From the April 2006 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Four Planners Who Get It: Mark Carruthers

Looking to the Future

Mark Carruthers believes that everything begins with a plan, although he never envisioned having a practice that focused almost exclusively on retirement planning.

"I don't think it was a conscious decision," says the 43-year-old from Garnerville, New York. "Over the last three years, more and more of my business has become solely retirement based. It was a natural evolution. People are looking at their retirements and, unless their company [offers] a pension, they are saying, 'How am I going to fund my retirement?'"

In January, Carruthers changed his business name from Financial Horizons to, simply, Mark Carruthers CFP, in order to brand himself instead of a business name. In addition, he changed his logo and slogan to reflect retirement planning. "[With the logo], we tried to incorporate my lifestyle--mountains, skiing, and outdoor activities--with colors and themes to evoke retirement planning," Carruthers says.

Carruthers has been in business for the last 10 years, and manages $12 million for about 150 clients, with around $10 million earmarked for his clients' retirement. Affiliated with Genworth Financial Services, he recommends no-load mutual funds, I-shares, or commodity funds to the 90% of his clients in the accumulation phase. Even during the accumulation phase of a client's financial life, he says, a retirement plan needs to be in place.

"I tell my clients to begin with the end in mind," Carruthers says. "Ask yourself, 'where do you want to get to?' How often do you get in a car and say, 'Oh, I'm just driving?' You always have a destination. The same should happen with retirement."

Carruthers finds that the most challenging aspect of retirement planning is telling people honestly where they stand. "I don't always tell them what they want to hear," he says. "Emotionally, I find it challenging that we have to sometimes lower the client's expectations in terms of annual income desired and tell them they may have to work longer than expected."

Carruthers' clients range in age from 30 to 86 years with the bulk between 35 and 55. Only 10 of his clients are currently in the distribution phase, so Carruthers is planning ahead for his younger clients now. "[Distribution] will become a bigger and bigger issue for most of my clients," Carruthers says. "We'll have to take a look at the overall picture and find income from various sources."

Carruthers says he will most likely recommend a guaranteed variable annuity to his distribution-phase clients because they have potential for growth and help offset inflation.--Ryan G. Murphy

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