Fred Rogers, Financial Planner
Fred Rogers was probably the best-known actor/producer of children’s programming in the country until his death in 2003. For an interesting look at his life, I recommend the documentary film, Won’t You Be My Neighbor which was released earlier this year. I recently came across a quote he used to help children deal with change: Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else.
While I’m sure this proved helpful to the young people he was addressing, I think it also has applicability in the world of financial planning. In fact, it describes our work almost perfectly as we help our clients move through the stages of life.
One of the earliest situations in which we help clients is when they begin to form families, especially through the birth or adoption of children. Individuals who were simply living their own adult lives suddenly need to make plans for the lives of others. We usually suggest the naming of guardians and the establishment of some sort of trust (often funded by life insurance) to make sure that the parents’ dreams for their children have the best possible chance of coming to fruition, even if the parents die unexpectedly. We believe it’s never too early to begin estate planning.
We’re often asked to help again as children approach college age. We understand the intricacies of FAFSA preparation and have data available about the cost of different schools. Since a graduate degree is becoming a more common hiring screen, we often suggest saving money on the undergrad institution and spending it instead on a more prestigious grad school.
Of course, our clients’ retirement is always a concern. It’s a topic we prefer to focus on early in our relationship, helping clients develop a plan that meets their needs and allows for college expenses and other interim goals along the way. Our software enables us to run ‘what if’ scenarios so that different strategies can be compared side-by-side. With pensions largely a thing of the past and concerns about the solvency of the Social Security system being raised, more and more members of the middle class realize that they will have only themselves to rely upon in retirement, so an early start is critical.
Because very few people can save enough during their working life to fully fund their retirement needs, most turn to investments of one sort or another to close the gap. The most common investment is in the stock market via a mutual fund. With over 6100 stocks available on the NYSE and NASDAQ and over 9400 mutual funds through which to buy them, investors often feel the need for guidance, so investment advice is part of most of our plans.
Individual circumstances may suggest the need for more narrowly focused investments than stocks, such as precious metals, commodities or real estate. With nearly thirty years of providing advice, we also have experience in helping with these less mainstream options.
As people near retirement, a whole range of issues arise: rightsizing their residence as needed, maintaining health insurance coverage, developing a budget that provides some enjoyment while maintaining a sufficient nest-egg for ‘later’, and dealing with long-term care issues. But, thorough financial planning goes beyond the more obvious financial topics. Among other things, we negotiate mortgages, review nursing homes and shop around to reduce prescription costs for our clients. Not every client needs everything we offer but we believe that having a full tool kit allows us the opportunity to help with any need that may arise.
As Fred Rogers, today’s guest financial planner, suggests: the end of one thing is very often the beginning of another. We take great satisfaction in being a part of our clients’ lives every step of the way, up to and including supporting a surviving spouse when his or her partner’s life comes to an end.