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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 In fact, the notion of retirement is outdated—it’s becoming much more of a life pivot.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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Best of 2018: Things You Shouldn’t Say to Grieving Clients

Editor’s note: Until the end of the year we will be publishing the top blog posts of 2018. This post is about what not to say to your grieving clients, which I wrote shortly after my dad passed away in July and I witnessed how our parents’ financial adviser was a shining example of how to interact with a client’s family after a death. 

The unthinkable happened this year.

My dad died.

We’re still living this nightmare that started when he got sick. Oftentimes, kind‐hearted well‐wishers unknowingly make it worse with the things they say, but my parents’ financial adviser is not one of those people.

I remember Mr. Vincent Rogers since I was a little girl. I was frightened of him for a long time simply because when my parents took out life insurance policies on us when I was 9, I was terrified to have blood drawn and I blamed Rogers for my fear.

Rogers was not just a financial adviser, he was also a friend to my dad, as he relayed to me when he paid his respects at my dad’s funeral.

“Do you remember me?” he asked.

“Of course,” I responded before thanking him for joining our family to celebrate our dad’s life.

“Your dad was my great friend,” he told me.

He relayed a story about how when he was a young newlywed, my dad made his wife (who was from Colombia and at the time spoke limited English) feel comfortable because he spoke in Spanish to her. Oftentimes, Rogers said, my dad and he had philosophical conversations about life and marriage. He told me that he will miss my dad—and I could tell he meant it.

There is one guarantee in this life and that is death. Given that fact, there is a very high chance that your clients are going to experience the loss of a loved one in the course of your working with them.

A time of loss is also a time of heightened sensitivity. Understandably, it’s stressful to approach a grieving person for fear of saying the wrong thing. Death in a family can cause your clients to cut out their own family members, and if you say something offensive to them, they just might cut you out too.

Clients might hold you to a higher standard when it comes to communication skills, and especially during a time of loss. Avoid being offensive by steering clear of the following phrases:

“I can’t even imagine.” Andrea Raynor, hospice chaplain, writes in her book The Alphabet of Grief: Words to Help in Times of Sorrow, that this is one of the more hurtful things to say to clients who are grieving. She said that this is like telling your client that their situation is so horrifying that you can’t even picture yourself going through it.

“I know how you feel.” None of us know how each other feels, really, and especially not during a time of loss. We’ve all lost someone, so if you are trying to say you know how they feel because you too have lost someone, then tell them the specific story while also clarifying that you understand that we all grieve and feel differently.

A friend, who’d also lost her father not too long ago, reached out and instead of saying, “I know how you feel,” she shared a specific story of how she has coped with losing her dad.

“It gets better when you realize he’s always with you,” she told me. This has been incredibly comforting, and I think of it every day.

“I’m so sorry.” Amy Florian told the Wall Street Journal that your clients will likely hear this phrase thousands of times and it will likely not have any impact by the time you say it. She’s right. This phrase could open the door to a negative situation, also, Florian noted, like the client responding with “Not half as sorry as I am.” Instead, she adds, share a memory of their loved one if you knew them, the way Rogers did with me.

“Everything happens for a reason.” This is another one best avoided, David Kessler, author and lecturer on death and dying, told the Wall Street Journal.

“When you’re in deep grief, you don’t care about any reasons,” he said in the article titled, “What Not to Say to a Grieving Client.”

He advises to simply let your client talk. Allow for extra time for your meeting with them with the expectation that they’ll need more time to tell their story.

These are the four phrases that have been triggers for me, and upon further research I found them on several lists of what not to say to clients who are grieving. Simply avoid these phrases altogether, opting for an authentic, heartfelt story of your clients’ loved one. You’re not going to make them feel better, but you could avoid making them feel worse.

One last bit of advice: check in on your clients. They’re probably not OK one month, two months, even a year after their loved one’s death. You reaching out just to see how they are will mean the world to them.

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


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A Change of Perspective

As you know, small business is not immune to internal conflict. But no matter the size of your office, a change of perspective may help you see an issue in a new light and find the resolution you’re looking for.

Of course, we’re all naturally clear on our own perspective and how to assess a certain situation or conflict. Seeing that same issue from someone else’s point of view, however, is a skill. But where do you begin? Well, someone wise once taught me a trick to view things through another person’s eyes. Odd as it may sound, it involves physical movement.

Get Moving

Let’s say, for example, there is a disagreement in your office about where a new staff person is going to sit. In this situation, each member of the team may have a different perspective.

  • One staff member feels he should move to the open cube, which is slightly larger than his current space, because he is now the most tenured staff person in the office.
  • The hiring adviser would like the new support person to be in that cube since it is closest to her office.
  • Some staff members feel that, if the most tenured staff person moves, they all should move to be close to a particular adviser or to match space with tenure.
  • Other advisers in the office think, who cares? Whatever.
  • The office manager would like to take an approach that keeps everyone happy and productive.

Discover a New Point of View

While this scenario may seem a bit trivial, it is real life. I’m sure everyone has encountered a similar situation. Here, the knee-jerk reaction that all this is silly (can’t we just focus on work?) may not be valid. Instead, what if you were to physically sit in the open cube, the adviser’s office, other staff members’ cubes or other advisers’ offices? I think you just might discover that the issue is quite real.

The act of physically moving to a different space can help you see things from a new point of view. The issue you’re dealing with could be anything—deciding whether to spend more of the budget on marketing, coming to an agreement on the planning software that will meet the needs of all or even making the firm-wide decision about the best asset allocation for a client segment. You might not find the answer by sitting in your office and trying to understand it from the perspective of others. But you may find it by moving your body to a different location—any location. Physical movement is the tool to help you stand in someone else’s shoes.

Create a Powerful Solution

I was recently reminded of the value of changing space to gain perspective while visiting China. My perspective of the country was “off.” But as I stood in a new space that was 7,500 miles away from home, saw a few of the 1.4 billion people everywhere and breathed the air, I began to understand a different culture and left with a lasting memory of a country of building cranes. A change of scenery can do a world of good. And by truly experiencing a different perspective? You will have a greater chance of creating a more powerful solution.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

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