It’s become commonplace to criticize the boomer generation for failing to adequately plan for retirement. These flower children of the 1960s, the usual criticism goes, have added the timidity of age to the carelessness of youth when it comes to readying themselves for the future. Looking through their rose-colored granny glasses, the self-absorbed hippies who thought they’d never grow old now face golden years shot through with corrosion, when their lack of preparation will lead inexorably to an old age of uncertainty, infirmity, and the ultimate indignity for these descendants of Peter Pan–not being masters of their own fate.
Just as not everyone who came of age in the ’60s embraced the counterculture, most of the members of the generation that will begin hitting traditional retirement age in 2008 are solid citizens who grew up, worked hard, and did change the world, if only modestly, by absorbing and then putting into practice some of the best lessons they heard preached in their youth, including greater tolerance for folks who didn’t share their gender or race or ethnicity or creed, and greater flexibility when it comes to workplace rules, for example, to support important institutions like, say, the family. Many of those people have at least modest sums in self-directed 401(k)s or IRAs, some have traditional pension plans, and when it comes to your clients, many have not only substantial liquid assets earmarked for retirement, but businesses they built or inherited that will be their ticket to a comfortable retirement.
That doesn’t mean you can talk to them the same way you spoke to their parents or to the members of the generations X and Y. Or that retirement won’t be seriously reformulated within the next few decades. You can play a central role in that reformulation for your clients and set a good example for the rest of the country, if you get the training you need, and add the structures to your practice that will allow you to offer those services efficiently and profitably. There are a number of stories in this month’s magazine to get you started.
First is the cover story by Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell, who walks you through the top retirement issues that are being hashed out right now in Washington and in your hometown. Unlike last year when complying with the multiple provisions of the Pension Protection Act was your primary retirement planning challenge, this year there are many separate, if interrelated knots to untangle. Second, Maya Ivanova shares the findings of the recent supplemental poll of Rydex AdvisorBenchmarking which focused on advisors offering, or failing to offer, financial gerontology services. Third, Olivia Mellan hits a home run with her comprehensive exploration of how to talk to boomers about retirement. She quotes experts who point out that the rules changed mid-game for boomers when it comes to retirement planning, and that the advisor can play a key role in helping clients figure out the work-play-relaxation nexus in the third age of their lives. Finally, a fourth feature story this month, written by the investment banker Nimi Natan whom I introduced in this space last month, provides a roadmap advisors can follow when a client sells his business. Your core competence may be in investing or business development or planning, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect the satellite offerings that your boomer clients, and their younger cousins, will want someone to provide now and in the future.