Financial advisors should talk with clients five to 10 years earlier than most usually do about how they are going to make their savings last, one panelist told the audience at Monday's opening session of the 3rd Annual Financial Advisor Symposium.
C. James Johnson, vice president for Allianz Life Insurance Co., said many financial advisors don't even get around to discussing distributions with clients, but that phase is even more important than the accumulation phase. Johnson spoke on the panel "Strategies For Managing Retirement Income" along with John Diehl, senior vice president of The Hartford, and Robert Laura, president of the Synergos Financial Group in Michigan and a columnist for Financial Advisor magazine. The magazine is producing the conference at The Hyatt Regency Bonaventure Conference Center & Spa in Weston, Fla.
"When you get to be my age and you look across the table at your spouse of 47 years and you say, 'Now I've got this money, how am I going to make it last as long as she does?' That's really what scares me. It is going to be difficult for a lot of people who haven't put away a lot of money," says Johnson, who is in his late 60s and has developed a sound financial plan with his own advisor.
Johnson said advisors should look for opportunities much earlier to discuss with clients the transition from the accumulation phase. Financial advisors can help clients manage taxes - manage things like income tax brackets, when to sell securities and taxation of Social Security. "We can extend retirement income by one or two years simply by not having taxes paid early on things," he said.
But the biggest problem is setting realistic expectations for clients, he said. "It almost offends me when I see some of the things put out about this dreaming thing. You ought to be dreaming about what you want to do in retirement. I have no problem with dreaming, but I really think you have to have your expectations in focus first. And then with the 50 cents you've got left, then you can dream," Johnson said.
Laura, an independent advisor, said a fundamental fact changing retirement is that more retirees "are more connected" to their communities and families. More and more grandparents are becoming primary caregivers, he said, and they aren't retiring to disconnect from society - they want to volunteer or perhaps convert a passion into a business.
"But being more connected means there's more opportunities for people to ask you for money, and we're seeing larger distributions on a regular basis," he said.
As a result, clients need more dynamic, liquid, flexible strategies, Laura added. "I often compare retirement to marriage. Imagine if on your wedding day you had to have your entire marriage planned out, or your second or third marriage for that matter," he said.
Diehl spoke at length about demographic changes that should impact how financial advisors work with their clients. One of his roles with The Hartford is to head its relationship with the Age Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has done numerous studies on aging.
He noted studies have shown that the United States is in a 50-year cyclical decline in trust. In 1961, about 56% said "yes" when asked if they trust people, but that percentage has declined to 22% today, Diehl said.