Dear Retirement Investor, What If You’re Wrong?

Over the last several weeks, it has been a whirlwind of headlines from the financial media. Despite some very encouraging fundamentals in the economy—GDP growth, corporate earnings strength, positive corporate response to tax reform—we have recently rediscovered market volatility. In February, we saw a 10% drop in some of the indices in only 9 trading days!  Luckily, this swift downward slide was short-lived, and the markets rebounded. Until… they began to slide again. Now, we are hearing rumors of a potential trade war with China, and some of our social media platforms could be targets for increased regulation.

This is the nature of investing. Despite the beautiful oasis that was 2017, where volatility was at or near zero for the entire year, I must remind you that those results are not the norm.

For the last year or two, we are increasingly hearing more people who believe that we are due for another “Big One.” The question I probably should ask, but often fail to do so, is “How do you define a ‘Big One’?” After all, the traditional definition of a Bear Market is a 20% decline, which historically can be fairly common, with one happening on average once out of every 5 years. This type of market cycle is normal—so, if it happened now, would it be too much to handle for you as an investor?

Or, would a “Big One” be more like what investors experienced in 2008—where asset prices dropped between 35% and 50%?

I tend to think that investors are anchored to their 2008 experience, and sadly, the financial media continues to re-open that wound any time we experience volatility. This doesn’t serve investors, but it definitely draws eyeballs, which directly result in ad sales for the media machine. (Hint: this is one reason why I so often encourage clients to not even watch or read financial journalism)

Now…the title of this article I ask “What If You’re Wrong?” because whether you realize it or not, there’s a story you tell yourself about your financial future and the impact of equity markets on that future.

Some people believe that in the long-run, market returns are positive, and you simply have to hang in there when the seas get rough. Other investors believe that the next major financial downturn is all but inevitable, and it’s only a matter of time before the house of cards comes tumbling down. Worse, there are some folks who believe that it’s actually possible to predict the coming of this potential bear market and subsequent recovery.

Let’s look at each of these scenarios, and how they could impact your retirement plan if you are wrong. Note: most of the following information is going to be more relevant for investors who are either retired or very close to their retirement date.

In the Long Run, You Win— unless you don’t. There are many maxims about investing that are consistently thrown out to investors to encourage them to not panic out of the market. While, yes, we do want to encourage good investor behavior, we financial professionals should also make sure that clients have the financial ability to actually do what we are telling them to do. Some investors have the risk tolerance to be invested in growth markets, but they do not have the risk capacity to invest the way they are being coached to invest. For instance, some clients want a lifestyle in retirement that would be considered “constrained” under some retirement income metrics. These investors can be the most vulnerable to a market shock derailing their income plan, and in some cases, this derailment could be a permanent setback. I spoke with someone recently who told me that he “didn’t want to have to go back to work.”  Why leave something that critical to market probability and chance?

Mr. Market, My Hero. Another scenario, which is perhaps a more chronic condition for some investors, is when the market is being relied upon to produce a minimum level of return to make their plan work. I use “plan” lightly here because really this is more of a Hope and Change strategy— one where you hope the market probabilities don’t change in the future! Of course, we all hope to gain meaningful returns by being investors—we wouldn’t risk our hard-earned money otherwise. Yet, it still fascinates me that the old Wall Street retirement advice hasn’t changed with the times. You know the phase: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” This is more than just a meaningless disclosure—it’s a real statement that should be heeded by investors headed into retirement. Retirement strategies that are built on a rate of return requirement—either to preserve capital or sustain lifestyle— could be in for a rocky ride.

Are you ready to have an allowance?  Trust me, the institutional firms that still market the systematic withdrawal approach to retirement will be telling you when / how much / how little / go / stop…..and everything in between… in order to keep you invested. I tell attendees at our workshops that I know they aren’t going broke in retirement (barring some unforeseen medical or life event that depletes savings).  No, what will happen is that folks who finally tire of the market uncertainty or feeling like they have no control will simply cash in their chips and put their money in the bank. We think there is a better way to do things.

Did You Miss The Bus? A final consideration—one that flies in the face of conventional thinking—is that some investors are going to mess up their retirement future because they invest too conservatively, not too aggressively.

“How can this be?”  you ask.

It’s often discussed in our industry about the changes that need to be considered when one retires. One of those changes is that people should invest more conservatively in retirement because they cannot afford to lose funds to market volatility…. or should I say have large losses due to market volatility? The idea of “not losing” is a myth when it comes to investing. There’s no free lunch. Retirees need to understand that asset allocation—and constructing a thoughtful retirement income plan—can significantly improve their outcomes. This doesn’t mean that we divorce ourselves from growth assets…actually the opposite. We create a plan that will allow for us to embrace a growth-oriented allocation for part of our portfolio. 

With increasing longevity driving retirement seasons that can last 30-plus years, investors cannot afford to shy away from growth completely. We need to have assets that can give us real returns—net of inflation—so we can maintain purchasing power. A major concern for some retirees should be what their portfolios could look like 10, 15, 20 years from now if they don’t allow for some growth.

Take this example:  Investor Jones, age 62, takes a conservative route with $250,000 in assets that aren’t needed for his current retirement income needs. He invests in a portfolio that gives him a 4.5% return over a 15 year period. His account now stands at $483,820. However, if inflation averaged 2.5% during that same period, his real rate of return would be 1.95%. What this means is that, while his account has a balance of $483,820, the purchasing power of those funds is equal to only $334,000 in today’s dollars. This is a significant shift, as Mr Jones is moving into a phase of life where he may need these assets to supplement his lifestyle and where medical expenses tend to increase.

Note: The example given is hypothetical in nature, for illustrative purposes only and results are not guaranteed.

So, what can YOU do?

The truth is we must plan…and continue to plan as the years go by. Market volatility will make the news media headlines all day…because that is what helps the media drive their profits from advertising. Do you think the media is going to front page stories like Mr. Jones?  Or, will they give primetime interviews to retirees who got cooked in another major downturn?  Sure, they might…but by then it will be too late for those people who were harmed by not having an effective plan.

The challenging part of the retirement equation is that most people have little or no experience with withdrawing money from a portfolio. Thus, when they approach retirement or interview financial professionals, they tend to continue using their experience as accumulators as a guide. The game changes completely—and so many folks don’t realize it. If you want to be successful with your retirement dollars, I cannot stress enough the importance of these 3 action items:

1) You work with someone who is a credentialed financial professional that has a fiduciary responsibility to you as a client. Professionals that carry the CFP®marks are a good litmus test for this requirement. I would also encourage you to go a step further and look for someone who is both independent of any major institutional firm and who specializes in retirement planning. Much like the world of investing, retirement planning is its own specialty, and folks preparing for their retirement years should seek professionals with retirement planning expertise.

2) Have a written plan. This is where a good many financial professionals can fall short. When I say written plan, I’m referring to a document that you—the client— can read and understand. Do you have one of these?  Sure, many people get printouts of charts and graphs w/ monte carlo simulation results. Can you actually read and understand that?  What you should require is that you get a document that you can read and understand. If you can’t, how will you know if your plan is working or on track?

3) Participate in the process.  A good financial professional will make sure that you are engaged in the planning process. The more involved you are in the planning process, the more you should be able to identify and align with your finalized action items. Your plan should reflect your needs / wants / desires on paper— and give you a roadmap on how to make it all happen. If you don’t actively participate—or worse, the planning team doesn’t ask you to be an active participant— you should look for a group that will be proactive in planning with you. Retirement is too important to simply let (insert big firm name here) take the wheel.

Retirement planning doesn’t have to be tedious or stressful. Let our team guide you through our planning process, where we can align your assets with your values. Reach out to us to schedule your free 1-hour consultation!


Investment advisory and financial planning services offered through Planners Alliance, LLC, a SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Subadvisory services are provided by Advisory Alpha, LLC, a SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Insurance, Consulting and Education services offered through Vertex Capital Advisors. Vertex Capital Advisors is a separate and unaffiliated entity from Planners Alliance, LLC and Advisory Alpha, LLC.

We Hold The Line

I hope that by the time you’re reading this, the majority of the stock sell off has occurred. Of course, we may still have a few more storm clouds to weather. And that’s ok. The financial media is already using their platforms to sound the alarms because, for them, this is Christmas in February. Over the last year and a half, the market has move upwards—slow and steady—with little angst or volatility. Now that we have some serious selling action, they all get a chance to preen and tell us how much smarter they are than all of us.


Don’t buy it.

Market corrections, like this one, can be scary. However, they also serve a great purpose— to shake out the weak hands, clear out over hedged players, and (to be honest) keep the rest of us on our toes. If you’ve sat in investment meetings or presentations with our team, one of my favorite statements to make is in reference to how quickly the market can take away our gains. For instance, we had an amazing January—with equity portfolios seeing 5-7% growth in a single month!! Now, those same portfolios have given back those gains in a matter of days.

To quote one of our clients “Ramp Up is nice. Ramp Down is horrid.”

The truth is that corrections are normal—but I feel that some additional explanation may be in order about what’s going on and why. Here’s my list of a few possible reasons—none of them alone would drive this downturn (in my opinion), but when taken together…

  1. We are way overdue. Human emotion and behavioral biases still hold significant sway over market movements. In the last several weeks, I have heard multiple remarks about the market and it’s recent run. The more frequent the remarks—the more diverse the types of investors that make them— this usually a sign that we probably have people taking risks they shouldn’t be taking. These folks are the first to sell once we see volatility pick up.
  2. Technology. With the ever-increasing ability of investing algorithms to run portfolios without a human touch, we are now seeing how quickly the automation can impact investors during volatile trading days. If the algorithms are programmed to sell after a 5% drop, they WILL sell —no matter what is going on. A large percentage of trading these days is done with algorithms, and I think that big swing days in the markets could be a new component of the investing process for years to come.
  3. The Gimmick Portfolio. With technology comes its uses—and its abuses. The investing world is no different. Despite the fact that there is no research that can validate anyone’s claim to being able to sell out of the market at “just the right time” or invest in “just the right” stocks…there are still salespeople out in the marketplace trying to push these types of strategies on investors. These strategies sound so good…so perfect… but it’s been my experience that they are nothing more than a bag of onions being paraded around like a bag of apples. There is no free lunch in the investing world— and these types of strategies can bite you in times of volatility. We are likely seeing some of that play out at the moment.
  4. The Federal Reserve. The new chair, Jerome Powell, was sworn in yesterday. Having the Dow drop over 1100 points on your first day isn’t the greatest first day at the office, huh? What may have started this turn in equities is the idea that the Federal Reserve may decide to deviate from their 3 scheduled rate hikes this year—and possibly add a 4th. While there has been nothing substantial said about this becoming a reality, we always see a little shuffling of the deck if something unexpected arises. If this indeed proves to be the catalyst, we will likely be looking back in a few weeks at this market tantrum wondering “what they heck was that all about?”

These are some of my opinions, and I believe that many other financial professionals share them since I’ve yet to see anything concrete come out about why we are seeing this correction. Considering that the majority of economic news we’ve been getting— unemployment numbers in January were great, corporate tax cuts triggering reinvestments in our country, wages ticking upward, and GDP accelerating— we haven’t seen any data that points to the party being over. So, for now, consider this just par for the course with investing. We have to be able to withstand some downturns. In fact, dare I say that having a correction can be healthy for the bull markets?

Remember, we always work within the context of a plan. We plan for not only the good times—but also the scary times. That way, when we do see volatility rise against us, we can hold the line.


Investment Advisory Services offered through AlphaStar Capital Management, LLC, a SEC Registered Investment Adviser. SEC registration does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the Commission nor does it indicate that the adviser has attained a particular level of skill or ability. AlphaStar Capital Management, LLC and Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC are independent entities. Insurance products and services are offered through Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC by individually licensed and appointed agents in various jurisdictions. Any comments regarding safe and secure investments and guaranteed income streams refer only to fixed insurance products offered by Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC.

The Power of Distraction

We live in an amazing digital age. Today, thanks to technology, I am able to not only connect with friends from all parts of the globe—I can video chat with them, see their life moments in (almost) real time, and participate in their funny jokes and videos they share online. This connectivity is wonderful in that I am able to maintain a relationship with others that would never have been available to me a few years ago.
Like anything in life, moderation is important. Technology has not only enabled us to connect with long lost friends and family, it can also bombard us with hourly with notifications about things that are truly insignificant in our lives. The BREAKING NEWS story… the ever-changing Facebook news feed…Text Messaging, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, LinkedIn… I could go on and on. The distractions are endless today. What’s worse, is that all of these distractions are likely not serving you in your personal life or in your finances.
For instance, did you know that we now have a word for people who are constantly on their phone instead of being present in the moment or in the conversation? That’s right— it’s now called “phubbing.” This is the world we live in folks.
Now, you may think all of this distraction may seem irrelevant or insignificant; however, the truth is, that it likely impacts you in some way. In our profession, the biggest impact we see from this new age is how these daily distractions can slowly pull someone’s focus away from their financial goals. Here’s a news flash:
The market does not care about your goals. It does not care about your timeline for retirement, nor does it care about how much money you need each month…or your tax rate. Nope, it doesn’t care about the estate planning you haven’t completed, and it doesn’t care about your emergency fund. It doesn’t care about your plans to travel or your dream home.
These are things that you must care about. 
I spent the better part of my 20s living and working in New York and California, and one of my acting coaches said to me once, “Michael, no one is going to care more about your career that you do.” And, while it may be true that we as financial professionals  do our best to advocate for our clients…help them plan and prepare… coach them with investments and monitor their financial plans—one thing we cannot do is care more about their money than they do. It’s simply not possible.
That’s why we must continue to stay diligent and focused amid a world that constantly bombards us with craziness. The loss of focus can turn into procrastination, which can begin a negative compounding effect. We want to avoid that kind of outcome.
So, how does one stay focused?  It’s actually quite simple….it’s just not always that easy. The first thing you must do is find a qualified financial professional that can help you create a comprehensive financial plan. Once you’ve completed this step— all of your future financial decisions should be made in context of that plan. Then, you enjoy life— monitor and adjust your plan as needed. You don’t need the continuous news cycle or online fear mongering to distract you from the things in life that are truly important. The good news is that if you have a financial plan as a guidepost, you always have something to help you re-center if you get distracted by this noisy world.
*Special thanks should go to Ben Carlson at who wrote a killer piece titled “14 Things The Market Does Not Care About”— it’s a wonderful article and part of the inspiration for this post. Check out Ben’s article here.
Investment Advisory Services offered through AlphaStar Capital Management, LLC, a SEC Registered Investment Adviser. SEC registration does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the Commission nor does it indicate that the adviser has attained a particular level of skill or ability. AlphaStar Capital Management, LLC and Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC are independent entities. Insurance products and services are offered through Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC by individually licensed and appointed agents in various jurisdictions. Any comments regarding safe and secure investments and guaranteed income streams refer only to fixed insurance products offered by Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC.

Can A Navy Seal Teach You About Finance?

Is it possible to apply leadership and life lessons from the military to your financial life? The answer is a resounding YES. I’ve been in the financial industry long enough to hear some pretty creative metaphors for financial stewardship, and to be fair, some are fantastic, while others are weak or overused. I mean, if I hear another golf metaphor used for a financial concept, I may develop a headache right on the spot.

The reason we financial professionals use metaphors is because we are attempting to create clarity for our clients and prospective clients. Let’s be honest here—we all prefer ideas and explanations that are simple and easy to understand because the greater our level of understanding, the more empowered we feel to take action. Relating something we understand with something we view as complex is one way to make that type of connection.

So, what can a Navy Seal teach you about personal finance? Before I tell you, I’m not going to paint with broad brush strokes here—the specific man I’m referring to is Jocko Willink, who is developing somewhat of a cult following due to the release of his book Extreme Ownership (co-authored with Leif Babin), his consulting company Echelon Front, and his growing podcast audience.

Full disclosure- I have never heard Jocko discuss specific financial ideas, but the themes of his discussions on leadership and discipline have many real life applications to both business and individuals who want to succeed with their money.

Extreme Ownership.

This is not just the book title—it’s the theme that leaders must take 100% responsibility for their results. It’s described as, “Leaders must own everything in their world; there is no one else to blame.” You may not view yourself as a leader—you many not have a leadership position at your job, but you are 100% responsible for your personal finances. True, you may have some obstacles and outside influences, yet that still doesn’t release you from personal responsibility. It is way to easy to blame someone or something other than yourself, but what good comes of that? If you want to reach your financial goals—first you must actually have goals (crazy, right?). Next, you must be willing to take 100% responsibility for reaching them.

Simplicity > Complexity

One area that our society is failing at is financial literacy. We teach algebra and geometry in high school, yet we don’t sit our kids down and show them the destructive nature of credit card debt or how to balance a checking account. The end result of this is that most of us learn our financial habits from outside influences such as our parents, and habits, unfortunately, are not the same thing as principles. If you want to win with your finances, you must develop a set of simple financial principles that are unwavering. Often times, people fall into the trap that financial matters are too complex and difficult to understand, so they fail to do anything. Or, they begin—but eventually fall right back into their old habits.

Don’t fall for the complexity trap. If you are exploring a strategy or course of action that cannot be explained simply, don’t go for it. This is one of the most common mistakes I see people making with their financial lives—things are too complex. The best financial advisors should be able to explain things so that you understand them— in fact, it’s part of our job to make the complex become simple. Beware those strategies and ideas that can’t be simplified.

Overthinking When It’s Time to Act

This next paragraph is an exact quote from Jocko where he describes the danger of overthinking your tactics when in combat:

“You’re preparing to take a building and you come up with a plan. You set up two elements to cover and move so you can take the target. But as you begin looking at the map and imagery, you notice that there is another outhouse about 150 meters away from the house. And now that you see it, you decide to break apart your team and dedicate some guys to watch that that outhouse just in case. You might think that you’ve covered all of your bases but what you’ve REALLY done is separate your units, increased your communication problems, separated your fields of fire, disaggregated your fire power, diminished your unity of command, broken your SOP…eliminated your tactical advantage for the mere chance that when you hit the house at 2am, the guy is in the outhouse. This is what overthinking can get you.”

Please understand that there is a huge difference between doing your due diligence and overthinking. As an advisor, I want my clients to ask questions and seek understanding. I think any good advisor would welcome that dialogue. However, there comes a point with any plan or strategy when it’s time to execute. Overthinking or analysis paralysis rarely benefits anyone in the long-term. Jocko says,
“When people get super detailed about planning, they often fall into the trap of planning for something that can’t be known. How about instead of making a plan for something that can’t possibly be known, make a plan that’s adaptable!”
There  are some aspects about your finances and your future that simply cannot be known. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of permutations you attempt to analyze, unknowns will remain unknown —until they are known! Plans that are flexible and adaptable are superior to those that aren’t.

Discipline Equals Freedom.

What an amazing phrase. This can be applied to so many areas of our lives—our health, our wealth, our business, etc. When it comes to personal finance, you must take ownership of your decisions and your outcomes—the good, the bad, and the ugly. This begins with developing the discipline it takes to reach your goals (again—do you have financial goals?).

I run into people all the time that believe they’ll “get serious” about retirement in their 50s. I won’t get into the arithmetic of that talking point, rather I’ll say this- “If you haven’t developed the discipline to save a percentage of your earnings in your 30s and 40s, how do you expect to save 2-3 times that much in your 50s?”  The simple truth is that it’s not likely to happen because it’s too painful.

Personal finance is a game of discipline. There’s no other way around it. You must determine your goals and work with the level of discipline required to reach them. Stay focused. Be Adaptable. Take Ownership of the outcome. At least, that’s what I think Jocko would say.


Investment Advisory Services offered through AlphaStar Capital Management, LLC., a SEC Registered Investment Advisor. AlphaStar Capital Management, LLC and Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC are independent entities. Insurance products and services are offered through individually licensed and appointed agents in various jurisdictions. Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC does not offer legal or tax advice.


The Top 5 Things You Should Do With An Inheritance

Receiving an inheritance is nothing short of a blessing. With increased longevity taking hold of both the Baby Boomers and their parents, it’s likely going to stretch many a nest egg just to make it through one’s retirement years. If you consider that healthcare costs also tend to be the highest in the last few years of life, the odds of receiving a considerable inheritance will most likely continue to dwindle for many of us in the years ahead. However, if you are fortunate enough to benefit from an inheritance, here’s my top 5 list of things you should do with those funds.

Note: This is a general list and by no means should it be considered all-inclusive. Each and every person’s financial situation is unique, and it’s quite possible that you may have a better use for the funds than the ones listed below. My reasons are to be used as a general guide, and they are in no particular order.

Pay Off Student Loan Debt.
Student loans continue to be the weight around the necks of those who have them OR those who are obligated to help pay for them (like parents who’ve co-signed a loan). With the increasing cost of going to college outpacing many people’s ability to afford school, the student loan industry is alive and well. Unfortunately, students are carrying these loans for years and years beyond their graduation date, which hinders their ability to save, purchase a home, or invest earnings from employment. If you inherit money that enables you to pay off your student loan debts, do it!

Make a Down Payment on a Home
Interest rates, while beginning to see some upward pressure, are still very favorable for home buyers. If you have been looking for the opportunity to get away from the apartment life and become a homeowner, getting an inheritance may afford you with the opportunity. I have heard some people tell me that renting is so much simpler, and they have the ability to have roommates help with the costs of the apartment. To them I say you can have roommates at your house as well. The difference is they will be helping you create equity in a home. The key, of course, is to make a wise purchase and not attempt to buy more house than you can reasonably afford.
*In some cases, an inheritance may enable you to pay off a mortgage. In my opinion, this financial move is highly dependent on the individual situation, so I would consult with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ if this applies to you.

Eliminate Credit Card Debt
This one goes somewhat hand in hand with student loan debt; however, there are many people who continuously carry a credit card balance that have no business doing so. It may seem a bit bittersweet taking inheritance funds, which feel like found money, and putting them into a credit card bill. However, your mental accounting is failing you if you think this way. You see, the credit card money is money you didn’t have that you’ve spent—now you must pay it back. Also, credit card interest rates can be unforgiving, as I have seen rates as high as 19.99% on some cards. With rates like that, it’s almost impossible to get that debt paid down. Go ahead and eat the frog—pay that bill off before you can talk yourself out of it.

Invest The Funds
This one should be obvious, but it must be included because while it seems obvious, few people have the willpower to delay consumption today by investing for tomorrow. However, it is common for many of us to feel like we are behind on saving and investing for our retirement years. Inheritance money can offer an opportunity to add a boost to your investment accounts, or if you don’t have any investments, this can be your opportunity to begin your investing journey.

Fund College
If you have children, paying for college is likely on your parental radar. If you are not yet attending college, having an inheritance that can cover some or all of your college expenses is an incredible advantage! Now—when I say college expenses, I’m not talking about pizza or beer. I’m talking about tuition, room & board, and textbooks. Using inheritance funds to help eliminate the need to take on student loans OR to reduce the amount of loans is not something that should be discounted. For parents with kids, giving them a debt-free education opportunity can be one of the greatest financial advantages you offer your children…just don’t let them study something like Art Philosophy or another program that has little chance of affording them the ability to earn an income after graduation.

I can think of more ideas for how to use inheritance funds—some others that I didn’t put in my top 5 could be:
-create a savings fund
-donate to charity
-fund/payoff wedding expenses
-purchase investment property (real estate)
-pay off a car note

Gaining an inheritance is a gift, and you should leverage that gift for maximum impact. Of course, I’m not an all work, no play type of person; therefore, I do believe you should set aside a portion of the funds to be used for some type of memorable experience or personal enjoyment. However, I cannot stress enough that the “fun” money should not take a priority over the “smart” money. Leverage those inheritance dollars for maximum financial impact!

Investment Advisory Services offered through AlphaStar Capital Management, LLC, a SEC Registered Investment Adviser. SEC registration does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the Commission nor does it indicate that the adviser has attained a particular level of skill or ability. AlphaStar Capital Management, LLC and Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC are independent entities. Insurance products and services are offered through Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC by individually licensed and appointed agents in various jurisdictions. Any comments regarding safe and secure investments and guaranteed income streams refer only to fixed insurance products offered by Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC.

The 1% Solution

According to the 2016 Insurance Barometer Study by Life Happens and LIMRA, 1 out 3 households would have immediate trouble paying living expenses if the primary wage earner died unexpectedly. Note: I added the word “unexpectedly” to that sentence because let’s face it, most of us go through our lives each day with our minds focused on other things. Very little time or energy is usually given to thinking about “What If” scenarios, especially if it involves our own demise. Believe me, I get it—it’s just not something that we enjoy thinking about.

In fact, the same exact study (the 2017 version) just published a nice infographic that shows us what most people spend their time thinking about when it comes to economic and financial matters:

As you can see, healthcare is a primary concern— followed by retirement and college education planning. Down at the bottom, there is a little bit of space left for the elephant in the room:

“What would happen to those I love if I didn’t come home today?”


“What would happen if I couldn’t physically work any longer?”

The solution to questions and concerns like these isn’t complicated…it’s insurance.

Last week, I had lunch with Marv Feldman, who is the CEO of Life Happens, and I asked him what he thought the biggest mistake people were making when it came to life insurance, disability, or long-term care. Without missing a beat, Marv looked at me and said,

“Everyone knows what insurance is, but few people understand what insurance does.”

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of creating a comprehensive financial plan. In fact, I believe this is the most important thing you can do to set yourself on a course to reach your financial goals. A critical part of that plan is to first consider the major risks and how to eliminate or reduce them.

Most insurance premiums require an investment of 1-3% of gross household income to protect the downside risk for things like dying too soon or being impacted by a disability. This “cost” as so many view it, is really the solution. If you want to see just how impactful life insurance can be, watch this video:

Your Portfolio Won’t Save You

In the many years that I have been fortunate to work with couples and families as they plan for their financial future, I have seen, heard, and witnessed just about every type of financial mindset you can imagine. From the “Free Spirits” to the “Doom and Gloom” to the “Fiscal Hawks”— it’s been a colorful journey. One thing that continues to surprise me is the persistence of the idea that all that matters is the allocation of one’s portfolio.

In our retirement workshops, we often discuss several retirement planning issues and concerns that we frequently hear from folks who come to see us. The overwhelming majority of people who attend are coming to learn how they can make their retirement income last longer than they do. However, we still see people who have been trained to believe that the “right” portfolio is all that matters. I say “trained” because I believe that the majority of what some people know comes from the marketing of Wall Street and financial institutions.

Instead on focusing on just portfolio allocations— investors and clients should be focusing on creating an actual PLAN.

“Why is that?”, you ask.

The answer is simple— A portfolio is simply a tool that should be used to achieve your financial goals. The measure of a portfolio’s long-term success should be how well it enables you to meet your goals—NOT how it performed against the S&P 500 last year. The best benchmark for a portfolio is the answer to these questions,

“Am I on track to make sure I know for certain that I’ll never run out of income during retirement?”
“If I get sick or die unexpectedly, how could my family be impacted? (this is big if one spouse handles all of the finances)
“If my spouse gets sick or dies unexpectedly, what’s my plan?”

“If I need to take care of my aging parents, will I need to provide financial assistance?”

“Is there anyone in my family that I want to help with education or financial expenses?”

“If taxes or healthcare costs go up unexpectedly , how will I be impacted?”

Of course, there are more questions…but you get the idea. Retirement planning is much, much more nuanced than making sure your portfolio allocation is appropriate for your age. In fact, fund giants like Vanguard are trying to find ways to add advice to their platform because they realizing how valuable financial expertise can be to clients today.

Right now, stock markets are touching all-time highs, as the DOW, S&P, and NASDAQ have all touched record closes during this current bull market run. More and more, we are seeing the slow grip of inertia and complacency weave their way into the mindset of investors. What an amazing time to put a solid plan in place without the fear of market volatility or unexpected life events hindering your thought process. Don’t let this opportunity to plan for the future pass by—take the time to build your plan today…one that will protect you tomorrow in ways that a portfolio can’t.


Investment Advisory Services offered through AlphaStar Capital Management, LLC, a SEC Registered Investment Adviser. SEC registration does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the Commission nor does it indicate that the adviser has attained a particular level of skill or ability. AlphaStar Capital Management, LLC and Vertex Capital Advisors, LLC are independent entities.