Today’s Retirees Focus More on Wealth Management, Less on Pensions

Investors take charge

Pensions once funded a majority of American workers’ retirements – at least in part. Since the 1980s, however, the pension essentially has become an endangered species, with the retirement risk shifting to individual savers via 401(k) plans and other investment products. Where the American worker once relied on a pension and Social Security to provide “mailbox money,” guaranteed to arrive every month, today’s retiree needs to take charge of their own financial future.

Today’s retiree is not alone, however, and a trusted advisor can help turn surviving a pensionless future into thriving in one.

“Income planning is likely the number one scenario that we work with. Pensions are fossilizing as we speak – only 17 percent of the top 100 companies now offer them to their employees,” said Robert DeChick, founder and chief executive officer of Courtland/Walker Financial Group. “With pensions going by the wayside and actually exiting the mainstream financial markets, we have to make up that income somewhere. That automatically negates a cookie cutter approach.”

Courtland quote 500x400Based in Clermont, Florida, Courtland/Walker Financial Group provides comprehensive wealth management, retirement planning, and insurance solutions to clients from across the wealth spectrum. The firm offers tailored solutions designed to fit clients’ unique financial goals, rather than one-size-fits-all asset allocations that fail to take into account an individual investor’s needs.

Courtland/Walker Financial Group acts as a fiduciary, meaning clients’ best interests come before the bottom-line, DeChick said. That means clients can have access to any financial service or product that fits their individual situation, he added.

“In today’s investment and financial planning landscape, you cannot have that cookie cutter approach whatsoever,” DeChick told Advisors Magazine in a recent interview. “As a fiduciary, it means we have the ability to reach out and touch, as an independent advisor, any company or any strategy to customize a plan based on a client’s individual needs. The reality in this industry is that every single household you come into contact with is unique – it will show sooner rather than later, whether or not you’re trying to deliver a standard cookie cutter model, or whether you’re customizing a plan based on their needs.”

The retirement landscape has changed dramatically over the past three decades. Corporate cost-cutting and risk deflection pushed pensions to extinction. A 2017 Willis Towers Watson study found that Fortune 500 companies offering traditional pension plans dropped 86 percent, 251 to 34, between 1998 and 2013. That means one leg of the old retirement “tripod” – savings, pensions, and Social Security – has been knocked out from under savers.

Meanwhile, new pressures such as increased longevity and the so-called “sandwich generation,” the savers responsible for caring for aging relatives and college-aged children at the same time, further complicate the investment process. The new investment world requires careful investor-advisor collaboration.

“We’re now in a very unique landscape that many consider to be uncharted waters,” DeChick said. “One thing I see other advisors struggle with is setting expectations, meeting expectations, and making sure –year in and year out – you rehash those expectations.”

One of the expectations DeChick sets: growth no longer remains the one and only objective for client portfolios. Instead, the newer, more complex landscape requires an advisor who can help clients preserve their initial capital, reduce risk, and prepare for an eventual down market. Clients come to him not to get rich, but to protect and grow their wealth, he said.

Courtland/Walker Financial Group works with clients to ensure they understand how their money works. The firm conducts seminars throughout the year for both clients and the public on everything from investments to estate planning. The company prioritizes client education so that investors are empowered to make the decisions that best align with their financial goals. The seminars show prospective clients what it means to work with a fiduciary advisor who puts them first.

“You are giving them information, education, and the ability to make a determination about what it’s actually like to meet with you one-on-one and discuss their financial situation,” DeChick said.

DeChick also reinforces his role as fiduciary by offering asset classes he knows inside and out. Recommending that clients invest or divest in a product that an advisor has no first-hand experience with can lead to poor decision-making and subpar portfolio performance, he added.

“One of the biggest mistakes any of us advisors can make is to talk poorly about any investment that he or she knows nothing about or is not even licensed to talk about,” DeChick said. “Those are real perils, real problems for investors. Unfortunately, most investors don’t know the difference and because of that they’re being talked to by, for instance, a licensed insurance agent who is recommending them to liquidate securities accounts or liquidate portfolios that the agent is not licensed to offer, but yet is recommending to liquidate those accounts.”

Prospective clients should check whether their advisor is truly a fiduciary, DeChick said. Many non-fiduciary advisors claim to be fiduciaries and investors need to be prepared to sort out a genuine advisor from a product pusher who may not have their best interests at heart.

“If you’re an insurance agent there’s nothing wrong with that, but what is wrong is an insurance agent portraying themselves as something they are not,” DeChick said. “If that portrayal is inaccurate right at the front gate of a conversation or an appointment, then everything else is negated.”

For more information on Courtland/Walker Financial Group, visit:

Securities Offered Through D.H. Hill Securities, LLLP. Member FINRA & SIPC. Advisory Services Offered Through D.H. Hill Advisors, Inc., A Registered Investment Advisory Firm.


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