Retirement Planning

Helping Clients Plan a Secure Retirement

When you’ve been in the financial advisory business for 40 years, you have a good perspective on what works and what doesn’t.

Dick Ohanesian, President and Partner of Ohanesian / Lecours Investment & Advisory Services based in West Hartford, Connecticut, has worked as a financial advisor since 1977.

“I started in the industry in a more traditional format, having worked for number of larger firms on Wall Street,” he recalls.

Back then, no one could begin as a financial advisor until they toured the back office operations, so that’s what he did.

“It’s been a long stretch, and I’ve seen an awful lot,” Ohanesian said, adding that he was always interested in the industry because it has so many parts to it.

Junior partner Catherine Jaeger took a different path some years later.

“I was always fascinated by markets in general and how they affect people’s lives, and knew I wanted to work in financial services,” she said.

Jaeger started in the technical side of the industry from a systems operation standpoint. She learned the life cycle of trading and how investing worked from the back end. Because she wanted to use her knowledge to impact people on a more direct, personal level, she eventually found herself working at Ohanesian/Lecours.

“I worked with in-house advisors and learned how they interacted with clients. I knew switching to an advisor role was where I wanted to take my career,” she said.

The Fiduciary Rule

While the Department of Labor’s pending rule on fiduciaries is getting a lot of attention, Ohanesian says the fiduciary concept was “one of the reasons we started the firm in 1989.”

“A fiduciary is someone who owes another the duty of good faith and trust. You must be bound ethically to act in another person’s best interest above your own,” he said, adding that in the late ‘80s, larger companies were creating proprietary products, and brokers were paid more if they sold those products. “Seeing that happening is what lead us to walking out the door and creating our own independent company. We felt strongly it was not the right way to do this. It’s the way we have operated for over 25 years, and the best format to work from.”

Retirement Specialists

ohneasian300x400Ohanesian says that half of the firm’s business comes from retirement plans, and they work with a wide variety of companies in a number of industries. They are co-fiduciaries to plans they advise, applying a methodical, yet thoughtful approach to their initial plan analysis and design—and that carries through to their ongoing management of the plan. Ohanesian says they start with an in-depth analysis of all plan documents, and moving on to perform a thorough review of the existing fund lineup, as well as a comprehensive benchmarking of all plan costs and fees. They have also developed a participant education plan which includes more than general investment education, but is focused on overall participant outcomes.

The other half of their business focuses on managing assets for high net worth individuals. While there aren’t strict minimums, the typical client has at least $1 million for management. When interviewing clients, Ohanesian thoroughly explains his firm’s style of investing.

“We make sure they understand how we structure portfolios –so they can be sure our firm’s style is what they are looking for. We want to make sure it’s a good fit on both sides,” he said.

Their clients also run the gamut from recent college graduates who are new to the concept of saving for retirement, to the sophisticated investor who already understands the markets. One thing both types of investors receive from Ohanesian/Lecours is a customized portfolio.

The Long-term Care Fund

Since people are living longer, Ohanesian / Lecours addresses long-term care through a planning process.

“We try to accomplish a long-term care sinking fund. Rather than rely on insurance, we create funds dedicated to meeting the inevitable costs of long-term care, but self-funded. It puts the client in the best possible position,” Ohanesian said.

The process requires time, effort and planning, but for clients who have such a plan, it “serves them in an extremely strong fashion,” and for the “sandwich generation,”– those trying to take care of aging parents while raising children – it’s a difficult balancing act.

“Most people will deal with aging parents as longevity increases. We try to have a plan in place taking that into account,” said Ohanesian.

Missing the Mark on Fundamental Changes

When asked about fundamental changes needed in the industry, Ohanesian notes there’s a lot of talk about transparency, fees and other buzzwords – all clearly important – but says a lot miss the mark.

“We’ve seen, for a number of years, that most investors have no understanding of what it will take to actually retire,” he said, adding that includes how much money they’ll need and how much they need to set aside today to retire on. “We can talk about fees, etc., but if you’re failing to set aside the proper amount of money nothing else will make the difference on whether you can retire well or not.”

In his view, that fact is not getting nearly enough dialogue.

“Every congressman and senator can talk about transparency and fees, but in reality, they have no concept. One of our chief tasks is helping people make smarter choices,” said Ohanesian.

The Rise of Women

By 2030, it’s estimated that single women will control 2/3 of the wealth in the U. S – but only 35 percent of financial advisors are women. When asked if there will be a lag in the number of qualified female advisors, Jaeger says she’s encouraged by a recent study showing 55 percent of younger women prefer to work with a female finance advisor.

“I don’t think finance is a man’s game. Careers in financial services directly impact people’s lives, the resources to take care of themselves and families, and retirement,” said Jaeger, who is hopeful that young women will become empowered to seek out careers in math and science.

Jaeger also points out that women who do invest are very capable.

Women outperform their male counterparts in investing in the market long-term,” she said, noting that they are more likely to buy and hold securities and not move in and out of stock as quickly as men. At some point, 90 percent of all women will be solely responsible for their financial lives. On average, they live longer, which means they need more money and need their money to work harder for them.

New Year’s Resolutions

Many of the firm’s goals for 2018 remain the same as previous years: Continuing to serve existing clients and adding to its client base. They are obviously doing something right.

“We are proud of the job we’ve done achieving returns for clients while minimizing risk,” said Ohanesian. “When we look at client retention, they stay with us for a large number of years. I still have clients—original and next generation family members-from 1977. The same is true for our staff.”

Currently, Ohanesian / Lecours is focusing on women-owned companies and how they can assist them in managing and setting up 401k plans. Jaeger adds they are also emphasizing new business and employer retirement plans.

“401k plans are powerful tools for investors – we focus on participant outcome,” she said.

They gear education toward various ages. For younger employees, a 401k plan is often the first exposure to the market. For those in mid-career and people with retirement on the horizon, a different approach is needed. Whatever the age, a company retirement plan is a versatile and effective investment tool.

For more information on of Ohanesian / Lecours Investment & Advisory Services, visit:


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