Your retirement planner is stealing from you—really!

Your retirement planner is stealing from you. It's time to take control.

Your retirement planner is stealing from you. It's time to take control.

Your retirement planner is a thief.

Now, I’m a financial planner focused on retirement, so you might be surprised to hear me say that your retirement planner is stealing from you.

I’m not talking about hidden fees, embezzlement, Ponzi schemes, investment fraud, or any other sneaky ploy to get your money. (Although I did talk about some of those in a recent episode of the Retirement Answer Man podcast.)

What I’m talking about is much more dangerous to your happiness and wellbeing in retirement.


Read on.

Signing on for thievery

When you set foot in a financial planner’s office, you don’t feel like you’re about to have anything stolen from you. It feels like a service.

That’s all part of the plan. And you go in like a lamb to the slaughter.

It looks a little something like this:

  1. You go to an online calculator that spits out a “magic number” for retirement.

  2. The calculator gives you a huge number and some imperfect choices to reach it.

  3. You don’t know how to reach that number without accepting some bad advice from an online tool.

  4. Maybe someone else could manage my money better than an online calculator, you think.

  5. You call a financial planner—probably one recommended by the online tool you found.

  6. They sit you down for LONG meetings filled with tables, charts, spread sheets and predictive guesses about what the markets will do.

  7. The financial planner then recommends to you basically the same one-dimensional options that the retirement calculator spat out.

  8. You pick one of these options, lower your expectations for retirement, and move on.

Now, dealing with a typical financial planner will certainly be more sophisticated than the calculator. You’ll have a better understanding of how to save and invest and have the latest market  guesswork. Traditional planners will also likely help you spot some blind spots in your overall plan.

You’ll feel wise for going to the financial planner. And that’s awesome—you’ll get something back for it.

But really, your two options will still have to do with saving or investing. Which, while important, are only a  part of what you should be thinking about in retirement.

And that’s where the unintentional thievery takes place.

What most financial planners steal from you—unintentionally

Financial planners invest with your money, and you get back some of the benefits. But that’s not stealing. It’s a contract that mutually benefits two parties.

And I say, “Party on.” I’m all for benefitting people heading for retirement financially, no matter who their financial advisor is. Most planners want what’s best for you; I know tons of amazing people in this industry doing fantastic work who really serve their clients.

But when a financial planner hands you a leather-bound document filled with disclosures and incomprehensible data you’ll never look at again, you’ve already lost something to them.

And this is what financial planners steal from people time and again.

They don’t even realize they’re doing it.

They’ve stolen your power. Your creativity. Your ability to create the best life out of the only life you have.

When they present you with two rigid choices (saving or investing) that rely on massive, brain-numbing assumptions far into your future, that’s what you lose.

Flexibility: Adios. Agility: Sayonara. Proactivity: Kaput.

If I say it in enough languages, maybe I’ll get this concept across to everyone.

Here’s the thing: some financial planners are so focused on babying your money that they might forget they’re trying to improve your life in retirement.

To be fair, shoehorning any great life into saving and investment vehicles is difficult. And many financial planners are only trained to know those two vehicles.

It sadly took me years to figure out that I serve people, not their money.

So what’s the alternative?

Agile Retirement Management

I don’t have a crystal ball, and I don’t pretend to.

But most financial planners tell you how big your nest egg will be while relying on big assumptions that tell you how well the stock market or how less risky investments will perform.

Then they chain you to the results, only reacting when the assumptions change in a big way.

These faulty assumptions disempower you. But again, I don’t say this to rail on the industry; just to show you there is a better, more complete way.

The process I’ve developed as I’ve learned to serve people instead of their money takes a holistic approach. It moves beyond the numbers to focus on your life as well.

Instead of forcing you to live with either saving more, spending less, or investing more than you’re comfortable with now, I admit there are more than saving and investing options. I’ve taken a page from new management techniques that focus on agility and change management to help you sculpt a life you be proud of.

I’ll tell you more about it in next week’s blog.

In the meantime, you might want to listen to this podcast episode.

Or if, you want to skip all the reading and listening and cut straight to working on a retirement plan that works for you better than traditional offerings, just click here to get started.

Question of the week

Has the rigidity of the financial planning process stolen your creativity, proactivity, or empowerment? Tell your story in the comments below.