If you’re the kind of person who spends a lot of time traveling, you’re likely able to recite the standard air safety demonstration spiel, complete with drooping oxygen masks and wing exits. And if you’re an advisor, you’ve probably got the whole looming boomer story down pat: The first of 76 million or more folks born between 1946 and 1964 have finally reached the age at which they can draw Social Security benefits.
It’s still a bit of an abstract notion, but it’s one that’s going to have significant impact for a community of advisors who’ve spent years dealing with older retirees and their more frugal financial outlook. Boomers, for the most part, didn’t do the best job of planning for their golden years, and with a series of market upheavals in the past dozen years, what meager savings they had have been hard hit.
It comes as little surprise that a boomer, like Maryland’s Jeff Mose, has come to specialize in solving the financial issues of folks in his own generation. Like many boomers, Mose, 58, has changed careers several times — years in the United States Navy and Reserves merged into a varied stint in broadcasting, followed by work as a corporate communications liaison for a prosperous Internet start-up company.
But those career changes also came with some financial challenges, and Mose says he and his wife have some uncomfortably intimate knowledge of the rollercoaster market’s effect on their retirement plans — and the hard choices many boomers must make as they face the future.
Jeff Mose, pictured below
Senior Market Advisor: What went wrong in your own early retirement planning, before you became an advisor?
Jeff Mose: It happened to us after the dot-com craze. We had a broker, and we’d invested a lot of money, and suddenly it was gone — and she was gone, too. You find yourself asking, “How did we let this happen?” You go into an investment plan thinking it’s like the relationship you have with your doctor; there’s just a level of trust and expertise, and, of course, your broker must be looking out for your individual money, right?
It happened to a lot of us — we were all left thinking, “How can such intelligent people make such stupid money decisions?” Luckily, I’ve gotten much smarter on this, and I want to share that with other people.
SMA: And what did you learn?
JM: My parents bought an annuity and I started to learn a lot about defined contribution plans versus defined benefit/pension plans. I’d had a 403(b) plan when I worked for PBS at one time, and through my parents, I discovered the whole notion of safe money.
And I learned how percentages and actual dollars are sometimes diametrically opposed: When someone says you’ve made a 12 percent gain but it’s on an account that lost 40 percent of its value, you’re still in a big hole. I don’t mind putting light on a bad situation, provided I have ways of fixing it. Still, most people would rather have a root canal than have to talk seriously about their finances.
SMA: What are you finding in your dealings with your fellow boomers?
JM: I’m seeing different kinds of issues. The older wave of boomers, those who’ve started to hit retirement age this year, a lot of them still had pensions but a shorter window for their defined plans, as those emerged further in their work careers. Middle boomers, like me, are less likely to receive a pension, and a lot of them have had some very volatile 401(k) experiences.