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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   September 2005

Defer Everything but Risk

Don’t want your clients to retire penniless? Prepare them for the future by investing in the present

In our society of instant gratification, most people put more energy and effort into keeping up with the Joneses than into planning their finances and preparing for retirement. The Joneses, however, might not be playing the right game.

Consumers spur growth of the American economy, but by doing so, they are deferring wealth creation. Even if people have pensions or contribute to a 401(k) or Individual Retirement Account (IRA), risk is deferred by not investing beyond them.

Deferring risk might be the most costly way to prepare for the future. By not expanding opportunities to create wealth, clients essentially are saying that their current strategies will provide enough assets for the future based on an expected return on investment. If that investment is in stocks or mutual funds, then clients hope that the stock market will have a certain return until they retire.

Many clients are too comfortable with their current investment strategy or afraid of learning about other investments. This complacency or inattention to an investment portfolio is akin to an ostrich burying its head in the sand. The lucky clients who have realized minimal or even break-even returns over the past five years in the stock market have still lost ground to those who have sought better returns through other investments such as real estate. Some may also have an “ostrich attitude” about health issues and the ability to work productively at a job that will pay enough.

People cruising along comfortably with their investments in 401(k)s and IRAs are deferring risk because they pin their hopes on investments that probably cannot fund their retirement. Most do not understand the full impact that inflation will have on their investments over time. They also do not realize the true cost of retirement. Unfortunately, most Americans’ retirements will be grossly underfunded.

People without enough money to live the retirement life they desire will be forced to work longer. The next time you see older-looking greeters at the store, ask yourself whether they are working because they need the money or to stay busy. Their uniform may symbolize an unrealized retirement dream.

There is speculation about an impending stock market crash around 2016, when the first baby boomers reach age 70½. According to Robert T. Kiyosaki in Rich Dad’s Who Took My Money?, millions of people in 2016 will need to take out money from their retirement programs by law. This may result in more sellers than buyers. On the other hand, Kiyosaki asks whether the wealth being created by China’s expansion may find its way to our markets and help to avert a crash. In reality, what will happen is anybody’s guess.

There is risk in every choice — in action and inaction. The best way to manage risk is to be educated about investment choices and opportunities. Clients must take responsibility and study the issues. The books I recommend to clients help them understand investing principles as well as particular investments and their related strategies.

In addition to learning about various investments, clients need to understand that there are tax issues and other implications that could affect their returns. Many of these nuances, however, are clear only to financial professionals. Therefore, it is smart to partner with competent financial professionals to whom you can refer clients.

Teaming with a good accountant, financial planner and estate-planning attorney, you can offer a team of professionals who will help increase your clients’ ability to create wealth. Professionals can show them how to take advantage of tax strategies available to entities rather than individuals and how to protect assets and other luxuries — for example, by avoiding probate.

While these services can look expensive, the money saved or wealth created will make the services well worth the investment. The key is to help your clients understand that these are not costs but investments. Financial professionals will open new investment doors to them as their wealth builds. For example, people who have a net worth of $1 million are accredited investors as defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Regulation D Rules 505 and 506. Accredited investors have access to investments to which the public does not — an even greater opportunity for creating wealth. In essence, “it takes money to make money.”

If people take time to learn about investments available to them and strategies to minimize risk while maximizing possibilities for substantial investment returns, they are more likely to get the types of returns they expect. These strategies include deferring capital gains tax by doing a 1031 exchange with real estate investments, which gives the investor access to more money over a lifetime of investing. Mortgage interest is another good thing to defer if the payment savings are being invested and the appreciation rate on the property is outpacing the appreciation rate on the loan. Deferring interest and investing the savings are possibly the perfect application of the time-value of money.

By using a combination of strategies, clients minimize risk, maximize their wealth creation and are better prepared for retirement. Loan officers can be the key element in beginning the wealth-creation process. Teach clients the importance of properly managing their assets, primarily the equity in their home. Their home loans can play an integral part in their overall financial picture now and later. Show them that with proper cash-flow financing, this untapped money pool can begin to build wealth. In conjunction with competent, reputable financial professionals, your clients will appreciate your understanding of how critical it is to manage assets.

By becoming an expert, you can dramatically increase your income and your closing ratio. You will get more referrals and you won’t have to play the fee-reduction game. Your clients will recognize that you are adding value to their lives.


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