Some clients are changing retirement plan

By Philip Porado | December 11, 2009 | Last updated on December 11, 2009
3 min read

When the credit crisis swelled a year ago, the first phrase on a lot of clients’ lips was, “What will this mean for my retirement?”

A year later, investors have reached something resembling acceptance, with many advisors being told clients plan to remain in the workforce an extra year or two, or will be adjust their spending projections for retirement. And, in some cases, clients who already had retired have told advisors they’ll be returning to work.

“There is a lot of Internet software that can give someone who’s 10 years away from retirement an idea as to whether they’re on track,” Cynthia Kett, CA, CGA, RFP, CFP, Stewart & Kett Financial Advisors Inc., Toronto, told our annual Dollars & Sense roundtable. “But for somebody on the threshold of retirement, I do believe they need to take a hard look at their personal situations and understand how that might unfold for them.”

A barrage of media reports on new retirement realities has certainly made it easier for advisors to convey the news, notes VP, National Accounts for Invesco Trimark, Rob Kochel. “Unlike other years, where advisors would be explaining why these things are happening and why they’ve come down 20%, people have realized very quickly that’s reality and it’s time to move on,” he says. “They’ve become pragmatic about it.”

Kett notes most new clients coming through her doors are looking for retirement assistance. And for anyone within five years of retirement, she strongly recommends detailed retirement projections before they walk out those doors. “When we look at our client situations, we build customized projections for them and take into account anything they can anticipate, quantify and assign to a timeframe,” she says.

Sometimes, notes Eva Froese, PFP, Investment & Retirement Planner, RBC Wealth Management, Calgary, it’s a challenge to get clients think of retirement “as something more than just this 30-year-long weekend.”

Meanwhile, Kathleen Peace, CFA, CFP, Bennett March of IPC Investment Corp., Toronto, says her biggest challenge is to get people on the cusp of retirement to buckle down and do a detailed budget. What are they going to spend on? How will they spend their time? Do they really need such a large travel budget?

“With younger clients — accumulators — who don’t really need a broad-based plan, I’m still doing present and future-value calculations to show them what they’re going to have to do if they want this in 35-or-40 years,” says Peace. “That’s a really mind-blowing thing for a lot of them. They don’t get that a $100 PAC is just not going to cut it.”

For Nicole St. Denis, Investment Associate, ScotiaMcLeod, London, Ont., the focus has been about addressing current needs, since the majority of her clients are already retired.

“It isn’t an easy conversation to have with clients, because they thought they were past the finish line,” she says. “I make suggestions regarding whether their cash flow should be tightened up, reevaluate what they want their retirement to look like, and if there is anything that needs to be changed to get the results they’re after.”

Healthcare is an overlooked challenge for most people going through retirement, says James R. Taylor, CLU, Financial Health Management, Toronto. And advisors need to help clients manage cash flow, make any necessary lifestyle adjustments, and interpret the flood of information they get from the Internet and other media sources in terms of how it applies to their lives.

“People are also realizing they have to take more responsibility in the retirement process,” he says. “It’s a partnership between the advisor and client.”

Philip Porado