“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.
Now is the time to understand more so that we can fear less.”
- Marie Curie
Planning for retirement is an essential part of our financial journey, but it can be daunting and uncertain at times.
Working with experts may be an ideal option, but it's crucial to have clear details of how the process will work.
In this episode, Eric Blake introduces the Simply Retirement Roadmap process. The process aims to simplify retirement planning and alleviate future concerns. Eric details every stage of the process and the topics discussed in each interaction. Additionally, he explains the benefits of working with Blake Wealth Management and the importance of creating a long-term relationship.
Wendy: Welcome to the Simply Retirement Podcast, with your host Eric Blake. I'm Wendy McConnell. Hi, Eric. Today we're going be talking about the Simply Retirement roadmap process.
Wendy: So, draw me a roadmap!
Eric: Let's start with a couple of things. I think it’s helpful to understand where the term ‘Simply Retirement’ came from. It's a term I started using three or four years ago. The idea is that, with our practice, we simply focus on retirement. The original idea came from a book you might be familiar with, The Millionaire Next Door. I've gifted it to a lot of people. It talks about the profile of the millionaire. It's not always the person you think it is. It's not the person driving the fancy cars down the street. It's the person that drives a used car. They probably bought it used, and it's paid off. The book also talks about how much time millionaires actually spend on planning their finances. It's anywhere from two to five hours. It could be two hours a week, could be five, or five-to-10 hours a month. My thought was that, as a financial advisor, what if I could give those hours back to our clients? What if they could simply live retirement rather than spend that much time planning it?
There are going to be people out there who want to do their own thing. There are do-it-yourselfers, and we're not going to be able to help everybody. But for those people who would be interested in guidance from a financial advisor, if we could give that time back to them and they could spend it instead with family, traveling, whatever it might be, how valuable would that be to them?
So it was the idea that if we could focus on retirement planning, you could simply focus on retirement living. I took that and kind of ran with it. I created our weekly e-mail newsletter, the Simply Retirement Newsletter, and started sending it out, and when we decided to start the podcast, it was a pretty natural fit to call it the Simply Retirement Podcast because it's what we do.
Our focus is on retirement income planning, helping people transition into retirement. It's just a different conversation from when you're accumulating money for retirement. Different decisions. It's taxes. It's Social Security. All these different things. I don't think that a financial advisor can specialize in everything.
Eric: The Simply Retirement roadmap process explains how we can help people, and women specifically. Going back to the quote at the beginning of the show, when people want to start working with a financial advisor, there's a lot of hesitancy, and in many cases, it's actually fear. People don't want to be vulnerable. They don't necessarily want to share their financial life with a stranger. In my opinion, whether you're working with us or any financial advisor, one of the first questions I’d have anybody ask is, “What is your process for understanding me? How are you going to understand what my goals are, and what my concerns are, so that you can truly provide recommendations that fit my situation and that are going to be in my best interest?”
That’s what the Simply Retirement roadmap process is for us. It's trying to alleviate some of the concerns that people have when approaching a financial advisor and asking, “What is this going to look like if I work with you?”
Hopefully, it alleviates some of the worry.
Wendy: A lot of women haven't done this process. It was traditional for men to take care of the finances. What are some of the things that women have to keep in mind as they go through this process for the first time?
Eric: For us, the process is specifically designed to help women make an informed and educated decision about our firm. It’s not just a framework for helping better understand us: I think you could take this same concept and apply it to any other financial advisors you might be considering. Maybe you talk to a friend and they're working with a particular financial advisor, or you do some research, you Google ‘women in retirement,’ you're looking for somebody that specializes in working with women in that retirement transition phase of life. How do you go about comparing advisors?
What criteria can you use to figure out which is the best fit? That's our first step. When we have that initial phone call, explaining what the process looks like. Giving you the opportunity to ask questions so we can figure out if it’s a good fit. We don't want to waste your time or our time, going through a process that could take four to six weeks.
So the first step in our process is a 15-minute introductory phone call to get to know each other. We're not going to ask you to make a huge commitment of time. We give you the opportunity to ask questions, and I ask a lot of questions myself. It’s all to make sure this is a good fit on both sides, and that it's a win-win situation, or has the potential to be a win-win situation on both sides.
Wendy: Can you give me an example of a question that would determine a good fit?
Eric: Absolutely. The first question is often, “Why is now a good time to be seeking the help of a financial advisor? What's going on in your life that has you searching for an advisor? Did something change? Did you recently go through a divorce? Did you recently lose a husband? Did you change jobs? What's triggering your interest in talking with a financial advisor?”
I'll ask you how close they are to retirement, because if they’re not, it doesn't mean we can't help, but we do specialize. If they say they’re in their forties and 20 years from retirement, we're probably not the right fit because they’re probably in the accumulation phase. If they say, “I'm about three years from retirement, I'm trying to make some decisions,” or “I was divorced 10 years ago. I need to make decisions on Social Security. I need to figure out which accounts I should I preparing to draw from first when I retire,” or ask, “When should I start drawing money from my accounts?” Those are the types of clients we're best suited to, and so those are the questions we ask during that 15-minute phone call.
Wendy: Once you get past that call and realize that you could potentially help, what happens next?
Eric: Next is what we call the Simply Retirement Roadmap Meeting. It's typically about 60 minutes long, usually two to four weeks after the initial phone call. In our case, we send out a list of items to bring to the meeting to make it as productive as possible. Copies of investment statements, tax returns, Social Security statements, pension statements. Anything that will help us get a feel for where you're at financially so we know where your Point A is.
Part of that meeting is going to be determining what your Point B is, but we have to start with Point A. If we didn't know where you're starting from, it's harder to get you where you want to be, and that's really what the meeting is about. I give the prospective client as much time as they need to ask questions, but I'm going to be doing a lot of digging. “What is it that's important to you?” “What keeps you up at night?” “What are the biggest things on your mind that you feel an advisor can help you address or might help?” “What are your specific goals?” “If you're going to be retiring in three to five years, how much do you think you're going to need?” “What are your income sources going to be?”
We start gathering all the information to know Point A and Point B, what you want life to look like in retirement, and how much it’s going to cost you.
Wendy: Some of these documents you're talking about … What if we don't have a Social Security statement, or we're not sure where to go for our pension information? Is that something you can help with, or do you have to have it for your first meeting?
Eric: That depends on the document. We can often help you figure out where to find it or get it from. If it’s a Social Security statement, we can walk you through the steps for getting your statement from the Social Security website, ssa.gov. They make it very easy. In many cases, we can walk you through what you need to do to gather those documents, because having accurate information right off the bat does make a big difference.
Wendy: What comes after the first meeting? What's the next step?
Eric: Once we get through that first meeting and we're both clear on where you are today and where you're trying to get to, that's where the magic happens. That's where I kind of step back into my laboratory and do the analysis work. My whole objective is to make sure I'm clear on where you want to be and where you want to get to, and then start putting together specific recommendations.
Wendy: Then the next step is for you to bring them back in and say, “This is what you need to do. Follow it to the letter?”
Eric: Yep. The second meeting is the Simply Retirement roadmap delivery. That roadmap is a bullet-pointed list of the actions you can take today to put yourself in a better position financially and make sure you're on track for your retirement goals, or what those next steps could be or should be. We go through the recommendations, asking and answering questions to make sure that we're clear on what that looks like.
Wendy: Is there ever an issue with people not actually following the roadmap?
Eric: All the time. What I tell people is that when we get through this process, you're going to have three choices. One is to take this roadmap and say, “I can do this on my own. I don't necessarily need a financial advisor.” In most cases, we've probably determined that’s not the case in our introductory phone call, but I tell them that's one of their options.
Another option is to take this roadmap and then meet with another financial advisor and compare what they come up with to what we came up with. Or you can take it and go to the other financial advisor and ask them to help you implement it. That's okay too.
Option three, which is of course my favorite, is they say, “Eric, this is amazing work. You've done everything we were looking for. What would it take to work with you?” And I walk through exactly what that looks like, what our fee structure looks like and what happens next.
The other thing I tell people is that I'm very confident in the work we do when we build a roadmap, but that it's that good for about the next 24 hours. Things are going to change very quickly, so it's also about getting through the roadmap process and seeing what things look like going forward. We're really not looking for a transactional relationship where it's just a one-time transaction, where people invest X amount of money with us, and that's it. We're looking for long-term relationships.
There’s really no hard sell at any point in this. Even after that second meeting where we come back with recommendations, we give you more than enough time to digest everything. It's a lot of information in many cases, and sometimes it takes a bit of time to digest and make sure you understand what's being communicated.
We'll schedule another time to chat, to go through, clarify, and address any additional questions. Once we get to the point where it makes sense and the client is ready to move forward, implementation is the crucial piece, whether it's with us, on your own, or with another advisor's implementation. If you don't take action, it's all for naught. That's the big piece: we’ve got to take the right steps. Once we know what they are, you’ve got to follow the map.
Wendy: How long is this roadmap? Is it like 45 pages? What are we going to be looking at?
Eric: You know, in Episode One we talked about that. I started as a financial advisor in 1999, and that's really what it was. It was these long reports, 45, 50, 60 pages longer, sometimes longer than that depending on how complex the case was. Plans could be a hundred pages long. It didn’t take too long for me to realize I was the only one that actually liked going through those.
Wendy: At least you did.
Eric: Right? So, we try to boil it down into what I would call a one-page action plan. Because we focus primarily on retirement income and the transition into retirement, there are four key phases that we provide a bullet-pointed action list. They show what you could be doing to get yourself in the right position financially. We address your retirement income, looking at things like Social Security and, if you have pensions. Where's your income going to come from? We’ve got to know how much you're going to spend, and we need to know where the income is going to come from to cover that.
Then we talk about taxes. To me, taxes are one of the most crucial areas. The less you can pay in taxes, the longer your money's going to last. We look at Roth conversions, at required minimum distribution rules, and how to avoid significant tax implications as a result of required distributions in the future. How to proactively plan to minimize the impact of required distributions. We're also going to talk about risk management, which can really encompass a few different areas: do we have the right estate planning documents in place? Do you have your will? Do you have your power of attorney, medical directives? All these key documents that you need to have in place. It's looking at your protection needs. Is there still a life insurance need?
If you're approaching retirement, life insurance may or may not be as big a factor as it once was, but if there’s still a need because of different pension options that may be available to you that might trigger some life insurance needs, we're going to make sure to help. We make sure you have a strategy for addressing long-term care, and then we're going to look at investments, at whether or not you have the right investment strategy in place to provide the income you're going to need.
Those are the four key areas that we focus on within that roadmap, and that we're going to address. We’ll provide specific recommendations within each of those areas based on where you are today and what you've told us is important to you.
Wendy: And after all of this, we should be able to answer three key questions?
Eric: Absolutely. That's what we're hoping to address with this whole process. Number One, can I afford to retire, and if not, what do I need to do to get prepared to retire? Number Two, how can I reduce my lifetime tax liability? Again, taxes are always a big piece of the puzzle. And Number Three, do I have the right investment strategy to provide an income that I can count on? Those are the three questions that we want to make sure we've helped you answer. If we're able to address those and make sure you're on the right track, then it's just a matter of implementation.
Wendy: If they decide to choose your favorite option and stay with Blake Wealth Management, what happens next?
Eric: At that point, it's a matter of your timeframe for implementation. We want to make sure we always know the next step. Once we've agreed to work together, we put dates on the calendar for when we’re going to start taking action. If it's transferring assets, what’s that going to look like? If we're rolling money from 401Ks, what's the timeframe? If it's estate planning, let's make sure we get you connected with an estate planning attorney who’s going to help you get that taken care of. It's outlining those next steps and making sure we've got an action plan in place.
Wendy: And then it's up to you to do it. You have to do it.
Eric: Exactly. And that's why I encourage people looking for a financial advisor to explore multiple options. You want to make sure you trust and respect the team that you have, and you feel like you've got a good connection. We want this to be a 20-plus-year decision where you feel like we’re somebody you can trust through your retirement years. Will the benefits outweigh the cost? Do you understand what the fees are going to be? That's an important factor.
When we're talking about tax strategies and tax planning, we're talking thousands of dollars that we can hopefully save you. If you're looking for a financial advisor who’s going to help manage your investment assets, does their investment strategy make sense? Does it feel like it's a good fit for what you're looking for? Ultimately, that's the big question. If you can answer those questions positively, then there's a good chance the advisor is a good fit for you.
Wendy: If somebody wants to get in touch with you, Eric, how do they go about doing that?
Eric: Easiest way is to go to our website, www.blakewealthmanagement.com. The process itself is outlined, just click the ‘start here’ button that you'll see in the top right-hand corner. You'll see the exact process that we just described, and that we take every prospective client through. Some people are just starting this initial research phase and may not be quite ready to take that step. But they’ll also have the opportunity to sign up for a newsletter. There are a number of different resources that explain our investment philosophy and our financial planning philosophy. All that is on the website. It gives you a good idea of how we really work with folks. Once you're ready to take the next step, you can schedule that first 15-minute introductory phone call right from the website, right from the process page.
Wendy: Well, I look forward to getting to know more about the process and how things are going to work when it comes to the Simply Retirement Podcast. Thank you for joining us today, Eric. What do we have coming up?
Eric: In the next episode, we're going to talk about the seven essential strategies for investing in retirement. I'm excited to talk about that. It's a little bit different from the accumulation phase.
Wendy: Sounds good. Please like, follow, and share this podcast with your friends. Until next time, I'm Wendy McConnell.
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