Robert Laura, PRESIDENT OF SYNERGOS FINANCIAL GROUP AND CO-FOUNDER OF RETIREMENTPROJECT.ORG
SOUNDBITE: “The advisor community has an awesome opportunity to make the world a better place.”
Ready to get naked? It’s not the typical conversation-starter for a financial advisor talking about retirement planning — but then there is little that’s ordinary about Naked Retirement author Robert Laura, whose provocative approach to retirement emphasizes open discussion of interests and ideas, including “truths” about older-age sex.
Laura, 39, president of Synergos Financial Group, aims to strip down the traditional models of retirement planning and replace them with a more creative and intuitive construct that helps people take control of their retirement planning, saving and investing.
“Retirement planning is 100 percent backwards,” says Laura, a former social worker and co-founder of RetirementProject.org, an educational initiative. “The day you retire, most people have a financial binder with charts and product information but 99 percent of everyday life in retirement has nothing to do with your retirement plan. Yet 100 percent of planning is focused on that stuff.”
Laura, whose one-and-a-half-year-old practice oversees $18 million in assets under management, says it’s important to dig deep with clients. Many advisors, for example, will ask clients: What’s your perfect retirement? Not good enough, says Laura, who considers the question “big and vague” — one that draws out discussions about things society values such as travel, possessions and money.
Instead, Laura suggests asking: If, the day after you retired, you learned you had five years to live, how would that change things? What do you want to accomplish, see or do? And what if you had just 24 hours? What are your regrets? What hopes or dreams went unfulfilled?
“Ask questions like that and people truly personalize what’s important about retirement,” he says. “When you focus on things that are most important to you, the results often change from what others value to what you value.”
Other topics Laura covers includes the importance of staying socially connected, an examination of how your retirement will affect your relationship with others, and the creation of a “Curious List” to add direction and purpose to your later years.
Laura, whose writings include Naked Retirement: Stripping It to the Core and The Five Most Important Things They Don’t Teach You in School, ran a $60 million trust department at First National Bank in Michigan for five years until he and a colleague started their own business in 2009. Laura got his early training with American Express Financial Advisors.