Retirement Planning Strategies During a Recession

Mark Fricks founded MasterPlan Retirement Consultants 11 years ago. He built the company after a realisation that the industry has gotten it backwards. Most financial advisers, agents and brokers sell products (mutual funds, stocks and bonds, ETFs, annuities, life insurance, etc.) and instead of pouncing on a client with a product as soon as they walk in the door, there first needs to be a plan, a blueprint, or as he likes to call it - a “retirement roadmap”. Would you build a house without a blueprint? Would you go out and purchase doors and windows without first knowing how they will fit into your perceived home?

MasterPlan Retirement Consultants start by asking the right questions and then listening. And not just financial questions, but dreams about what their clients’ retirement should look like, and what concerns keep them awake at night. They then begin “stress testing” their retirement income and assets to see what could cause their retirement journey to get off track.  Then they build a plan that targets those weaknesses, building a strategy for every “what if”. We hear more about it below.

Tell us about the foundations of MasterPlan Retirement Consultants.

I decided to found this firm in 2008 during the Great Recession. I was working for another firm, and basically, our story was: “Yes Mrs Smith, you are 73 years old, and you did lose over 35% in your investment account, but hang in there, because the market lost 56%, so we did beat the market.”

With our firm, we invest some, we protect some, and we hedge some, providing opportunities in every type of market and economic situation.

But it doesn’t end with money, income and investing. We truly believe that more money will be lost during retirement through taxes than anywhere else, so we include tax planning strategies as part of our holistic approach. We also include income planning, social security maximisation, estate planning, healthcare planning, pension maximisation, long-term care strategies, premature death planning, special needs situations, and more, bringing all of these disciplines together in a one-stop-shop approach.

We are built on three pillars:

  • We are fiduciaries. Our licenses require us to act in the very best interest of our clients, regardless of whether we make money or not.
  • We are holistic.
  • And we are boutique-style, meaning that we take on a limited number of clients each year to assure that we are able to provide what we have promised to each client.

What should people be cautious of when planning their retirement, considering the current financial environment? 

People need to understand that this is no longer their parents’ or grandparents’ retirement. No longer are people retiring with a paid-off house, a healthy pension, a nice social security check, and a savings account that pays 5-7%.

No, the world has changed. Money, like information, moves in nanoseconds. The markets are more volatile than ever. Some new tools and products have been developed over the past 20 years that are powerful in today’s fluid world. We live in a world economy, and other countries and economies can and do affect our financial world.

Social media has also affected retirement planning. Everyone has an opinion or a story of a “friend”, yet most opinions are wrong. Then there is the development of computer-driven financial planning.  That may be fine for a 25-year-old, but when it comes to those age 50 and over, someone needs to be able to look them in the eye and understand their real concerns, their real fears. Someone needs to be there when a wife loses her husband and doesn’t have a clue as to what to do next.

That, my friend, is where the rubber meets the road.

What are the benefits of a well-prepared retirement plan? 

Peace of mind. How can one enjoy retirement when they don’t have a roadmap to guide them? It’s like being so busy watching your gas gauge, fearful that you don’t have enough gas to make it to your destination, that you miss the scenery, you miss the experience.

We live in a world economy, and other countries and economies can and do affect our financial world.

How has your work been impacted by the current COVID-19 crisis?

Our firm has been busier than ever.  People are scared and need somewhere to turn. Our referrals are up and our online classes are well attended. More people are listening to our radio show and responding.

Most healthy people don’t go to the doctor, but once a person develops symptoms, fear and uncertainty creep in and an appointment is made. That is what has been happening with us.

What do you think the next 12-24 months hold for the retirement planning sector? 

I see clients moving away from the “big box” advisory and brokerage firms. They are tired of being a number, or getting a new adviser every few years. We know each and every one of our clients personally, we know their families, their joys and their concerns. They also know that we will continue being here. My son, Evan Fricks is also an up and coming adviser with our firm, and we have multiple contingency plans to continue serving our clients, their children and their grandchildren.

Also, I think that the firms that anticipated the deep impact of COVID-19 will thrive, while others will suffer and perhaps die. We were blessed by the fact that we did envision what could happen, and we immediately upgraded all of our technology and the way we conducted business. Before COVID-19, I was doing two online client meetings a year. Now, 97% of all meetings are done via the web. In addition, every class that I taught was in-person – now I have not taught an in-person class since early March. I am teaching approximately 10 classes each month at half the cost via the internet. I see this continuing somewhat after COVID. I enjoy meeting face-to-face with my clients – they are like family to me. But as they age or move away, there will be comfort in knowing that we can still be their financial adviser. I also hope to go back to live, in-person classes because of the connection that can be made with the class but will still do many via the web.

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