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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

What Boomers Need, and Aren't Getting, From Advisors

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It’s no secret: A curious thing happened to the self-involved “Me Generation” on the way to retirement: Baby boomers — big-time spenders in their Beatlemania youth and prime time — aren’t saving enough to see them through their golden years.

What’s not well known is that, oddly, the financial services industry is failing to make this whopping cohort of men and women, who control vast amounts of money, a focus of attention. Indeed, boomers are excluded from many financial services corporate efforts, argues Marcia Mantell, founder of Mantell Retirement Consulting ( in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.

“The boomers have been forgotten,” says the industry veteran, a former vice president of retirement at Fidelity Investments who has trained FAs for more than 25 years.

Enter: Mantell’s new baby boomer division, zeroing in on retirement planning and income distribution needs of boomers and the oldest Gen Xers.

Offered are custom retirement income planning workshops for advisors and clients, and Mantell is working with the Retirement Income Industry Association (RIIA) in developing curriculum for its Retirement Management Analyst designation, which she holds.

The retirement expert, who founded her education and business development consultancy in 2005, serves large financial services companies and FAs. She is a frequent speaker at consumer and industry events alike, and has presented at Pershing Insite and the RIIA, among others.

Consumer research she recently conducted showed that, while financial services home offices are vigorously marketing to millennials, virtually all firms are giving short shrift to the pressing planning needs of baby boomers, who, to be sure, control far more wealth than the millennials.

Further, neither are financial advisors addressing boomer retirement issues sufficiently, especially the distribution phase, when high health care costs and, typically, high taxes kick in, Mantell contends.

In the interview, she discusses what advisors — particularly younger FAs — can do to make their practices more boomer-accessible.

Mantell — a 57-year-old baby boomer herself — highlights female boomers, who, she says, need to “blaze a retirement trail” by becoming more involved with their money. She is the author of “What’s the Deal with Social Security for Women?” (Rethink Press), due this fall, and “What’s the Deal with Retirement Planning for Women” (People Tested Books, 2015).

ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Mantell, on the phone from her office in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The first step to retirement planning is becoming more open about discussing money, she stresses. “I want people talking about their money — advisor to client, client to advisor, husband and wife — and how they’re going to make their money last through retirement. For heaven’s sake! Talk about your money!”

Here are highlights of our interview:

THINKADVISOR: Why did you start a baby boomer division?

MARCIA MANTELL: Boomers have the money — not millennials. But from the consumer research I’ve done, no one is talking to boomers except a couple of cosmetics companies, Tide detergent and home health care. Boomers are the forgotten generation; so there’s a huge need.

But isn’t the financial services industry addressing boomers?

I looked at financial services, and it wasn’t pretty: There was [practically] nothing there from the corporate home offices [banks, mutual fund and insurance companies]. It was empty. So we have a problem that’s not being addressed: Financial services isn’t reaching baby boomers.

What are the implications?

Boomers control the vast majority of money — both investable assets and disposable income — yet they’re not ready for retirement financially. Their median savings amount is about  $180,000 to $250,000 [Stanford Center for Longevity and other sources]. Those numbers aren’t big enough.

What demographic cohort are the home offices concentrated on instead of boomers?

The focus has shifted significantly from boomers and even the first Gen-Xers to the kids. Millennials are the shiny new toy. Firms are saying we need to move forward fast with technology to grab those millennials, who finally have more than a nickel.

What needs to be done to reach boomers?

Boomers are going to live a long time. We have to figure out how to stretch their money. Most aren’t even halfway into their retirement years.

But financial advisors are helping boomer clients with retirement-planning needs, aren’t they?

Our entire industry has been focused on accumulation — beating the benchmark. However, the spending side is very different. From what I hear from advisors, they’re not prepared for the conversation they need to have with clients about that. A lot of them are still very focused on: My clients will live off the total return. But it doesn’t work that way.

Please explain.

First of all, boomers think it’s all their money. They see a $1 million nest egg and think they have $1 million. Well, they don’t. A third of it goes to Uncle Sam. That’s a shocker for them. So advisors need to have a tough conversation with boomer clients. And for the most part, I don’t think [FAs] are prepared to have it.

What should they say?

They have to tell boomers: “You don’t have $1 million to spend. You have $1 million from which you have to create an income. And that’s a very different thing.”

What else do boomers need to be aware of regarding retirement spending?

Fidelity and other companies say that couples should earmark $285,000 for health care, presuming they live to average life expectancy, the mid-80s. If you’ve saved $1 million, that’s more than 25%. It’s a crushing number.

What other aspects of retirement should FAs discuss?

A 35-year-old advisor might not be thinking about Social Security very much — but their boomer clients are. Advisors have to help them make strategic decisions about when to claim. That goes for high-net-worth clients as well. This isn’t money anyone wants to leave on the table.

You just mentioned boomers’ need to create an income stream. Please elaborate.

Say you’ve been an employee all your career. But now, for retirement, you have to create your own revenue stream. That’s not so easy. There are key decisions that must be made around, for example, Social Security and understanding the cost of Medicare.

What should FAs realize about communicating with baby boomers in meetings?

Use paper and pen: Don’t put everything on your iPad because then they can’t take notes or necessarily follow along. And they won’t have anything to look at when they get home from your office. Talk slower: Boomers aren’t as quick [on the uptake as millennials]. We can’t keep up with youth’s speed of thought, particularly because we have so many more things in our heads than they do.

You say you’re “sounding the alarm that all women baby boomers need to start taking their retirement plan more seriously.” Why underscore women?

Women are interested in money but aren’t necessarily engaged with their own money. It wasn’t until 1974 that a woman could get her own credit card without a man co-signing [Equal Credit Opportunity Act]. In 1977, she could still be fired for being pregnant [banned by 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act].

So your point is?

Laws have opened up the power of money, and boomer women have blazed career trails. Now retirement is coming, and they have to blaze a retirement trail. That means getting more involved with their money.

Is this what you encourage with “Marcia’s Retirement Kitchen” on your Boomer Retirement Briefs blog?

Yes. If you want women to talk about money and get comfortable with this last taboo subject for them, it needs not to be in a formal setting. Where do all my [family] conversations happen? At the kitchen table.

So you’re relating retirement income planning to meal prep?

Yes, it’s a layering of information, like making a lasagna. If you can make a lasagna, you can work on developing your retirement income plan.

What’s your recipe?

First you put a little sauce down. Then you put your noodles down. Then your ricotta, then mozzarella, then more sauce maybe with meat. Everyone’s lasagna’s a little different, like retirement income plans will be — unique to you and your family. I make my lasagna with sausage; you might not because you’re a vegetarian.

What’s up next in the “Retirement Kitchen”?

“Debt and Donut Holes.” I’m including my great-great grandmother’s donut recipe from 1878. Like the hole in a donut, [boomers] don’t have all the money they thought they had. They’re entering retirement with more debt than ever. So they have this hole in their plan that they have to service. We need to address debt in a more realistic way.

You’ve said that individual investors can be “squirrely.” In what way?

Individual investors think they know a lot of stuff, and then they find out they don’t. They think they’re authorities: They’ll say, for example, “I’m taking Social Security at 62 because it’s going bankrupt.” That couldn’t be further from the facts. Or they say they want to heavy up only on REITs [Real Estate Investment Trusts] whether or not REITs are something that’s going toward their goal. I really feel for financial advisors whose clients think they’re super-knowledgeable!

In sum, why should FAs focus more on boomers’ retirement?

Advisors [have] boomer [clients]; but they don’t always know what to do with them. Boomers aren’t taking the right action — and they need help.

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