I recently wrote about the ‘expert mindset’ in Be Wary of the Expert.  The post was meant to encourage all of us to continually learn and be open to being wrong vs putting a stake in the ground as the expert.  The feedback was interesting on the post, not unexpectedly. My view on the ‘expert mindset’ is akin, but not the same, as being a niché financial advisor or having a client type where the advisor’s best work becomes most apparent.  Or, from the client inter-face, searching for an advisor who is experienced in helping people achieve what you wish to have.

Determining where you do your best work as an advisor, I strongly support.  Finding advisors who match your goals as a consumer, I strongly support.

Objectives in financial planning are as wide and vast as they’ve ever been.  Consider these:

  • Traditional Retirement
    • Outliving money and paying for quality health care are the primary concerns with this group.  The biggest decisions they need to make involve part-time work, when to file Social Security, Medicare elections, long-term care insurance affordability, income generation from investments, and spending down tax efficiently.
  • F.I.R.E.  (Financial Independence, Retire Early)
    • The movement is popular amongst Millennials and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.   It’s geared towards those who maximize their savings rate at a young age, cut mercilessly, and plan to live simply.  Documented retirement ages are earlier than most people would ever dream.
  • Legacy Planning
    • Believe it or not, the research is very clear that those with plenty of wealth to outlive their life expectancy experience the same degree of anxiety about money as those who are struggling to ‘make it’ (this is mostly an American phenomenon – not to be confused or compared to the true struggles of developing nations).  The ultra-wealthy are concerned about most efficiently passing their wealth to their heirs and making sure they are properly covered from any agent that could bring the house of cards down that they’ve worked so hard to build. These are very legitimate concerns.
  • Retire While You Work
    • This is becoming increasingly popular (and also where I do my best work).  The planning is geared towards finding a more modern blend of enjoying the present moment while still incorporating sacrifice for a great future.  Some cornerstones of the philosophy are both qualitative and quantitative. First, as life expectancies continue to rise and forecasts suggest they will only exponentially increase, we might entertain earned wages for a longer period – even more so with the decline of pension plans.  Second, if we are going to work longer, exert more focus on enjoying what you do. This isn’t to be confused with fluffy talk of ‘finding your passion’. More so, this is about not viewing your work as something you dread or as a means to an end. It’s a mindset shift from chasing a magical retirement number.  I call it “Re-wirement”. Industry colleague, David Adams, writes about this in his book, The Currency of Time.

These are only a few of many objectives.  And, within these objectives are very different planning strategies.  For instance:

  • We’ve completed massive Roth conversions for wealth accumulators not yet at retirement who decide to pay more in taxes now vs later (read more here).  This strategy is not only complicated but would be wildly inappropriate for most others.
  • As someone with three children who wakes up everyday dreaming of providing them an abundant life, I’m not equipped to assist someone in the F.I.R.E. camp.  That story just doesn’t resonate with me. Neither are right/wrong. I just don’t’ have experience with it, nor do I care to, so someone shouldn’t choose my services if very early retirement is their goal.
  • In traditional retirement planning, the balancing act of paying for quality health care and managing your cash flow is a very real challenge.  There can be some creativity involved here. Sometimes it involves filing early for Social Security, but sometimes it just comes down to truly understanding the Affordable Care Act.  Regardless, those offering F.I.R.E. advising services are likely not experienced in easing this common retiree concern.

The examples are endless – which is why if you’re an advisor reading this post, it’s one of the most exciting times to be in our industry.  The opportunity to genuinely help people has never been more real in our business. If you’re a consumer, this is why advisor selection is important.  There tends to be this assumption that all advice is equal, commoditized, and you’ll get the same answer from any advisor you ask. This could not be further from the truth.  Ask around. Find someone who does their best work with what you need.

Stay calm. Stay invested.

Thanks for reading,

See disclaimers.

Mitch

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