A Personal Message

Stephan R. Covey in his book, First Things First, writes about the Miracle of the Chinese Bamboo Tree: for the first four years after it is planted, only a small part of it is visible above ground …then in the fifth year, the bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet. We could take the analogy of the bamboo tree to financial planning: Years of nurturing a plan--watering, weeding, fertilizing--can produce a great outcome. The outcomes are important goals and they are unique to each of my clients.

The main objective for most of my clients is to a have a secure retirement income and, if possible, to leave a legacy for their children or perhaps a favorite charity. To go back to the bamboo analogy, there are threats to the bamboo jungle. The bulldozers of inflation, taxes, long term care and the fear of steep markets declines just as they are about to begin withdrawing funds for their retirement income. For over 27 years, I have been dealing with these “bulldozers”.

I can divide my career into two main phases. For the first seventeen years, I was mostly involved with clients who were in the accumulation (wealth building) time of their financial lives and they needed life and disability insurance for protection and used strategic asset allocation for their investments. This strategic allocation was based on their risk tolerance and timeframe for each goal; it was a “buy and hold” strategy.

The second phase began about ten years ago when three things happened: first, many of my clients began to retire and they needed long term care insurance and estate planning for protection. But, most importantly, in retirement the rules for how they should invest changed dramatically! I spend a lot of time in my initial client meetings explaining why and how these rules change in retirement. Second, in March 2000, the Stock Market began its worst decline since the Great Depression and it did not end until November 2002. This market decline was a bulldozer in the Bamboo forests of many people’s retirement plans. The third, and to me, the most significant thing that happened at this time was the introduction of new products and services more geared to  the typical investor. Investments were offered that used sophisticated money managers—managers previously available only to individuals with great wealth. Strategies once offered solely to the affluent, now could be used by people with $25,000 of assets to invest.

I have spent many hours of intense research on these products and services and use many of them in my client’s investment strategies. I do not want to minimize the market decline that started in October 2007 and ended in March 2009--it was more severe and devastating than the decline that began in 2000--but to me, because of these new products and investment managers, it was easier (not easy, but easier) to weather.

To have a successful retirement you will have to deal with many problems and threats—bulldozers, if you will, that can lay waste to the best of plans. However, the good news is that there are new products and services that can help to deal with these threats. I enjoy meeting and working with people who are interested in planning and are open to being educated about these new products and services.