Finance

Letting go of 'buy and hold' tailoring wealth solutions to meet retirement timeline

The traditional buy-and-hold investment strategy lauded by financial advisors and press alike fails to help investors who find themselves retiring into a down market. Investors instead need a tailored wealth solution designed to meet not only their financial goals, but their retirement timeline.

“The concept of buy and hold investing is promoted more than anything in the financial media and we do not subscribe to that anymore because our clients are on a very specific timeline in life and we have no control over when the markets are going to go up or go down,” said Jim Gebhardt, CFP®, president and wealth advisor of Gebhardt Group Inc. “If they have another lost decade in the middle of their 60s then they’re going to be in trouble.”

Gebhardt Group, based in Lafayette, California, provides comprehensive wealth management, retirement planning, and financial planning solutions for investors who, most often, come to the firm in a state of transition. The firm maintains a $1 million minimum from new investors to sign on, but waives that requirement if a prospective client is a “good fit.”

‘Remodeling money’ over ‘buy-and-hope’
Gebhardt Group provides tailored wealth management solutions for clients, who typically come to the firm when life’s complexities spur them to seek help. The company’s process called the Wealth FORMation Experience™ – Family, Occupation, Recreation, Money – allows clients to identify what matters most and work with their Gebhardt Group advisor to reach it.

“More often than not, our clients come to see us during a major life transition,” Gebhardt told “Advisors Magazine” during a recent interview. “They’re confused, they’re overwhelmed and stuck … Our very first meeting with the client is what we affectionately refer to as the ‘bag-of-crap analysis’ Clients gather all their most important financial documents and we sit down and go through all of it with them… We’re getting a sense of what they’re about, what they’re going for, why did they come and see us today?”

Clients dealing with major life events such as a death in the family, divorce or an inheritance need an advisor who can connect with them empathically and understand their unique financial picture. Often, life changes can be traumatic for prospective investors and a trusted advisor who is willing to take the time to get to really know them can help stabilize a difficult, chaotic situation.

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Investors who need help managing their money are not necessarily lacking savvy or the ability to handle their own finances. Instead, these investors know how complicated the modern market can be, how quickly the financial system can be roiled, and that the plethora of investment products cannot be researched and processed alone. Good investors know when to ask for help, Gebhardt said.

“We work with many successful professionals who do feel overwhelmed with how much money they now have, and don’t feel responsible enough to handle it on their own; or, a big pile of money has landed in their lap and they’re confused and don’t know what to do. It is a difficult process even for people who are financially savvy,” he said. “People who can do all of this stuff themselves still need advice.”

Investors, after all, need a team to handle their finances properly – an estate attorney, financial planner, and wealth manager, just to name a few. Gebhardt Group starts its client-advisor relationship with a thorough accounting of the investor’s financial situation and a tailored plan. Clients need an advisor who can give them “clarity and confidence,” Gebhardt said, adding that he works to relieve investors’ sense of “overwhelm and paralysis” as well.

“The planning aspect of the relationship is really what drives the ultimate long-term success … It’s not just a one-time thing, it’s a process, it’s not static,” Gebhardt said. “When clients come through the door, that’s where we start. We start with planning.”

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The Gebhardt Group
takes clients financial challenges on holistically, developing a customized solution that fits their individual needs. Cookie-cutter asset allocation or buy and hold – what Gebhardt refers to as “buy, hold and hope” – strategies are out of the question, and instead clients get advice that dovetails with their specific financial goals. Tailored financial plans also allow Gebhardt to manage investor risk more effectively as well.

“From a planning perspective every solution we’re providing is customized to the clients’ circumstances,” he said. “Our asset management process is very customized in that regard … [clients] often are taking on a lot more risk than they’re aware of. Once they realize that they want to be driving in the right lane at 60 mph in a Suburban but they’re actually going 80 [mph] in the left lane in a Corvette they take swift action to make major changes in their investing behavior.

And while many clients are interested in knowing how the sausage gets made, most simply want the broad strokes needed to understand whether they are on track to reach their desired financial future. Gebhardt described this process as “remodeling” clients’ money to make it work more efficiently for them.

“It’s not as much about education anymore … They want to know that what we’re doing supports their overall financial goals and that they’re on track. Most clients don’t want to learn how to fish. They want the fish caught, prepared and served ready to eat,” Gebhardt said.

Longevity Risks
Longevity presents a major risk to today’s investor, with lifespans of 90 or more threatening even the most carefully laid retirement plans.

“The real issue is that the clients themselves don’t think they’re going to live that long,” said Gebhardt, adding that clients often laugh and express incredulity when presented with a financial analysis that assumes a 99-year lifespan. “They can’t see how long that retirement could be for them, and that’s without doing anything to account for advances in healthcare or technology or medicine.”

Longevity risk poses a much-misunderstood threat to investors and Gebhardt Group works with those clients to navigate the many pitfalls that aging can bring. “Sandwich” generation investors – those who care for elderly relatives and adult children at the same time – especially can suffer from delayed planning and savings as multiple, competing priorities bombard them relentlessly.

“They’re fighting two fires,” Gebhardt said. “They’re fighting the fire of aging parents and they’re fighting the fire of being able to afford and pay for whatever education needs might be left. Those are challenging clients to work with but we roll up our sleeves and help them figure how to make it work.”

The sandwich generation tends to delay retirement, but Gebhardt believes that many tools can be used to shore up a sandwich investor’s position. Indexed annuities and universal life insurance with living benefits both can support sandwich generation clients by covering their “foundational expenses,” he said.

“They would love some kind of pension, but most of our clients do not have pensions unless they are in the public arena,” Gebhardt said. “For most of our clients using insurance strategies is a way to manufacturer lifetime income guarantees.”

Life 2.0
Financial advisors help investors reach “Life 2.0,” Gebhardt said. Achieving financial goals requires not just serious work and perseverance, but the presence of a trusted advisor who can be counted on to provide unbiased advice when the chaos turns the market upside down. New algorithmic tools like “robo-advisors” promise to handle investment planning, but lack the personal understanding needed for such a tailored task.

“What is missing is the thing that people really covet the most, which is that sense of human connection and wanting to feel understood,” Gebhardt said. “Obviously, with a computer there’s no way to do that, there’s no connection or sense of human understanding. We don’t see the risk of the robo-advisor being a threat right now. We’ve had some very meaningful client relationships come in as a result of the fact that they reached the point where they wanted a human involved.”

Reaching Life 2.0 requires emotional control and reasoning. Investors often allow emotions spurred by the endless parade of bleak financial headlines or poor advice from dubious sources to control their decision-making; a trusted advisor can help bring a client back from the brink and serve as a voice of reason.

“They don’t really know how to get down that side of the mountain … The risk pendulum always tends to swing from fear to greed, then from greed to fear,” Gebhardt said. “The [market] correction that we’re going through right now is a great reminder that it’s not always smooth sailing, there’s often turbulence.”

Gebhardt knows how financial turbulence can dash aspirations. His dream since he was 9 years old was to become a professional golfer. He was a talented high school player. Yet he lacked the financial resources to pursue his passion any further. Teammates of his, meanwhile, went on to play professionally and enter the PGA. The experience turned Gebhardt on to financial advising and the power planning could have in helping others He developed a strong desire to help others with money and later went to Wall Street before founding Gebhardt Group in 2005.

“A truly great financial professional can really act as someone’s dream protector and that’s not a phrase I use enough but deep down that’s what I think we provide our clients,” Gebhardt said. “It’s my job to help protect that.”

For more information on Gebhardt Group Inc., visit: gebhardtgroupinc.com

Registered Representative of and securities offered through Brokers International Financial Services, LLC, Member SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative, Gebhardt Group, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Brokers International Financial Services, LLC and Gebhardt Group, Inc. are not affiliated. CA Insurance License #0B83967
©2019 Gebhardt Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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