The financial crisis of 2008 most likely taught members one hard lesson – no one wants to lose their money like that ever again.
This feeling may have been especially true for retirees or those close to retirement, said Philip Rousseaux, founder and president of Everest Wealth Management Inc., a retirement service firm in Towson, Md.
“Losing nearly everything you've worked for throughout your entire adult life is right up there with being diagnosed with a major medical condition; it means the lifeblood of your future has been drained,” Rousseaux noted.
Aggressive investment strategies that offer potentially huge rewards are fine for people younger than 40, Rousseaux said, but even they should have at least a portion of their retirement portfolio in investments that will provide a guaranteed income. However, a shift occurs once an investor crosses over the 40-year old mark.
“The closer you get to your retirement age, or if you're already retired, the more important it becomes to change the tools in your financial toolbox,” he suggested.
For credit union members trying to make due in a sometimes volatile and low-interest rate market environment, some financial advisers are deploying traditional planning with tools to help retirees with ongoing expenses tied to health care and other costs of living.
Todd Gestrich, a financial adviser with Charter Oak Retirement and Investment Services, has been assisting members with their long-term needs since coming aboard in March at the subsidiary of the $789 million Charter Oak Federal Credit Union in Groton, Conn.
“We utilize a needs-based approach for all of our members, and incorporate both guaranteed return investment type products as well as growth oriented products in an effort to satisfy both current and future income needs,” Gestrich said.
His work with members was recently recognized by CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. when Gestrich received the Fast Start Award for strong production and sales achievements. With more than 10 years of experience as a financial adviser, he provides investment and retirement-related services to members at three of the credit union's 13 branches.
Based in Waverly, Iowa, CBSI provides investment and retirement services to Charter Oak members through Charter Oak Retirement and Investment Services. The credit union's division has built a portfolio of roughly $145 million in assets under management for the members it serves.
What has helped Gestrich determine where retirees need to maintain their standard of living during their retirement years stems from a foundation of trust.
“I believe our members have a great deal of trust in Charter Oak Retirement and Investment Services, which is a result of the active and positive promotion of our services to the member base by all credit union employees at Charter Oak Federal Credit Union,” Gestrich said.
The business generated from those referrals is a great indicator of the trust that members have in Charter Oak's program and its advisers, he added.
At the $272 million Navigator Credit Union in Pascagoula, Miss., 401(k) plan changes and questions about Social Security seem to always be of concern to members who attend educational seminars hosted by the financial institution, said Kathy Scarbrough, chief communications officer.
“We talk about 401(k)s all the time. There are so many options. People are confused,” Scarbrough said. “We help them sort through the clutter to help find a retirement option that suits them.”
While retirement and pre-retirement phases are critical phases in a member's life, Scarbrough said those milestones take on even more urgent tone after the death of a loved one.
“Emotions are heightened and confusion is rampant,” Scarbrough said. “We guide them through the process so that they make sound financial decisions because they need someone they can trust.”
The free seminars that are held throughout the year by Navigator CU has helped advisers pinpoint where members may need more attention. For instance, one member was able to increase his household income by $200 each month because he learned how during a seminar hosted by the credit union, Scarbrough said.
Whether investors are decades or just a few years away from retirement, or are currently retired – and whether or not they lost most, some or no money at all during the mass money meltdown – Rousseaux said changes in plans such as within 401(k)s have caused advisers to make adjustments to their client's long-term financial goals.
For instance, the Department of Labor rule implemented a new rule on July 1, 2012 that required all hidden fees attached to retirement plans and mutual funds be disclosed to employers and employees, Rousseaux said.
Next Page: By Some Estimates
By some estimates, up to 90% of fees attached to retirement plans are hidden, he pointed out. By talking to a financial adviser or attending a workshop, members can learn how to get an accounting of all those fees. Seventy-one percent of those with a 401(k) had no idea they were paying fees for their retirement accounts, Rousseaux said, citing an AARP survey.
“How much you have isn't as important as you think,” Rousseaux said. “For years, planners have touted finding your magical number so that you can afford retirement. This is simply not an accurate measurement and isn't what matters.”
With interest rates at 60-year lows and people living longer due to health care advances, the priority in planning is how much income can a member generate and will that income last for their lifetime, Rousseaux advised.
Financial advisers at credit unions and elsewhere may continue to suggest moves such as exploring fixed-rate index annuities, particularly for retirees or those close to retirement. Rousseaux said investing all retirement savings in Wall Street can expose a member to risk, which may be acceptable when they're in the prime of their career. However, older members may want to provide growth while protecting their savings at the same time.
Retirees may also consider turning their individual retirement or 401k into a joint account, Rousseaux said. While it's true an IRA is something only one person can own, many alternative investments such as a fixed annuity offer benefits such as guaranteed lifetime income. Within these plans the owners have the option to guarantee income on both lives, thus creating a joint income for both the husband and wife.
One segment of a credit union's membership that may be considered prime territory for retirement income planning is the mass affluent, which is described as those having between $500,000 and $2 million in investable assets, according to research firm Cerulli Associates. While variable annuities and income annuities are not all-inclusive solutions to the challenges that retirees face, the concepts are resonating with many investors and their advisors, the firm said.
Additional data from research firm Spectrem Group revealed that mass affluent investors don't feel wealthy enough to require financial advising services despite their wealth. Even more notable is a significant share of those surveyed believed they had not built enough wealth to achieve financial goals such as a comfortable retirement.
More than 40% said they were unsure of having sufficient income to live comfortably in retirement, and 40% planned to work past the age of 65, according to Spectrem. Close to 40% of those younger than 54 said their household is not saving enough.
Compared to the competition, Scarbrough said one advantage is that members have solidified trust by securing other financial service and product relationships with their credit unions.
“Members are sharing all of their financial details with us when they apply for a loan. So when they meet with the financial adviser, they're comfortable with sharing personal details, which enhances the financial planning process,” Scarbrough explained. “It would take multiple visits for a non-credit union financial adviser to get the same information.”