On Wall Street Contributor Robert Gordon, president of an old school New York brokerage, Twenty-First Securities, and I were discussing retirement planning when he got on to the subject of decumulation of client assets.
"Not all brokers put a lot of thought into it. I imagine because it's not where you're making your money," he explained. "But they should, because it's part of the service to the client, and because it's the right thing to do."
I found a number of advisors who agree and write about how they approach the drawdown of clients' assets in this month's cover story. "It's very much integrated into what I think best practices are," says Harry Elish, a UBS advisor who is quoted in the story.
Melissa Spickler of Merrill Lynch, pictured on this month's cover, goes so far to say that "it's imperative to do it."
It may be trite to suggest these advisors are doing the right thing, as Gordon suggests, but the benefits are hard to ignore. A client of Spickler's, Cathy Diamond, has worked so closely with the advisor from the moment she was advised to start saving for retirement that the two have clearly formed a bond. "I don't even worry about my investments. That's Missy's job," Diamond tells me, referring to Spickler by her nickname.
While it remains all business, Diamond's trust in Spickler has gone a long way. But Spickler has never gone on autopilot. She invites Diamond into her office for regular meetings, the way many advisors approach retirement planning. And the real challenge, of course, is figuring out how the decumulation of assets is going to work.
Spickler also is working with Diamond's daughter, showing how this approach works in setting up a new generation of business. Family members, often times serving as advocates, can sometimes turn into future clients who eventually help replenish the assets that have been decumulated.
The value is there for advisors who decide to devote themselves to this late stage, client relationship. I told Spickler and Diamond that, as a younger man some 20 years ago learning the lessons of life, I grew to appreciate the value of having a lawyer, doctor and spiritual advisor, and that I now see how clients like Diamond would add financial planners to that short list.
Diamond agreed, while Spickler responded with a joke: "I think I'm more important than her mechanic."