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Billy Burrows: Do not let status quo bias ruin plans for retirement

Billy BurrowsIt is quite the understatement to say that we are in uncertain times. At times like this, what advice do we give our clients?

It is all too easy to hide under the umbrella statement that “it will all turn out alright in the long run” but this is a disservice to our clients. We owe it to them to keep them up to date and informed about the effect of world events on their finances.

I find comfort in going back to basics because often the simplest things can make a big difference.

There are three basic things we can do to reassure clients: make sure their income requirements are delivered, check the investment strategy reflects their risk profile, and review their longer-term plans to make sure they are on track to deliver the desired outcomes.

There is a common theme to the above – if the pensions and investments are set up correctly, they should be able to sail safely through any storms that may arise.

In practice, this means managing the sequence of returns risk when income is being taken, making sure investments are well-diversified and undue risks are not being taken, and ensuring long-term plans are flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.

It is all well and good to argue that, despite the current volatility, financial markets will produce positive returns in the future and clients will have good outcomes.

But I wonder if this falls into the trap of status quo bias: a preference for the current state of affairs and a reluctance to accept the future may turn out very different from the past.

We are in troubled times but I do not see anybody coming up with suggestions about how to deal with it. In a few months’ time we may look back and say that today’s troubles were a storm in a teacup or we might see things going from bad to worse.

I do not know how things will turn out but I sense there might be more trouble ahead and this thought should encourage advisers and their clients to consider if retirement plans and solutions need changing.

William Burrows is retirement director at Better Retirement


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