, romance and physical environment. Be very clear what you want. Then work on your blueprint.
  • Mindset: Honnold talks about his mindset and learning to lock his fear away. He speaks of how his quest for mastery included spending countless hours of mental preparation using visualization, repeatedly envisioning thousands of finger grips in his mind to condition himself for a perfect performance. If he can do this, you can face your practice with a new level of confidence by creating a mindset reset and mastering the 7 Mindsets of Success I have shared many times in both my speaking engagements and on the FPA Coaches Corner.
  • Methods: Both rock climbing and financial planning have best practice methods that shortcut the path to mastery. Honnold does not reinvent the wheel when it comes to tying knots or setting anchors (he uses ropes when practicing his climbs). He doesn’t buy the cheapest equipment, and he’s part of a close community that collaborates and supports each other. Mapping and mindset are essential ingredients, but you can’t make a masterful cake with mediocre methods.
  • Momentum: There’s no missing Honnold’s momentum as he describes the journey from secretly wishing to conquer El Capitan to making the decision and forcefully applying all his energy and effort on that single goal. The sheer size of his goal required momentum of a magnitude the likes of which none of us has ever experienced. Momentum is the force and velocity with which you apply your energy and drives the timing and level of your results. Your momentum advances you in the direction you focus your attention, so focusing on what you want is paramount.

Implementing Honnold’s Success Model

So here’s the straight talk on stepping up and rockin’ it Honnold style:

  • Be responsible (stop making excuses). One of our limitless practice coaches, Matt Jarvis has an amazing directness about what it takes to be more successful, and I call this The Matt Mantra: “Don’t whine, just work.” Matt never makes excuses. He just does the work. He didn’t start out making real money and taking off 100 days a year. His journey to limitless success began when he got tired of disappointment and wanting more. Like Honnold, Matt has no room for excuses because there is no room for mediocrity in his business. You are more like Honnold than you know because while your consequences are very different, it’s as true for you as it is for Honnold: mediocrity kills. Explore these questions: What would your practice and life be like in a year if you stopped making excuses? What would it be like if you’d stopped making excuses 3 years ago?
  • Show up. Seriously, that’s the secret. Just show up in your world, engage and do the work. At some point, many of you have jumped in head first on the journey to excel and others are wondering where to begin. It is quite normal to feel equal parts excitement and overwhelm. Excited, because you know what’s possible and that there is a way to start making it happen; overwhelmed, because you have a full-time job, a busy life and now on top of all that you have to find time to learn and implement the ways to radically improve your business and your life and there will work involved. When you start feeling overwhelmed, your brain hits the brakes. We are all here to support you.
  • Progress, not perfection. This is a Dan Sullivan (co-founder of Strategic Coach) saying, and I love it. Let me be unmistakably clear: you will not always do all the work, you will not implement all of the new tools and ideas you receive and you will not be “done” at the end of 2019. It took me years to create the success I now enjoy, so while I’m giving you some serious shortcuts, it’s reasonable to assume it will take time to build the practice of your dreams. The good news is you don’t need to “do it all” to shift yourself into high gear and get great results this year. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just breathe and eat the elephant one bite at a time. This gets a lot easier if you simply narrow your focus to the priorities that matter most to you.

I love studying Alex Honnold, and other people living The 5 Freedoms, to find and share the strategies and habits of top performance.

As I tell my children as much as they can stand to hear: your body can do most anything, it’s your mind you have to convince.

Stephanie Bogan

Stephanie Bogan is the CEO of Educe, Inc., and former CEO/Founder of Quantuvis Consulting (sold to Genworth Financial in 2008) and has spent 20 years consulting with the profession’s top advisory firms and enterprises. Educe is focused on helping financial advisors, entrepreneurs and executives build wildly successful businesses and lives that they love by expanding their mindset and business methods in ways that help them experience greater levels of success, happiness, wealth and well-being in their work. Bogan is a coach in the FPA Coaches Corner.