Expert Interview with Jeff Helms About Saving for Retirement

Saving for retirementJeff Helms, founder and managing partner with First Coast Wealth Advisors, LLC, said of all the customers he has ever helped, no one has ever come to him and said they saved too much for retirement. In fact, many people worry that they haven’t saved enough. At least not enough to maintain the lifestyle they wanted to have.

That’s why Helms, along with the rest of the staff at First Coast Wealth Advisors, knows that saving as much as possible as soon as possible is the best way to retire, live comfortably, and not outlive one’s savings.

Helms shared with us information he thinks is beneficial for anyone thinking about retirement so that individuals can plan for the life that they want at any age.


Retirement means something different for everyone. How does address that fact?

Retirement can be a bit unsettling, since everyone knows what they are retiring from, but few people know what they are retiring to. In 1970, the average age of retirement was 65, and average life expectancy was 73.

Today, you retire at 60 and live forever. The author Mitch Anthony coined the term “retirementality” in his recent book, and we think it’s a good term to start a discussion with retiring clients about their expectations and objectives for the next 30 years of their life.

To date, no one has asked for a gold watch, a blanket, or a rocking chair. People want choices and options.


What are some of the biggest concerns individuals have heading into retirement? What about individuals who have already been retired for a while, but find themselves in need of some kind of change financially?

The largest concern by far is, “Will I have enough?” That is, will I outlive my savings, or will it outlive me? Another concern is market risk. The conventional wisdom is that you should move most of your savings into the “safe” stuff (bonds, CD’s, etc.) at retirement. This may work fine for someone with a five-year life expectancy, but if you live 30 years in retirement with 3% inflation, it will simply eat you alive.

Today’s retirees need a new game plan for investing for retirement. This is not your father’s retirement.


How have things changed regarding retirement? For instance, the economic downturn may have delayed retirement for several people or resulted in the loss of pensions, 401(k) funds, etc. How do you help these individuals?

You have to be realistic about your expectations. If you find that you won’t have enough resources to fund your lifestyle in retirement, there are only three options: work longer, spend less, or save more. That’s it – no more choices. We try to help clients manage their expectations by matching their assets against their liabilities – namely a lifetime of worry-free income – and guiding them to make adjustments where necessary.


Many financial advisors say that individuals should start saving as much as they can as soon as they can. What do you say to customers? Does age change this answer?

We agree. The answer to the question, “How much should I be saving for retirement?” is the same for every person on earth – as much as you can comfortably stand. In 30 years of retirement counseling, no one has ever walked into our office and said, “I’ve saved too much for retirement.”


What are some of the things individuals do not realize about retirement?

The biggest enemy is the ravaging effect of inflation over time. If inflation rises at a 3.5% average over 20 years, you’ll need about twice as much money each year just to maintain your current lifestyle. That’s not a better lifestyle; it’s the same lifestyle.

For those who invest poorly or overspend, it will leave them facing difficult choices later in life. No matter your age, the prices of goods and services have been rising your entire life. That won’t change. You need to be prepared for it.


When individuals want to retire by a specific age, what kind of services do you offer so that those individuals can obtain that goal?

We employ an academically rigorous approach to help determine what you’ll need each year to achieve all your goals for the rest of your life, and then apply modern technology to “battle test” it against a range of possible outcomes. This produces a “confidence” measure for each client. We would generally suggest you need a confidence measure of 80% or higher to provide the comfort that you’ll be okay.


What kind of services or suggestions can you offer individuals who have retired but discover that they need to either go back to work or make other changes to continue to afford a certain lifestyle?

The most practical suggestion is to simply face facts and make the necessary adjustments now. It’s all about delayed gratification. On average, you’re going to live a very long time in retirement. Most people will be better off sacrificing a few luxuries now to have a more predictable and comfortable lifestyle for their remaining years.


Florida is known for being home to many retirees. What makes retirement different in Florida?

Most Floridians are transplants. Certainly having no state income tax is a plus, and the weather is a big bonus. But beyond that, I’m not sure it’s much different for retirees anywhere else. Everyone’s after the same thing: a comfortable, secure, and rewarding retirement.


Some people who are retired or thinking of retiring are not technologically savvy. How do you make sure your services reach those people?

Nothing beats face-to-face communication. We do send out monthly written communications on what’s happening in the world at large and its impact on retirees. Lots of phone conversations are important too. The number of retirees who aren’t technologically savvy is falling as time passes.


Please share anything you would like to let people interested in retirement know about what you can do or retirement in general.

The most important thing is not to plan looking in the rear view mirror. Your retirement will be different than everyone who went before you. It’s personal. You need to really take stock of what’s important to you. What are your values? Your goals? Your dreams? Write them all down. And then build a plan for achieving them all.

Follow Helms and First Coast Wealth Advisors on Facebook.

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