What To Do When Your CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Retires

So, you’re working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), or other financial professionals to chart out your retirement savings course. Kudos to you! You’re rocking and rolling along the highway to your retired years. But then, you come to a fork in the road. Say it ain’t so – your advisor is retiring.

This hitch is common for folks working with financial planners of all stripes. After all, they’re people, too, and want to secure their own happy retirement. It’s likely that, unless you’re working with someone a couple decades or more years younger than you, you’ll face this reality at some point during either the planning phase or the retirement phase of your life.

The average financial advisor in the US is middle-aged – 51, to be precise – according to the research firm Cerulli Associates. Of these advisors, about 38% say they plan on retiring in 10 years. There are more CFP®’s over the age of 70 than there are under the age of 30!

All the while, demand for their services is on the rise. It would make sense to believe this need is being driven by the similar “greying” of the US population, but that’s not the crux. Instead, folks are seeking guidance from financial professionals because over half of Americans are being forced into early retirements by their employers.

What does all of this mean for you? Simply put, the individual you work with to get to a comfortable retirement probably won’t be the same person to help lead you through these Golden Years.

How do you navigate making a transition from working with someone you’ve known for years to working with someone new? Well, although the face behind your investment portfolio may change, it doesn’t have to be a completely fresh start.

The big-name firms, like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, each have more than 15,000 financial advisors on staff. So, if you’re working with a large outfit, they’ll have no problem matching you with a new advisor if your current one decides to call it a career. But is it really that simple?

My answer is not always. Often, we as humans choose to work with someone based on our gut reaction to them. A comfortable, professional relationship is built on trust, not just the advisor’s track record. Anyone moving from one advisor to another will no doubt experience the same trepidation: “Can I trust this new guy as much as I trusted Mary?”

Here are a couple of tips to help you make the transition from the tried-and-true to the new. First, if you are using a big-firm adviser, request to work with their team, so you get exposure not only to the most senior adviser but also to the next-gen employees. Then spend some time getting to know the younger team members. If you stay put, they are the ones who will likely shepherd your retirement saving into a workable income stream.

Second, understand that the relationship you form with your new advisor will likely be different from the one you had with Mary. Advisors have different philosophies, different mixes of skill and experience, and different personalities. And every investor has a different set of goals, risk tolerance and desire to be actively involved in their investments. Make an effort to get to know your new advisor while understanding that the dynamic could be different. Give your relationship time to grow.

At the end of the day, there are many potential benefits to working with a financial advisor. Things like freedom from financial chores and learning from a professional. While these may not show up on your account’s bottom line, for many investors, these intangibles count as gains, too. In the end, it may be well worth the growing pains of forming a new relationship; your portfolio could thrive while you, hopefully, get to kick up your feet and relax.

For Boomers, like it or not, the Millennials and Gen X/Yers will most likely be the ones to help manage your investments during your retirement. While it may be true they’ve only read about the market cycles you actually lived through, they do have something you want. They are often more creative, attentive and hungry than their old-time counterparts.

Give these newcomers a chance. You may teach each other something as you walk together down the road to financial security.

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