Some Questions Our Clients are Asking


We could dedicate this space to a description of The IRA Specialists, Inc. and of the work that we do. In doing so, we would no doubt include information about our experience and credentials. For now, be assured that we do have the credentials and experience you would look for in a financial advisor. Eventually that may matter to you. When it does, we’ll be glad to tell you all about it. 

Right now (and for the vast majority of the time that we work together) what matters to you most is not about us. It’s about you. That’s not in any way to suggest that you might be self-centered. It’s a statement of how things should be. We haven’t sacrificed and invested over the years so that you could enjoy a comfortable retirement. You have. 

So what are some of the questions that our clients ask? These are questions that many people worry about and, sometimes, lose sleep thinking about. See if some of these questions ring true for you as well.

Q:Am I going to have enough? (And it’s corollary, how much can I safely spend each

A: We deal with this question—or these questions—almost on a daily basis. Computers and good software help, but by no means can they do it all. We have to find out about you. How do you envision your retirement? What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? How often? Is that realistic? We’ll work on all of this together. And we’ll revisit these same questions repeatedly over the months and years that we work together. As needed, we’ll agree on appropriate mid-course corrections.

Q:What kind of annual return can I expect to earn? 

A: As with many of the answers we give, the best answer depends on your experience, specifically your experience as an investor. During periods like the tough market times in 1973-74, 1987 and 2000 through most of 2003, what did you do? How did you feel? What would you have done differently? If you had to choose between giving yourself the opportunity to realize the highest possible return and limiting the drops in the value of your savings, which would you choose?

Q:How do you go about picking the best possible (Fill in the blank here.) stocks, bonds, funds, etc? 

A: We probably won’t. Certainly not all the time. There are just too many variables clouding the view in our crystal ball. But what’s more important to you, getting a better rate of return than your neighbor, or knowing that you’re on track to realize your objectives? If it’s the latter—as we think it should be—you’re more likely to focus on that which is most important. If you look back and see that you could have gotten a better return with some other investment and then kick yourself and/or us because of it, we’re probably not the right financial advisors for you. Let’s spare us both and keep the attention on the most important question: "Now that I’m retired, is my retirement plan successful as I have defined success?" 

Whether or not it’s carefully thought out, most everyone has an investment philosophy. It’s important for you to be clear about what yours is. For example, some people think that the job of a financial advisor is to determine the best investments for this quarter or this year and to move out of today’s investments just before they start to decline in value tomorrow. We simply believe that expectation to be unrealistic. Making wise investments derives from an understanding how investments have behaved over periods of time that align with your time horizon. When you retire, for example, you will likely have fifteen to thirty years ahead of you. We believe it makes more sense to plan for that time than to try to anticipate the intermittent ups and downs in markets.

Q:So how do you help me with my investment decisions? 

A: We do a lot of things to help our clients, but one of the most important is to educate them. And one of the most important areas of knowledge about investments is in the perspective that comes from history. Picture yourself in a waiting area in any office as you wait to see the professional you’ve come there to see. On the table is a newspaper and a history book. Which are you most likely to pick up? Of course, the newspaper. It’s lighter reading. You can more quickly get the story from beginning to end. That fact is part of the reason that you didn’t pick up the history book and also what probably makes it the more valuable source of information—especially when it comes to getting information to help you make good financial decisions. 

Why do some people try to measure investment success based on what happened in the stock market today? It’s like putting a stop watch on a glacier. You’re measuring with the wrong device. Among the things we do is to help our clients keep the perspective that they need to be successful investors for their purposes. Just remember that the newspaper has an entirely different purpose. 

Q:How do I best pass to my heirs whatever I have left after I’m gone? 

A: Here again, we have to get more information before we can help you find the best answers. How old are they? Are they likely to make decisions with the money they inherit that are as sound as the decisions you have made in accumulating it? Is it more important that your planning emphasizes reducing taxes or assisting your heirs in the decisions they make after you’re gone? (Sometimes—not always—you have trade offs here.) Do any of your heirs have any special needs? Should they all receive equal shares of your estate, or are there reasons to allocate shares differently? Is this your first marriage? If not, do you have children by a previous marriage? How does that affect your decisions?

Q:How can I make sure that I never have to spend time in a nursing home? 

A: The short answer is that you can’t. Your best chance at never needing to spend time in a nursing home is to have a well-designed long-term-care plan. One that provides for as much home and community care as possible. You surely don’t want to pay for a ticket to a nursing home. On the other hand, insurance that might keep you out of a nursing home is an entirely different matter.

Q:What types of products do you offer?

A: Keep in mind that we help you prepare for and enjoy a comfortable retirement. While 
the products are important, together they constitute the means to an end, that being your 
comfortable retirement—the one that you have been envisioning and working for. Suffice
it to say that we have access to all of the investment and insurance tools to help make that a reality. When we get a chance to talk in more detail, we will be as specific as you want us to be. To get into the details right here right now would require that we satisfy both your curiosity and the regulators’ rules. It’s just too much material to cover here.

Q:How do you get paid?

A: Most of our clients’ accounts pay a quarterly fee based on the account size. This approach eliminates the type of conflict of interest that can exist where a financial advisor is paid for each transaction. Of course, if you prefer to pay for our services that way, you can do that as well, although very few of our clients choose to do it that way. Fewer still choose to work with us on an hourly basis. If you do choose this approach, we promise that we’ll give you a firm estimate as to what our total fee will be, depending on the type and complexity of the work you need to have us do. 

§Q:How do you—or more importantly, I—know that you can help me? 

A: Unvarnished honesty is a good thing throughout a relationship, and, maybe especially, at the beginning. If your definition of success is consistent with our approach to helping our clients, that’s where we probably have a match. If we don’t think we’ll be able to help you, we’ll tell you. We want you to know that as soon as you want to know it. One of the things that we’re most proud of is that those mistakes have been rare since we started doing this back in 1988.