Retirement Planning

More to Retirement Than Choosing a Community

Says Battle-Hardened Advisor

Nowadays, retirees can choose from about 5,000 55-and-over communities in the U.S., according to Still, such age-restricted communities — often offering clubhouses, pools, golf and more. Popular as they are, they are not the only choice.

Case in point: Stephen R. Judge, ChFC®, CLU®. Although not ready for retirement himself, Judge is happy to discuss his own goals as he is a client’s.

“For some people an adult-only community is the perfect place to land. That’s fine if that’s what you want,” said Judge, an advisor with LPL Financial in Asheville, North Carolina, in a recent interview for Advisors Magazine.

Judge team“My wife and I favor living in a more intergenerational setting.” he continued, “I want to live where there are young people, old people, mothers with crying babies, teenagers flirting, middle-aged people working through their issues. I want to hear the sound of kids playing.”

Judge chuckled: “My mom is my hero. Before she passed at 96, she made a point of making friends with people at least 20 years younger. As a result, she had 150 people come to her funeral. If you complained about your aches and pains, she would say hers were worse, so be quiet. She lived in her condo with the help of my sister. Mom went the YMCA Aquatics Class three times a week until just before she passed.”

A chat with Judge is refreshing and engaging. He describes his journey in the industry as eclectic. He is a person driven by curiosity. His musical tastes run from Vivaldi to Springsteen. He can talk about Shakespeare and Behavioral Finance.

“I joke with my wife Deb (who runs the operations side of the practice) that my bucket list is too long and my bucket too small,” Judge laughed. “Every day, show up and appreciate what the day puts in front of you.”

A 1977 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Judge received his Army commission as an Infantry Lieutenant. Ranger Tab qualified, he served as peacekeeper on the DMZ in Korea and then with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC. He was honorably discharged in the rank of Captain in 1981.

“I learned a lot about leadership and discipline,” Judge recalled. “Military service gives a person an edge in terms of flexibility and staying power.”

The Investing Battlefield
Judge views the world of investing as a battlefield. He sees three ways to engage.

One general study’s the past to learn what worked, and did not under different conditions. “We call this modern portfolio theory,” Judge explained. “You draw inferences from history, and allocate resources based on concepts that have been proven over time.”

The second type of general guesses at the future. Judge calls this the fortune teller approach. The problem is most crystal balls are hazy at best.

The third type of general is like the famous Chinese general Sun Tzu. Tzu emphasized having the most accurate understanding of what was in front of him. “That was Napoleon’s genius as well,” said Judge.

Judge head“It’s okay to be curious about the future. We can certainly learn from the past,” he said. “But the most important thing, I think, is to know what is actually going on,” Judge emphasized. “That is a habit of mind that is not easy to practice.”

Judge employs a range of technical indicators to assess the battlefield. He believes in relied-upon indicators like relative strength, trend, and sentiment. But not at the expense of neglecting fundamentals.

“I don’t use technicals to time the market.” Judge stressed. “I use them to have a sober, accurate view of the demand forces at work in the market. Always preference good fundamentals.”

Judge credits LPL Financial as “the best company I’ve ever been affiliated with in terms of research and analysis. I visit the LPL Research blog daily.”

Be a friend
Judge said he learned his craft as a financial advisor at Edward Jones, starting an office from scratch. After ten years, he had built it into about $40 million in assets under care. He still has a lot of admiration for Edward Jones. Judge also spent a few years in the wire-house environment, which he recognized as a big mistake.

“There are certainly great people on that side of the industry, but the truth is I felt like I was treating people as commodities.” Judge recalled. ‘My district manager told me to fire my little clients and focus only on the high-net-worth clients.’

“I’m from the kind of people that don’t cut and run,” Judge. “So, I fired the wire-house and went to the independent channel.”

Flash forward to the present day. Judge says the wonderful thing about LPL Financial is there is no firm minimum. “I can take on anyone on as a client, as long as I feel we are a good fit.”

Judge’s typical new account is between $100,000-$200,000. He has his share of accounts north of $500,000. That said, he is happy to open an account for say $25,000 if he senses they would both benefit from the relationship.

“I see myself as a teacher/learner, not a salesperson. My clients educate me as much as I do them” he added. “I like people. As a result I take on clients that other advisors do not want to retain. That’s fine by me.”

judge clientSmaller clients pay their own kind of dividends, asserts Judge. “We are talking about nice people. They bring us baked goods at Christmas. They thank us for birthday cards. My wife and I love that,” Judge said.

For Judge, being a friend is a core value proposition.

“I do business with people I like,” he said. “I am not interested in having clients that are hard to get along with even if they are profitable. We see our client group as neighbors even if they live 4 states away.”

To better support his clients, Judge has developed a specialization in Medicare, for which he retrains every year. More than 70 percent of future retirees wish they had a better understanding of Medicare, according to CNBC.

Judge knows health care in retirement is important for many of his clients. He is able to help them comprehend their healthcare options.

“It’s not a big profit center, but I’ve made the investment in it because it serves my clients in an area crucial to their retirement solvency,” he said. “Bottom line, it makes me a better advisor.”

Competency is also at the heart of Judge’s value proposition.

“It’s a dangerous world. My job is to be a guide. I help people make better decisions — not perfect decisions, but better decisions because of our collaboration,” he said.

Judge also believes an advisors must know their own boundaries.

“I’ve had clients come to me with problems that are outside my expertise,” Judge said. “Now I am pretty well educated in this business. I’ve been around for 30 years. I also know my limits. I have no problem telling them what I am not good at. I do not trade or write options, for example. I am just not good at options. I proved that to myself on my own dime. The tuition was expensive.”

Judge maintains that a financial advisor must serve as a conscience to his investors. “I help my clients gut check important decisions. I try to be a guard rail against emotions. The truth is, there is no guarantee that I am right. Their impulse may be dead on, but I help them think it through. If they go ahead with a decision I disagree with, ok, then I hope they are right.”

“Again, I see myself as both a teacher and learner. “Working to help people make their own best decisions makes us both stronger,” Judge said. “I love it when my clients teach me. That’s what I find most satisfying.”

Key retirement questions
Income planning in retirement, Judge says, it starts with one simple question: who or what do you love?

“If you love yourself, that creates one solution. If you love yourself and you love your spouse, that creates another solution,” he said. “If you love your church, grandchildren or your community, that’s another solution.”

Another question is how does a client expect to live?

“I have people come to me with resources that are astonishingly large, but appetites for spending that are very small,” Judge said. “I have other people who would be happy to spend every last nickel. They just don’t want to run out of nickels before they die.”

“It is dangerous to think you have all the answers” says Judge. He tells the story from his early days about a proposal he prepared for a cardiac surgeon, tops in his field. The prospect challenged the plan on almost every point. Instead of acting upon any of Judge’s proposal, the surgeon and his wife invested several hundred thousand dollars in an emu farm in Argentina. They were convinced that demand for emu meat was about to skyrocket. It did not. That portion of their nest egg vanished.

“A little humility can keep you out of a lot of trouble,” says Judge.

Cutting through noise is important. “The financial shows on cable bombard people with a lot of information. These shows sell eyeballs to advertisers. They bias the sensational. I help my investors re-refocus on the long term,” says Judge.

As for immediate goals, Judge aims to increase assets under his care by about 20 percent per year over the next five years and grow his advisory business.

“My wife and are always updating our business plan,” he said, “We’re putting in the procedures we need for successorship. I am building a business where if I need to, I could step back and turn it over to someone else in an orderly way that’s good for my clients.”

Judge educateJudge quickly added that he is perfectly content and blessed with good health. He keeps fit and is still having fun. “When it stops being fun, maybe I will do full time volunteer work teaching English as a second language. I need to stay useful. Besides, my golf game is so bad no one would play with me” he laughed.

“A nice thing about being an older advisor is I do not think about commissions or fees when I meet with a client or prospect. That stuff takes care of itself. I ask myself, is this relationship going to be interesting for both of us? What can we learn from each other?”

One thing is clear: Judge does not plan to escape to an adult only retirement community any time soon.

For more information on LPL Financial Advisor Stephen R. Judge, visit:

Stephen R. Judge, ChFC CLU is a financial
advisor with LPL Financial Tracking # 01-05165135 07/09/2021
He is located at: One Oak Plz, Suite 206, Asheville, NC 28801. He can be reached between 9am and 5pm weekdays at 828-348-5216 His email is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Securities and Advisory Services are offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC 

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