Retirement Planning

Guiding Clients Toward Financial Freedom

Few families discuss their finances around the dinner table. Add to that a generational tendency for older men to handle family finances and die younger than their spouses, and the result is a high number of elderly women suddenly forced to grapple with their financial situation.

Regina McCann Hess, CFP®, CFDA®, chose to incorporate a lantern into her firm’s logo because she feels a responsibility to these clients who find themselves, without warning, left in the dark.

“The lantern represents me guiding and educating my clients along the way, and I did that on purpose.” said McCann Hess, president of Forge Wealth Management, LLC. “When I first came into the industry years ago I learned that a majority of the elderly poor are women. And I realize that they take time off for rearing their kids and staying at home with the family … But also, certain age groups were not brought up discussing these topics at the family table. They certainly weren’t taught this in school.”

Forge Wealth Management, based in Wayne, Pennsylvania, provides comprehensive, tailored wealth and risk management solutions for clients working toward lifelong financial independence. The firm requires a minimum asset level of $500,000 to $1 million from prospective clients due to the intensive attention provided to each investor.

“I’m very relationship-based with my clients; that’s a priority for me,” McCann Hess told “Advisors Magazine” during a recent interview. “I’ve had some clients for 20 years. I rarely lose a client because I’m very focused on the relationship with them.”

Helping clients achieve their lifelong financial goals requires McCann Hess to adopt a teaching role. Financial literacy among clients often lags, with even highly educated clients like corporate executives or doctors being unaware of the ins and outs of how investments work. She works to break down barriers to understanding by stripping the financial services jargon from client meetings, explaining financial concepts using real-life examples and metaphors, and creating an environment in which clients know they can ask anything.

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One activity McCann Hess uses with clients involves a chef’s table and the ingredients needed to prepare a meal. Clients work through the activity to learn how different investment products – represented by the ingredients – create a diverse portfolio that leads to financial success and are all needed to develop an investor’s full wealth picture, as demonstrated by the finished meal.
“We try to think a little bit outside the box and do some fun activities while also educating them,” McCann Hess said. “We say, ‘Here are all your ingredients, and this is what we do with your portfolio.’ I try to make it more of an approachable topic for people.”

Financial literacy can change lives. McCann Hess herself never expected to become a financial advisor until – while she was working as a nurse – a friend introduced her to basic stock market concepts.

“That changed my life … I think a lot of people are uncomfortable because they just don’t understand [the market]. And they’re uncomfortable with the topic because it was never a conversation piece,” she said.

McCann Hess added that women clients, especially, tend to lack financial literacy because their husbands took care of the family finances. After the spouse passes, the learning curve becomes steep for these women suddenly stranded and left struggling to understand how their money works. Educating these clients to understand their finances, and to ignore the “squawking” from 24-hour television networks about the market’s ups and downs, is a core piece of Forge Wealth Management's mission.

The firm also remains in contact with clients often through quarterly meetings, calls, and staying available for investor questions, and they work to keep clients on track in pursuing their financial goals and understanding the sacrifices that may come with retirement.

One exercise McCann Hess does with clients is to cut their monthly income month-to-month to show them what their retirement spending might look like.

“They don’t like it; it’s a reality check for sure,” she said.

Forge Wealth Management also helps clients build cash flow to supplement their retirement and turns clients’ attention to the conversation few want to have: long-term care. As lifespans increase, long-term care and retirement planning have become more complex, and it takes considerable planning to work through these complications.

“They do not want to have it; I am constantly having to redirect the conversation and bring it back up meeting after meeting,” McCann Hess said, referring to long-term care planning and insurance. “Once it happens, it’s too late to plan for … Think of a barn fire; that’s how quickly it’ll go through your assets if you have to pay for your own long-term care costs out of pocket.”

By forcing investors to grapple with the long-term care question, their own financial goals, and the problems that might crop up in retirement, McCann Hess keeps her clients on track. Many clients put off planning for long-term illness or overspend while working, thinking retirement will be the same, but the reality check Forge Wealth Management provides is invaluable in helping those clients realize the inherent difficulty in maintaining financial independence.

“It’s almost like I’m their mother sometimes, nagging them … But that’s my job,” McCann Hess said.

With a focus on the future, clients’ goals are re-evaluated periodically and their status is monitored to make sure what mattered to them when they signed on still matters today. And as clients’ needs and goals change, the firm works to help their plan adapt, or to steer them back to reality if they wander into unrealistic ideas.

“What I do for my clients is I hold them accountable,” McCann Hess said. “I remind them of what their goals are, I remind them of what they said was important to them, I ask them ‘Are those things still important to you?’”

For more information on Forge Wealth Management, LLC, visit: forgewealth.com

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Private Advisor Group, a Registered Investment Advisor. Private Advisor Group and Forge Wealth Management, LLC are separate entities from LPL Financial.

 

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