What Makes This Profession Special

In the last few months, we've published two articles, one by Nick Murray and another by Dick Wagner, about what's really important in this world, as well as in this profession. It's probably no surprise to most of you that the answer isn't money.


Finance is almost always about money, politics is very often about money. But life is about choices and opportunities-and something even more significant.

Decades ago, I remember reading the acceptance speech of America's greatest writer, William Faulkner, after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. It was a far cry from the puerile anti-American rant of this year's winner, playwright Harold Pinter.

According to the shy novelist from Oxford, Miss., great literature could address one subject and one subject alone: the human heart in conflict with itself. No small subject by any yardstick, I still was amazed to realize that Faulkner was right-and that, as I had discovered before and after reading his speech, the best ideas are often surprisingly simple, though rarely obvious.

Nick and Dick aren't our only contributors to urge readers to avoid becoming mesmerized by technical issues. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't understand them and master their nuances.

It does mean that you should see the connection between helping clients resolve technical issues and helping them achieve their ultimate goals. Money may not be the answer of most peoples' desires in life, but too little or too much money certainly is the source of many folks' problems.

Moreover, as Jeff Schlegel details in an article on page 85 about baby boomers approaching retirement, what looks like the greatest train wreck in personal financial history is just around the bend for millions of Americans. In all likelihood, the story will play out differently from what alarmists expect.

A new study conducted by Putnam Investments estimates that about seven million Americans, or 10% of the over-40-year-old workforce, is currently working. The "working" retiree, averaging 61 years old, now represents almost one-third of all retirees. Typically, they have rejoined the workforce after 18 months or so in retirement and have an average income of $87,000, significantly higher than traditional nonworking retirees.

According to the study, two-thirds of these individuals returned to work because they wanted to and 54% of the total are working part time. Money may be a secondary goal, while remaining vital and active probably is a primary objective for most.

Unlike most other professionals, financial advisors have the rare privilege of playing an instrumental role in clients' lives as they sort through a maze of choices and opportunities. And an advisor who can lay out the financial options that clients face so they can focus on what's really important to them has a special role.

Evan Simonoff
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