By Guest Contributor Roy Mullin
When someone approaches me for help planning their retirement, I ask them a question:
“Are you ready to work hard?”
Everyone is often puzzled by this. But no matter who it is––their age, profession, or income bracket––I ask it. Then, I explain, “Don’t get me wrong. I am looking forward to working with you. I want to know if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and put in possibly 10 to 20 hours of time with me to develop a plan that will be both customized and effective. It’s a process that requires due diligence, exploration, and ultimately, decision making.”
It’s an important question because most Americans are not, in fact, willing to commit to the research and time required.
According to CNNMoney, in a survey of 1,000 retirement savers conducted for Charles Schwab, more than half said they had spent five hours or more doing research the last time they bought a car; 39% reported spending more than five hours exploring education possibilities. A mere 11% said they’d spent the same amount of time evaluating investment options for their 401(k). In fact, about one-third of savers said they spent less than an hour on investment research.
I don’t think you really need me to tell you that is not enough. But why?
1. You, your situation, your potential, and your goals are unique. Your plan must be adjusted to fit you. Think about it: it’s much quicker to buy a suit or dress off the rack than to have one tailored to fit your exact specifications.
2. If you have a partner, the two of you must be on the same page when it comes to your retirement needs, expectations, and goals before you even begin to consider options. You’d be surprised how many couples are shocked by what one wants and the other does not. Often, just having those necessary early conversations consume the entire first meeting.
3. You probably don’t know what assets you actually do have, what they are worth, and how they can be utilized during your retirement. If you’re like most Americans, you spend a few minutes each quarter reviewing 401(k) statements and are satisfied if your accounts gained at least some value. An early part of this process is to gather all the information about your current and future wealth potential so that we can begin considering options based on real and accurate data. This step alone can take one or two meetings to complete.
4. You have been conditioned by Wall Street and the U.S. government to believe things and behave in ways that serve them, not you. For example, Wall Street has led you to believe that financial reward cannot be gained without financial risk; the government has trained us to believe that delaying your Social Security payments is in your best interest. Neither one of these current cultural norms is actually true––but I understand that you believe they are, and that it will take time for me to help you break free from these and other paradigms that are holding your back or even hurting you.
5. Planning for retirement is complex. Numerous components must be considered, and as every decision is made, each affects others. Assets such as pensions, 401(k) and IRA accounts, and real estate must generate income to pay for transportation, taxes, inflation, medical and disability concerns, caring for your parents, educating your children, special needs children, and more. All of this must be taken into account. All possible scenarios must be considered. Playing out these hypothetical scenarios takes time and a lot of hard thinking, but for those willing to invest the energy, the likelihood of a joyful retirement is high.
6. You will be skeptical when you learn of some of the new wealth and retirement planning tools and strategies now available to you. Your wariness is understandable and even wise. Most people to whom I’ve introduced these products to are incredulous, reacting with frustration and even anger:
“Why have I not heard of these before? Are you sure this is legit?”
You’ll be skeptical when you learn that there are places to grow your nest egg that do not include the risks associated with stocks and bonds or other speculative investments. These places also produce much better returns. You’ll question me when you learn that there is now “life insurance” that pays you some or much of your death benefit while you are living in the event of a serious illness or disability. For some, this new form of life insurance makes long-term medical insurance and disability insurance much less necessary.
Feeling skeptical yet?
7. It takes time to build trust. When I first learned about these new options, I called my brokerage firm and asked them why they hadn’t made me aware of these products. Their only response was to bash the options.
Over time, I learned that they didn’t tell me about other avenues for wealth and retirement planning because it is in the best interest of the financial advisement establishment to keep me ignorant.
It will be a long time before I trust anyone from that industry again. Most of us have had similar experiences. When we’ve been misled in the past, it’s difficult to trust others, even if they’re offering something good for us.
Every American deserves and can have a joyful and peaceful retirement.
It’s true, you know. It just takes work to get there.
Roy Mullin is a financial advisor, investor, and philanthropist living in Austin, TX. An entrepreneur most of his career, one of Roy’s early successes was founding and profitably selling a home health agency. He then entered the world of finance, where Southwest Airlines became one of his first major clients. The airline implemented Roy’s advice company-wide, and their partnership lasted until his unofficial retirement in 2017. Today, Roy enjoys teaching personal finance to local high school students as a guest speaker of E4youth.org. He is an investor in commercial real estate, and is currently working with his brother-in-law in a startup company with patent-pending technology for rendering coal ash benign. Roy is also working on a philanthropy project called the The Stage to expand the arts in Austin. Visit RoyMullin.com to learn more.
Cort Dial is the President of Cort Dial Consulting, LLC and the author of Amazon Top 10 book, Heretics to Heroes, named the #1 Business Book of 2016 by Canada’s Globe and Mail. He offers free education to small employers, schools and individuals of all ages and income levels to familiarize them with the latest tools and strategies for creating a joyous and carefree retirement.