By Susan E. Campbell
Financial professionals helping clients plan for a comfortable retirement are accustomed to preparing for unknowns. But what happens when foundational systems like income taxes and health care are on the verge of massive change?
“People think things are unpredictable, but they are not,” said Stacy Clifford, president of Holistic Wealth Advisors in Clifton Park. “We can only plan on what we know, while being flexible and nimble based on changes down the road.”
Clifford said her biggest challenge today is constant negativity in the media, which “casts a cloud on people into thinking they will never have enough” to live on in their retirement years.
Her firm’s holistic approach to financial success can be likened to physical health and well-being.
“If your doctor says you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol and are feeling down, there are still positive aspects of your health,” said Clifford. “It is similar in the financial field. My challenge is getting people to feel positive but not complacent.”
Clifford tells clients that saving as much as they can and making sacrifices in the short term are key to realizing long-term goals.
“Clients want to spend money now, send their kids to the best colleges, and have the best vacations. Who doesn’t?” she said. “So the reality-based conversations we have now are to show how current decisions affect their future lifestyles.”
Clifford has worked with retirees and pre-retirees for 15 years as a wealth advisor. Having that diverse experience is helpful because she can “interpolate the knowledge of success stories of retirees with those who are earlier in the planning stages,” she said.
“We see in retrospect the impact of a full commitment to staying on the path to financial independence,” she said.
“My clients may have to cut up some credit cards and send the kids to community college for two years,” she said. “But if they can pay down the mortgage, use the money that would have gone to the bank for the travel budget. This is how we get things done.”
Clifford is the kind of advisor who helps clients “focus on the solution, not the problem.” She feels she has sound reasons for optimism in the face of uncertainty.
“No one has bombs dropping into the back yard. We have jobs. Our 401(k) plans and the investment markets are doing well,” she said. “But there is always going to be something that makes us pull back and look at the broader context of things.”
“There is always going to be something going on that we don’t like,” said Clifford. “Take it all in and say, in the grand scheme of things, am I better off than I was, or than my parents were? I think yes, we are.”