Retirement always intrigued Jeff Bucher because he watched many in his family navigate their golden years. He noticed that some had no worries and some struggled financially. His great-grandfather and great-grandmother lived the retirement journey many strive for.
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His great-grandfather lived to the age of 101 and was active throughout. He planned his retirement wisely and was able to live freely and give to others the entire time. This — along with a conference visit several years ago — inspired Jeff to assist others on their journey so they could enjoy the spoils of their hard work like he did.
“The Senior Market Expo several years ago was a major turning point for me as I learned for the first time there was much more that could be done to serve our clients and I could do so without being tied to the company I was working for,” Bucher said. “I decided I could do more for my clients than what I was providing in my current position and take the leap of faith to start my own firm.”
In 2006, Jeff convinced his brother Kevin to quit his high school teaching position and start Citizen Advisory Group. They became a full service firm handling what they call the six checkpoints of retirement (income, investments, tax planning, health care, long-term care and legacy planning).
Calling it an early success would be an understatement. In 2015 Citizen Advisory Group earned total sales of close to $32 million.
Here are some insights from Bucher, this year’s Advisor of the Year.
Question: What challenges have you faced or do you currently face in your practice?
Answer: When I first founded my firm, new client acquisition was always a challenge. We found a lot of success through workshop marketing, to the point where referrals and workshop marketing have become the cornerstone of our prospecting today. However, in an industry where new policies, regulations and laws seem to arise more often than not, prospecting remains a challenge for any firm. As a firm, it is important that we stay at the cutting edge of all marketing techniques so that we can stay top of mind with our ideal client.
The DOL’s recent regulatory changes also bring new challenges, especially with limited information available. As retirement advisors who are also investment advisor representatives, our team already adheres to the fiduciary standard, so putting client’s interests first is not new to us, but with some of these changes, I believe there’s going to be a lot of different products and companies that may exit the market, which could ultimately make it increasingly more difficult to serve our clients in the best way possible. However, I look at the regulatory environment and the changes as a positive because many firms may decide to go in different directions. New advisors may exit the business because they don’t have the firm established yet. Older advisors may retire. The fiduciary standard could be an opportunity for retirement advisors who do follow the fiduciary standard to serve more people.
Question: What is your process in terms of prospecting and integrating new clients?
Answer: We believe that education is truly imperative, especially as investors approach retirement and their investment needs change. Many advisors only handle one or two areas of a client’s retirement plan, but we believe in order to best serve our clients, we must assist them with all of the financial areas of retirement and create one comprehensive plan. We also think this is how you are truly a fiduciary to your clients, as advising on all areas and how they impact each other allows you to provide the best possible advice. That is why our prospecting is educationally based around all of aspects of retirement planning. At our workshops, prospects go through six checkpoints of retirement, learning not just about investment and retirement planning strategies, but also about the importance of health care and Medicare, long-term care, tax and estate planning and the role each plays in a successful retirement plan. By the end of the workshop, many referrals are ready to set up their first appointment with our firm.
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As far as integrating new clients, our appointment process is completely plan driven. Since the workshops help layout the different checkpoints of retirement planning, the first appointment is spent going through the client’s goals and objectives and understanding the retirement journey they want to take. By gathering this information and understanding how the client envisions their retirement, we are able to build a plan that is not product focused but instead plan focused. This comprehensive plan helps them to see the big picture and understand what each of their investments and each of their decisions are doing and how that impacts the outcome of their overall comprehensive plan. Once a plan is built and implemented, our clients feel peace of mind that all areas have been addressed, and they feel empowered to go out and enjoy what they have worked so hard for their entire lives.
Question: What challenges do the senior and boomer markets face today?
Answer: I think the largest risk that retirees face today is longevity, because longevity increases every other risk in retirement. Baby boomers are different than the generations before them, many of them without pensions or guaranteed income sources. This, combined with the reality that life expectancies are continuing to grow longer creates an uphill battle for many baby boomers. The longer we live, the more challenges we will see, including extreme stock market volatility and even crashes, inflation, health issues and rising taxes. If a retiree does not address longevity first, the rest of their lives they’ll be on pins and needles hoping that they have enough money to survive.
The other big issue that I see with today’s retirees is the low interest rate environment. Many investors become more conservative as they approach retirement, turning to “safer” investment vehicles such as CDs, bonds or annuities. However, all of these safe types of investment vehicles are impacted by the low rate environment, which makes accumulating enough for retirement increasingly more difficult, especially if we have a long life. Portfolio growth is key, but another risk that they could face, if dissatisfied with the returns of those safer alternatives, is overextending themselves in the stock market in an attempt to make more money. This usually doesn’t end well and could prove very fatal to the overall success of their retirement plan.