As I'm writing this, many of you are in the closing stages of open enrollment at your respective companies. You know the time of year well, usually you’ve procrastinated until the last minute where you're making elections with about as much precision as picking out the ingredients for your burrito in line at Chipotle...
Now more than ever, companies are offering so many different kinds of perks to their benefit packages. You know the main ones: health insurance, 401k plans (many with a match), life insurance, dental, vision, disability insurance, critical illness insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, hang nail insurance… okay, kidding on that last one. However, there are many more besides the basic kinds of insurance policies. Many companies are offering gym memberships, education reimbursement programs, and more. It seems that for several aspects of your life, you can confidently say, "Oh I have that covered through my job."
Unfortunately, your company will not be offering financial independence to their benefits packages any time soon. You probably scoffed at that last sentence like it was an obvious statement. How could my company give me financial independence as part of my benefits package? The funny thing is that in our grandparent's hay day, it was a standard. You might know it as a pension or a defined benefit plan.
In the 1980's 60% of workers in the private sector had a defined benefit pension plan. Today that number is around 4%. Think about some of the older folks you know who went to work for Coca Cola, Home Depot, IBM; 40 years later they got a nice party, a gold watch and now every month they walk to their mail box to pick up a check. It’s not like that anymore for most of us.
Many people define "financial independence" in their own way. The version I like best isn't retiring at 65 only to not earn any income again. Instead, I like the sound of "choosing what you're going to do that day" even if it’s earning income rather than doing something like working because you have to. For many members of the greatest generation, they have that choice of what they're going to do today because they have guaranteed income for the rest of their life....
So, you folks without a pension, what does this have to do with you?
Several times per year, I will be introduced to a potential new client or follow up with one I was introduced to in the past and I will hear something along the lines of:
"Hey Andrew, nice to hear from you. I appreciate you reaching out but my company provides me with free financial consultations from XYZ Financial Co. who manages our 401k plan. I think I'm all set. Take care!"
These are like daggers through the chest for me. I have been doing this for 5 years, I have more than 100 clients and there are roughly 6 million people in metro Atlanta so I'll be okay without this person as a client, but the real stinger is that I know I can help them and bring them value… but only if they’re open to being helped or coached.
For that person, they are leaving arguably the highest stakes game in their life up to a rep from a company who knows them through one silo: their 401k. In my opinion, they are "checking the box" and saying "I'm good there."
Are you sure? 100% sure?
Your building probably also has a gym in it. But if you've never been in it, would you find any value in working with a trainer?
Several companies have a wellness clinic where they can see a nurse practitioner if they're sick to fill a prescription. But if you're really sick, would you find value in seeing a doctor or a specialist?
I'm not putting down company benefits, especially when you're USING it. Here's an example of a success story with company benefits. My wife Melinda's company has a gym in the building with trainers that teach classes. Unless she is sick, she has been EVERY SINGLE DAY to a class and is killing it. All for $25/month. That's an effective group benefit.
But when it comes to your financial fitness, after that annual meeting of "How much you should have in stocks vs. bonds" or "here's how to increase your contribution" or "here's how to login online to view your account" or "here's how much the match is being increased" are you 100% confident that you're truly "all set" in every aspect financially?
Has the 401k rep reviewed your property and casualty insurance?
Have they held you accountable to getting those wills done you keep putting off?
Have they helped you come up with a savings goal for 2018?
Have they addressed how your 401k will be impacted if taxes actually go up in the future?
Have they guided you with a game plan to pay off that credit card or that auto loan?
Has the rep reviewed and explained your group benefits?
Have they reviewed your life or long-term disability insurance?
There are more questions to be answered but for those of you who are walking the walk and are actually reviewing these items, you might be good. Maybe there is no value my team can bring, but the reality is most people are not good or all set financially.
I'm not beating up on the 401k reps that come to your office. At times, I'm one of them. My team manages some 401k plans for clients and for some of them I'm listed as an advisor on the plan but might have an actual holistic, advisor-client relationship with a handful of them.
We all benefit from having a coach, someone to push us, encourage us, guide us. It’s especially true when it comes to finances.
My point in this article is this: You're going to be working for the majority of your adult life. There's a good chance you have goals and dreams for your family, many of them financially related such as education for your children, retirement, peace of mind, leaving a legacy. We have one shot at this life. Faith, Family and Finances are our 3 "super bowls." Don't check the box or go through the motions with your financial life because your company has a 401k. A company sponsored retirement plan is PART of your financial life, chances are there is a lot more to be done. Take some time, make a game plan, adjust and adapt when needed. You deserve to be confident. Your family deserves it too.
If you'd like to schedule a complimentary call to discuss your future or to introduce me to someone who may benefit from learning about my practice, please send me an e-mail at email@example.com or to see my bio and other articles I’ve written at http://www.ashfordadvisors.net/team/andrew-matthieson.
Stay tuned for my next article which will take a deeper dive into the question of “Are you Really all set financially?”