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Greg Gagne. (Photo: Affinity Investment Group)

Life Health > Annuities > Fixed Annuities

Retiring Early Could Go Wrong: Greg Gagne

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What You Need to Know

  • Gagne founded Affinity Investment Group in 1997 and has qualified for membership in the Million Dollar Round Table for 22 years.
  • He worries about what will happen to clients with real estate investment strategies developed in a low-interest-rate environment.
  • He also worries about what will happen to clients who have given up on their careers.

Greg Gagne says the COVID-19 pandemic and other trends have caused many clients to change the way they approach retirement, which may lead to problems down the road.

Gagne is the founder of and an investment advisor at Affinity Investment Group — a 25-year-old Exeter, New Hampshire-based firm that offers wealth management and distribution planning services for retirees and for near-retirees.

He has been a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, a group for top financial services sales leaders, for 22 years, and he now serves as the MDRT’s second vice president.

He also is a past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Association of Insurance of Financial Advisors, and he received that group’s Distinguished Financial Advisor Award in 2008.

He has a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from Bentley University, and he holds the Chartered Financial Consultant designation from The American College of Financial Services.

In addition to volunteering with industry groups, he serves on the board of Make-A Wish New Hampshire.

Via email, he told us about how he sees the retirement planning market changing, what he’s doing about the advice he gives the clients, and what he’s doing to try to keep clients calm.

THINKADIVOR: Who are you serving, and what tools are you offering?

GREG GAGNE: Most of the clients we serve are between five to 10 years away from retirement, and we create a portfolio that meets their cashflow sustenance needs for the entirety of their lives.

In my business, my ideal client profile is someone who’s approaching retirement or retired and plan to stay retired.

My clients rely on us to reassure them that their assets and their legacies are protected. Ensuring that they are protected from any potential potholes in life, regardless of whatever gets thrown their way, is often their largest concern.

The products we use for their retirement plans include IRAs, conversion Roth IRAs, 401(k)s, fixed annuities, immediate annuities, long-term care insurance and life insurance for estate tax planning and/or legacy planning.

Are your clients’ needs changing? If so, how?

In the past two years, we have had many people seek our guidance due to the extreme volatility in the markets.

People are more mindful of protecting themselves following the uncertainty of the pandemic.

We’ve had more clients interested in protecting their assets from long-term care events and from probate via estate planning techniques.

Have you noticed new kinds of challenges cropping up? If so, what kinds of challenges?

People invested in real estate while the mortgage rates were low, and then used those properties to gain cash flow through things like VRBO and Airbnb. The rising rate environment, coupled with the possibility of a recession, could prove [this to be] a poor investment decision.

People are also starting to retire earlier. The decision to retire earlier could be problematic later in life.

What kind of changes, if any, have you been making in your advice-giving strategies in recent years?

The mixture and our approach have not changed, but behavioral finance has changed since the start of the pandemic.

Trying to keep people using the product mixtures that have been working consistently for years has been difficult, as our clients’ behavior has morphed to chase trendy investments.

Looking forward, as rates increase, opportunities for some of the more stable, guaranteed investments, such as fixed annuities and CDs, will become more prevalent in the product mixes.

What kind of effect, if any, has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your practice?

In the past five years, client attitudes have shifted heavily since the start of the global pandemic, which caused most people to reflect on their lives.

From what I have seen in my experience, people are retiring early, changing careers, becoming more philanthropic and empathetic. But at the same time, people are also frustrated with the global and domestic tragedies that we are experiencing daily.

We have changed a lot since the start of the pandemic.

When it first began, my MDRT study group rallied together to set up weekly Zoom calls to talk about what is going on and how we can help our clients.

I implemented a calming and stabilizing communication plan where we published weekly video updates for clients, since we didn’t have time to call every single client.

Then, as time went on and things slowly went back to normal, we cut the videos back to every two weeks, and now we’re back to making monthly videos for our clients.

We also held webinars since we couldn’t meet in person. We made the webinars more engaging and conversational to give clients the ability to talk to people outside of their immediate family.

Our overall communication system has changed drastically since the start of the pandemic, and it has been very well received by our clients, so we’ll continue leveraging this system in the future.

Greg Gagne. (Photo: Affinity Investment Group)