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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

'Boomerisms' That Drive Advisors Wild

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Certain things that baby boomers say drive some financial advisors wild–because the statements make no financial sense at all.

Some of these statements–call them boomerisms–are shown here. So are some suggestions agents can use to redirect the thinking and planning.

Boomers do have sayings and concepts that help in the planning process, say advisors contacted for this story. However, the more productive statements often don’t surface until the advisor can get past drive-wild statements such as these:

Live for today. Boomers always are telling Larry Brown that “they’re living for today,” especially since they “don’t know if they’ll be around tomorrow.”

His response? “I tell them that’s all well and good, but let’s look at reality,” says the managing general agent for Brown, Brown and Gomberg/CPS, Skokie, Ill.

Then Brown takes out a compound interest table and calculates what the boomer will have by retirement age, annually compounding the money they now earn at 5% to 6%. He also tells the boomer to be prepared to spend, in retirement, what he/she spends today–”because boomers will have more time and they like nice things”–and to factor in inflation, too (he uses a Consumer Price Index factor of 4% a year).

If a boomer plans to retire at age 62, Brown does the same thing, being sure to factor in the impact of the perceivable 30% cut in Social Security benefits that will result.

The numbers usually work, Brown says. “The boomers will say, ‘Oh! We need to start saving more.’” That opens the door to deeper inquiry into spending, saving and related issues.

If the numbers projected at retirement look like they’ll fall short, he says he always asks, “Where is the money you will need to live?”

I’ll kill myself first. A lot of men (not women) say they don’t want long term care insurance because, if their health gets that bad, they will kill themselves, says Paul Devore, chief executive officer of FMS Financial Partners Inc., Encino, Calif.

“I find that amusing since those clients won’t likely have the capacity to take that action at that point,” he quips.

The real issue is that men don’t want to think about being incapacitated in this way, Devore continues. “They can imagine being dead but not this.” Many men also think the wife will take care of them.

In response, he points out that, in the unlikely event LTC does happen, having money to continue to support the family is critical to avoiding the destruction of everything the man worked so hard to build. Devore also inquires if there is a guarantee that his wife will be able and willing to provide the LTC. “Wouldn’t it be better to hedge some of that with insurance?” he asks.

In general, he adds, the LTC sale must be made to the wife and then let the wife sell the husband–because “the wife has a better grasp on it and also knows that the statistics favor her outliving him.”

I can afford to withdraw 8%-10% a year for my retirement income, because I’ll only live to age 75. Harry Horn, retirement income planner with Lincoln Financial Advisors in Baltimore, Md., says he hears that “quite a bit.”

“I try to circumvent that by talking about how Ibbotson’s new longevity study shows that men and women now age 65 have average life expectancies of 88 and 92, respectively.” That’s for the whole U.S. population. People having good health, medical care, etc., could live longer.

“That seems to get through,” he says. “Then, they start getting nervous; they see they need to think through managing their money for a longer period.”

Everything is in order, so I don’t need to do anything now. Such boomers might say they already have a 401(k) at work or a pension, so they’ll “be just fine,” says Dale Lazzarone, a financial services professional with New York Life in Reno, Nev.

That’s procrastination, he says. When he hears it, he tries to get boomers to come in for a fact-finding session, just to be sure. If they do, he continues, they often are “shocked” to see that what they have will not get them very far in retirement.

That can be a good thing, he adds. “It starts them thinking that ‘maybe I should have put more money into my 401(k). Now, I have to save more.’”

Sometimes, it “wakes them up,” and they start planning.

If I die, my wife can run the business. Often, such statements come from business owners who work 70 hours a week and whose spouses never set foot in the business, says Devore. Typically, the wife doesn’t want to work there and doesn’t have the necessary skills and background. When he learns this, he probes into the real issue. “The reality is, many business owners undervalue the skills, experience, judgment, etc., they bring to the business,” Devore says. “They also tend to undervalue the financial rewards they receive from the business.” This realization can open up more productive discussion.

Whoops, maybe my wife and I will have to work longer. When Lazzarone hears that, he wonders out loud how many greeters Wal-Mart is going to hire. Then he spells out the client’s choices. “If you don’t want to work up to age 75, this is what you have to do. Otherwise….” Unfortunately, he adds, “many don’t want to change.”

I can’t afford to save because my paycheck is gone (to everyday expenses). Blue-collar boomers often say that but so do mid- and upper-level workers, says Tinker Kelly, president, Voluntary Employee Benefit Advisors, Nashville.

If someone is terminating health insurance for that reason, “it breaks my heart,” he allows. But if the real problem is that the boomer does not know what to do, Kelly says he urges the boomer to “pay yourself first.” In fact, he suggests paying up to the employer match in a 401(k), “because the match is like ‘free money.’”

Some people don’t see it’s their responsibility to save, Kelly observes. The advisor is often the only one to tell them.

We’ll move someplace else to lower our expenses. When Brown hears that, he reminds the boomer that real estate prices will have gone up, so they’ll pay more than they expect. “If they say they’ll just get a condo in that case, I point out that condo fees often are higher than maintenance on a house.” Moving isn’t a fix, he says.

We can’t do anything now, because…. “You name it, some boomers have an excuse for it,” says Phillip O. Sherrill, president of Epiphany Financial Group, L.L.C., Cornelius, N.C. They put off planning because they want to purchase a second home, educate the children, pay off debts, go on vacation and more.

“They’ll do anything to avoid talking seriously about their future,” he says.

Lazzarone calls them the “do-nothings.” Their favorite expression is, “let me think about it.”

It’s “very hard” to get such boomers to focus on planning, Sherrill says. Many are so much in debt, they’re unable to make plans, he says. Or, their assets amount to no more than equity in the home and maybe a 401(k) or IRA.

His solution? “Get to the point and decide whether there is a high probability of doing business. If not, move on.”

Devore agrees. If he had clients like that, he says drolly, “I suppose our discussion might lead to their questioning why I am telling them to find someone else to work with them.”

Allocate how? Sometimes, advisors themselves impact the boomerisms that get passed around.

For example, Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at York University and executive director of the IFID Centre, both in Toronto, says some advisors tell boomers that their stock/investment allocation “should be “100% minus your age. Therefore, if you are 65 years of age, you should have no more than 35% in equities and the rest should be in safe fixed-income assets.” That’s “quite harmful,” he says, “because people are living longer, and there is no way a 65% allocation to bonds will create a sustainable and inflation-adjusted income stream for the rest of your random life.”

On the plus side, says Milevsky, some advisors do tell clients that, once retired, their “sequence of investment returns is much more important than average investment returns.” That’s quite true, he says. “It should prompt people to think more closely about protecting their portfolio.”

Lincoln Financial Advisor’s Horn hears some plusses, too. For instance, some boomers tell him: “I have plans and dreams.” These may entail wanting more education, a second career or something else. Statements like that can be a basis for productive planning, he says.


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