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You get back when you give

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Helping people and giving back.

As a financial advisor to many families and individuals, I see this truism validated every day: you get back in direct proportion to what you give. That simple truth has allowed me to prosper in multiple ways while helping many clients with financial needs.

What attracted me to the financial services industry was the ability to help people — not only to reach their basic goals but to also realize their dreams. So many Americans work, invest and just hope it all works out. All too often, not having a plan leads to failure for the clients and their families.

As advisors, we have a valuable and specific skill set. We can identify very early in retirement whether a client has the assets and income to meet basic lifestyle goals and has the chance to achieve their dreams, such as leaving a legacy or educating their grandchildren.

Building a solid retirement income plan allows our clients to enjoy their retirement years after their hard work and saving during their more active years. It is a still an incredible joy for me to watch many clients visually relax when they realize they can safely spend some funds to enjoy family outings, purchase items for the kids and grandkids, and gift to others without excessive worry about running out of money before they run out of years.

I watched my father, still active as an advisor for over 50 years, thrive with this same joy helping his clients — I wanted the same career from a very young age.

Helping those with special needs

The greatest reward I now have is working with families that have kids and adults with special needs. Years ago, MassMutual and The American College created a program that taught me and other advisors how to help these families — a complicated and sorely-needed skill set.

Obtaining the knowledge and skills completely changed my business model and my entire life. I proactively became involved in the special needs community — not to gain clients, but to serve others.

The reward has been that our client families and organizations have embraced our process and we now have many planners working in the special needs arena.

Clients don’t know what they don’t know

A major issue in our industry is that many companies market to the public that they can do everything themselves. We work in one of the only professional industries where the public is told they could watch a TV show or read a book and accomplish what a skilled planner would provide.

In my years of practice, I could count on one hand the number of clients with the skills to do their own retirement planning. Most of those clients had accounting, business or mathematical backgrounds.

Most clients today, however, do not have these necessary skills and will flounder on their own. They do not know what they don’t know about inflation, longevity, market risks, Social Security and so many more critical areas of retirement planning. No surprise, then, that so many Americans are woefully unprepared to cope with the challenges of retirement.

This lack of information and skills results in many planners fixing financial “messes” that could have been avoided with comprehensive planning. The public loves investing on their own when the markets continue to rise — they feel it’s easy.

Then, they frantically turn to an advisor when the market falls because their plan isn’t working any more. I think many people do “financial hoping” instead of financial planning and they turn for advice when things fall apart. Clients should look to hire a planner when everything is great in their lives too.

Finally, being a successful advisor is not an accident, and it isn’t an easy job to start. People often tell you “no” when you’re trying to help them — even when you know they need your help.

Our task is to constantly improve our knowledge and skills, stay current and proactive, and continue to find clients that are ready for change and committed to their future goals. Help them achieve their goals, and your personal rewards are unlimited!

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Steve Thompson, MSFS, ChSNC, BCAA, CAS, CFS is the Special Care Planner Agency Investment Specialist for Skylight Financial Group and the May 2015 ‘Alumnus of the Month’ for The American College, the nation’s largest non-profit educational institution devoted to financial services. Steve also serves as the Investment Specialist for Skylight Financial Group with over 20 years of experience in the investment arena.