For many investors, accumulating wealth begins with saving in a 401(k) plan. If you started over the last decade or so, you may have seen the balance of your 401(k) increase substantially as the economy recovered from the global financial crisis and the markets turned in record-breaking returns. At the same time, the demands on your money have increased – the cost of a college education has skyrocketed, home prices recovered quickly and are hitting records, and even the way we live now is more expensive.
Not to mention the unique position of the generation born between the mid-50s and the late 70s – whatever label you put on them, this group is increasingly getting pressure from both sides of raising kids and figuring out how to manage the care of aging parents.
Making sure that you have accumulated enough wealth to meet all these challenges – and still enjoy a well-earned retirement that could last for 30 years – requires a very specific, custom tailored strategy.
Your time at this point is probably more limited than your money. But spending it figuring out the right approach to markets and investing may just not be something you want to prioritize. That’s where we come in.
The Planning Process – A Different Approach
Sitting down with an investment advisor to develop an investment strategy always begins with a risk assessment. It’s usually a pretty straightforward written questionnaire that asks you basic questions to determine your risk tolerance, and when complete it’s used to slot you into a risk category – usually from conservative to aggressive – that defines and determines your strategy.
That’s not how we do it.
The First Step – Understanding You
Our process begins with a conversation in which we ask the questions that matter. We want to know what you are comfortable with, what your goals are. We’ve been through several market cycles and some very big swings, and we know the most important thing is to keep you invested for the long haul.
Your risk profile is as unique as you are. It’s not about your age or your time to retirement or the category a questionnaire puts you in – because depending on what the market is doing, an investor in the aggressive bucket might actually be more comfortable with a conservative allocation. An investor in their 70s might be perfectly happy with an 80/20 stock/bond allocation, while an investor in their early 40s might want to be 100% in municipal bonds. It’s all about what it takes to keep you calm over the big bumps in the road.
That’s the kind of information we need to have before we put your money to work.
Portfolio Creation – It’s About Where You Want to Be
Once we’ve developed a true assessment—not of your risk tolerance but of your investment comfort level, then we work on goals. The traditional method is to look at your assets, your income and your time to retirement age, and then extrapolate from what you have in assets to a target of what you can expect to get.
We believe a better approach is needs-based, and outcome-oriented. In other words, we focus on where you want to be, and when, and work backward from there to develop a plan. Why do we do it that way? Because it’s the only way that works. It gives you the complete picture of your life journey and marries your financial journey to it, so you can make informed choices along the way. And if something changes? We revisit your plan to make sure it’s still tracking with your goals.
Implementing your plan isn’t a “one-and-done”, with an annual review. We want you to understand the reason behind every piece of your plan – so when something changes, either in the markets or in your life – you understand the changes we need to make to keep you on track. It’s also how we keep the risk you are taking in your portfolio in parallel with the risk profile we have determined together.
If markets drop, we don’t expect you to just close your eyes and cross your fingers. Our watchwords are reality and flexibility. We outline what’s happening and present you with options to keep you moving forward to your goals.
We understand that emotions are the one biggest hinderance to a long-term investment strategy. So when you invest with us, we work hard to take the emotion out of it for you, so you can make smart decisions. No matter what the life milestone or market move is – we’ve seen it before. It may look like we can see around corners, but it’s really just experience. For example, you retire once. I retire (someone) once a week.
Keeping on Track – A Partnership for the Long Haul
Our next step is the ongoing monitoring of your portfolio. We look at every account, every day. We deploy a systematic process to actively measure where you are against where you want to be and make necessary adjustments. At this point in your life, time is often your most valuable resource – and this is the most time-consuming part of successful asset management. We focus on it, so you don’t have to.
Adding the Risk Layer
Our final piece is something we call risk management – but we don’t mean it in an investment sense. We of course look at the downside investment risk of every trade we make for you, that’s part of setting up and implementing your plan. What we mean by risk management in this context is an active approach to identifying anything outside of market moves that could disrupt your plan and making sure it’s covered.
We’ve seen people through the tough stuff – death, disability, aging parents – and we know how to protect you. Our view is that insurance is necessary, but that it should only cover what you need. For example, we believe in buying a term life policy that will cover your mortgage and replace your income to protect your loved ones – but when your house is paid off and you’re retired, you don’t need insurance any longer. And the significant difference in cost between term and whole life is better deployed by being invested, where it can grow. Similarly, we’ll have the conversation with you about when you need disability and long-term care insurance – which is probably earlier than you think.
Our view is that you don’t just hire us to manage your money – you make us a partner in your journey through the big moments.
All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful.
Registered Representative offering securities through First Allied Securities, Inc. a Registered Broker/Dealer Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through First Allied Advisory Services, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser. First Allied entities are under separate ownership from any other named entity.
Lifelong Investments, LLC, 155 Passaic Avenue, Suite 310 Fairfield, NJ 07004