Wealth advisors face a number of challenges in the years ahead, noted many speakers at the Investment Advisor Wealth Advisor Summit, as the 75 million baby boomers begin their retirements that will be much different than their elders’, not the least of which is that people will be living much longer. Kicking off the fourth annual WAS, held in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, from Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, Gary Lineberry, director of market research firm Spectrem Group, gave a sense of the size of the retirement market, noting that in 2004, 10 million plan participants could have rolled over $362 billion, but most failed to use a professional advisor in doing so. Calling retirement a “lifestyle change” rather than merely a time of leisure, Lineberry said Spectrem’s research showed that while the affluent are confident about retirement, only 29% have actually made a plan for budgeting and income post-retirement. Sounding a similar theme, Doug Zarookian, a senior VP with Fidelity Insurance Company, said “the American public is not ready for retirement,” but it’s Fidelity’s belief that “more people will seek out highly profession local advisors” like those attending the conference in planning for retirement. That will be particularly important, Zarookian noted, since with increased longevity “people could be living as long in the distribution phase as in the accumulation phase” of their lives. A session on retirement income presented some solutions, including one offered by Ameritas Direct: no-load insurance, including a range of annuities. Mitch Politzer of Ameritas pointed out that VA subaccounts are often not managed effectively, so no-load VAs present an opportunity for fee-only advisors.

There is another retirement issue for advisors, noted Mark Tibergien in a well-received session punctuated often by laughter: a majority of advisors are over the age of 50, and are nearing their own retirement. While many advisors have a “die with my boots on” attitude, Tibergien argued that advisors have a moral obligation to clients to ensure a continuation of advisory services after the advisor retires or dies. “When these people are looking for their teeth and glasses, the last thing they need to do,” he said, “is to find a new advisor.” There is a ray of hope at the moment, said Tibergien, noting that it’s a seller’s market for advisory firms, and that banks in particular are “overpaying generally” for advisory firms.