Specialized practice: retirement income planning

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The pre-retirement phase of clients’ working lives is the primary focus of most financial advisors. But it is possible to build a thriving practice in the retirement income planning market even after clients stop working.

Here are three advisor approaches to retirement income planning as a practice niche.


In 2003 Herb White had an epiphany. He’d rather be a financial planner than a stockbroker.

“I recognized as a stockbroker that people I worked with were actually looking for financial planning advice, and in particular retirement income planning,” says White.

So he set up Life Certain Wealth Strategies in the Denver area, which is focused exclusively on retirement income planning.

This specialty has allowed his firm to sustain and even grow its practice, says White. His 11-person team includes six financial advisors, two estate planning attorneys, and a CPA.

With this diversified team, says White, “we’re able to offer a greater level of service, and as a result, clients take us more seriously and tend to stay with the firm because we’re addressing all their needs.”

To maintain visibility locally, the firm sponsors a weekly educational radio program. In addition, White writes articles on retirement income planning for local newspapers and business journals.


At Acorn Financial Services, based in Fairfax, Va., retirement income planning was a natural evolution at the firm, says James Gambaccini, managing director since 2008.

Using a team approach, the firm serves clients near and in retirement, who account for over half of the client base, according to Gambaccini. Thanks to a built-in referral system, he says, they are responsible for a large part of the firm’s overall growth.

“By building a well thought out retirement plan,” says Gambaccini, “these clients are a great referring source for their friends and family members. As a result, they refer more regularly than typical clients and actually help grow our business. There’s no need to do direct marketing.”


Hilary Hendershott has been working with affluent clients for nearly 15 years. Her Silicon-Valley-based boutique advisory firm is Hilary Hendershott Wealth Management.

Hendershott has a different approach to retirement income planning. For example, she “tilts” clients’ portfolios toward stocks, rather than bonds, believing bonds today don’t offer sufficient income to sustain retirements that can last 30 or more years.

“We rarely decrease the allocation to stocks upon retirement,” she says. “Instead, we offer clients the option of keeping two years of income in cash. When two years of income are available at all times we can actually increase the allocation to stocks, and the client can expect to be insulated from any normal business cycle.”

Even though clients retiring and spending down their money is apt to mean less AUM and fee income for the advisor, Hendershott is firm in her belief that “no advisor who takes her duty of care seriously would think about it that way, but it’s true. I see it as my job to help people have the lives they want, not to maximize my own AUM.”

Bruce W. Fraser, a New York financial writer, contributes to Financial Planning magazine.

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