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  • Poterack Capital Advisory

What if I Die or Retire?

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

I want to begin this article assuring you that both elements of the headline will happen. It is not a matter of “if” but “when”. As I’ve lost hair through the years and my remaining hair has turned grey, I get asked questions I never heard when I was in my 30s and 40s.

I now get asked questions like: “How long will you continue working?” “What happens to our accounts if you die or retire?” “What is your succession plan?” These are important questions and I recognize there are more families thinking, but not asking these questions. I decided to share my thoughts on this topic for our readers who may have similar questions for me or their current advisor.

I’ve built relationships with our families that are not easily replaced. Regardless of a firm’s size, if you work with a financial professional, that relationship and mutual understanding of your values and objectives would not be easily replaced. A large firm would hand over your accounts to someone they choose. This may be a total stranger and/or someone you don’t care for. In any event, you are starting over in establishing a relationship. If you minimize or underestimate the importance of your advisor understanding your values and objectives at a deep level, then you may not understand the value of quality wealth management.

If you are a Do-it-Yourselfer (DIYer), what is your succession plan? You grade your own performance. Is it possible you might not know what you don’t know? Is it possible you may not recognize when your ability is slipping? My experience asking many DIYs, the most common succession plan for a Do-it-Yourselfer is their spouse. This often presents a big problem because a Do-it-Yourselfer often has a spouse that does not participate closely in their household investment, tax, and estate planning. If the Do-it-Yourselfer, often the man, dies first then the new “advisor” is the surviving spouse. This may occur without warning and little training for the successor “advisor”.

Let’s consider other professionals we rely on in our lives. Your physicians, dentist, accountant, attorney, banker, etc. will all retire and/or die. This will leave you seeking a replacement. The relationships and trust are not easily replaced even if the knowledge may be.

At PCA, I’ve assembled a team of professionals internally and externally to deliver ongoing wealth management to our families if I were to die unexpectedly. I’m 57 and love what I do, so I view my retirement as being well into the future. If I retire before I die, then it will be planned and communicated to families well in advance. We will have discussions with our families related to a successful succession.

I don’t know your thoughts on this, but I think 57 is young! I’m active, in great shape, and have a 10-year-old son! Some may consider working with a younger advisor hoping this advisor will outlive you as the client. I have two thoughts on this: I wouldn’t trade the knowledge and experience I’ve gained for someone younger, less knowledgeable, and less experienced. There are no guarantees in life or a person’s lifespan.

Appreciate quality relationships you have with all your professionals and their quality work for as long as it serves you well. Why prioritize hypothetical advisor lifespan over quality wealth management advice in your family’s best interest?

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