Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Financial planner horror story

BusinessWeek's retirement issue carries a story that gives me more reasons to always be on the defensive when talking to a financial planner.

Stan Morrill was confident his nestegg would provide for him and his wife for the rest of their lives. After all, the Eastman Kodak veteran, a factory worker for 31 years, had attended the free financial seminar recommended to him by co-workers. Morrill says the host, Michael J. Kazacos, one of Morgan Stanley's top brokers, dazzled him with a plan that would let him retire at 49. Morrill just had to roll over his pension and 401(k) into a tax-deferred account managed by Kazacos. After that, he could safely withdraw $36,000 a year—plenty to cover his bills—without ever touching the $320,745 principal. "I saw no reason why I should stay and work," says Morrill, who signed on in 1998.

But he says the strategy, which assumed unusually high investment returns of up to 14%, didn't pan out. Morrill's balance now stands at just $57,559, and with little other savings, he's scrambling.


Aggressive investment brokers are focusing on that yawning gap between perception and reality. Promising early retirement, fat investment returns, and big annual cash withdrawals, they're increasingly succeeding at seducing investors to turn over their retirement accounts—and then putting them in high-fee and often inappropriate investments. "This is emerging as a big problem," says Mary L. Schapiro, CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the securities industry's private oversight group, which recently launched a program to train corporate benefits managers to vet financial advisers who run in-house seminars. "The issue has intensified for the next generation of retirees—the largest we've ever seen."
Read the entire story. It's worth it.