Having come in to the business in 2001 shortly before the 9/11 terror attacks, I have always been aware of the debilitating power of fear. Six years later, I left an established practice to start my own office shortly before the Financial Crisis and again found myself helping clients regain perspective in the midst of tremendous fear and uncertainty. Our effectiveness with participants in the face of hard times has come from understanding how it feels to be afraid and unsure. Even in less turbulent times, many of America’s workers feel fear and uncertainty.
We work hard to reduce fear and inspire confidence. We teach participants that their financial future is not at the mercy of Wall Street bankers and government officials. We teach them that the things that have the most significant impact on their ability to create wealth are wholly within their control. Namely, how they respond in tough times and how committed they are to savings for their future.
But it’s about motivation too. We all know what we SHOULD be doing but it’s easy to do the stuff we WANT to do instead. And when we put huge numbers in front of people – like you need $1 million to retire – participants are even less inclined to do the right thing. We focus on the small steps, the changes we can make one by one that add up over time. Putting a $1million objective in front of a 35 year old single mom can be so overwhelming that she throws her hands in the air and gives up. But if we help her figure out how to save $50/pay this year and $100/pay next year, we can start making progress. And as she sees her 401k balance grow so too does her motivation to do the right thing.
I believe that humans are natural optimists but we are surrounded by things that push us toward pessimism. We aim to be a breath of fresh air, the voice of optimism and encouragement, for our plan sponsors and their valued employees. We are teachers and cheerleaders. We want our participants to move away from fear and toward a sense of confidence and empowerment in their financial future.