After the Rant, the Search for an Expert

OK, I agree. After reading all the advice and trying to make sense of various options for stashing retirement money so that it provides income, I admit that I’m hopelessly lost. Or, in the advice lingo, I’m an investment novice, with a small retirement fund (i.e. read “not in the millions!”) who would rather not think of these things. I need guidance, a “wealth management counselor” as TIAA-CREF calls it.

I need an advisor because all the research I’ve been doing has shown me that I must pay to invest retirement funds, I must pay to keep those funds where I put them, and I must pay to access them. And then I must pay taxes on them when I use them. I’m thinking that stashing retirement funds in my mattress might not be such a bad idea after all. That, however, is not the message in the “how to retire happy” guides. An advisor, it must be.

Did I know that there are at least four types of “advisors” each selling different products, each regulated through different agencies, or not regulated at all? Will the crush of boomer retirements lead to changes in this system? Or is “risk” (rather than security) so much a part of our ethos that retirees must continue to pray for market upswings and accept graciously the inevitable market downturns by cutting out “non-essentials” (the advisors’ word, not mine)? Did I know that none of these advisors really works for me? Did I know that I would have to interview them (and try to judge from body language, I guess, whether they are honest brokers or scam artists)? And really, a wealth management consultant, when I am worried more about poverty management? Well, maybe not “poverty,” but belt-tightening management, for sure. (Note to potential advisors: I will not give up chocolate!)

And so, wearing the cloak that protects against false prophecy (one she knitted herself!) she begins the quest for the perfect advisor:

1) ask friends
2) consult the phone book
3) check out the “wealth management counselor”
4) schedule meetings
5) find more “financial planning for retirement” books
6) check out the depth of my mattress

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