Better late than never to get advice

Better late than never to get good advice

A teacher who was widowed at age 40 with two pre-teen children, Lily followed the advice of an acquaintance at her credit union and read widely to understand at least something of the world of money management.

While she had some assets, her financial knowledge seemed only to make her anxious. She bounced through five financial planners in a remote part of British Columbia. Then came the tech-stock meltdown of the early 2000s, which increased her discomfort. “They were moving my money around, but I wasn’t getting their full attention,” she says. “I just felt very confused.”

Eventually, Lily moved south to Parksville, B.C., on Vancouver Island. There, at age 51, she was referred through a friend of a friend to Cliff Broetz, a financial advisor with Manulife Securities Investment. And so began her first real experience with financial planning. Five years later, she retired. Today, at age 60, Lily gardens and lives anxiety-free knowing that her financial future is well cared for.

“I don’t feel like I need to comb through my statements every month,” she says. “I just never felt I could let go of things and relax before.”

Broetz says people can have a variety of reasons for leaving their financial planning until late in their careers, but the need for help is invariably present. “Sometimes they have a collection of investments, and the overall assortment is lacking an overall plan, has duplication, has too many fees, is not cohesive.”

Marvin, 66, waited even longer than Lily to come to an advisor. The tech crash of 12 years ago that so unnerved Lily knocked him right out of the game. “I pulled out completely,” he says. “I said, ‘Enough of that.’”

An executive with an engineering company, Marvin and his wife had a company pension, Canada Savings Bonds and their RRSPs, but no real plan. “I thought we should tie it together,” he says. “It came to the point where we knew we should be investing in some way to try to get some growth with minimal risk.”

So at age 64, they interviewed three advisors and settled on Jennifer Black and Janet Baccarani, partners and financial advisors in Dedicated Financial Solutions and Manulife Securities Investment in Toronto. Two years later, he is “officially retired” but picking up some part-time contracts to stay busy.

Black says this scenario of late-career conversion to financial planning is actually quite common in her practice. “From the early 50s and onwards, people start to think seriously for the first time about retirement.”

Lily says it was vital for her to find someone who listened to what she wanted to do, suggesting alternatives rather than pushing her toward something she didn’t want. While she wasn’t an experienced investor, she had some financial knowledge. Nine years into their relationship, she and Broetz still good-naturedly debate ratios of foreign to domestic holdings and fixed-income versus equities. She also insists on an ethical portfolio.

“I don’t feel like he’s pressuring me,” she says. “He definitely listens to me. He gives me as much information as I want without overwhelming me.”

Marvin is pleased with the growth that Black and Baccarani have been able to find, as well as the feeling of responsiveness. “They’re very enthusiastic, very attentive and quite proactive,” he says, noting that they have led him to do estate planning, a necessary task that often gets put off.

While there are always benefits to be reaped by finding a good financial advisor, the benefits are greater if you do it earlier, Broetz says.

“I think people have trust issues committing to one advisor,” he reflects. “But if you find the right one, you ought to go all-in and adhere to a plan. A committed and caring advisor can make a huge impact, but we can’t perform miracles. The longer you delay, the harder it becomes. Getting rich slow is easy. It just happens to be dull. Procrastination is the number one evil.”

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Better late than never to get advice