I recently retired after 30 years as a university professor. During my time in higher education, I always managed my own retirement account. For most of those years I had a relatively balanced portfolio, with about a third in each - stocks and bonds and an annuity. Then 2008 happened. I was pretty proud of myself for making it through with about a 10% loss in value compared to the 30% or more loss some of my colleagues suffered. The fallout from that episode, however, was that my risk aversion turned into a pathological fear of financial ruin. Consequently, without any consultation or guidance, I got out of the stock market completely. Moved half of my portfolio into an annuity with a guaranteed 4% return and the rest in bonds. There it all sat growing marginally for the next 7 years. Yes, my balances grew but my decision to get out of the stock market meant I missed the rebound. I also missed the opportunity to fund my ROTH to the maximum. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
As hindsight is 20/20, had I been working with an independent financial advisor all along, I would have had a much more balanced portfolio after the crash, one that would have allowed for growth while respecting my aversion to risk – which is what I have now.
There is much comfort in knowing that I have someone working with me and for me who knows what I don’t know, who ‘gets’ and respects my risk tolerance, and who has my best interest at heart. It took me a long time (and probably substantial cost) to come to the realization that just because I know the difference between stocks and bonds, doesn’t mean I’m a financial planner any more than I am a surgeon because I know how to sew.
Retirement is a wonderful next chapter, but it takes some wise planning. And part of the plan is having a trustworthy financial advisor working with you. Ask your family and friends for recommendations. Meet with them. Ask questions. Listen with your ears and your ‘gut.’ And when you decide on the person you think is right, you can always start slowly and let the relationship develop.