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Ken Fisher: Clients Often Focus on the Negatives – and That’s a Big Mistake!

By Rita Raagas De Ramos October 1, 2018

This is part one of a six-part series probing the concerns of American investors, as expressed to top financial advisors.

Ken Fisher, Camas, Wash.-based founder, executive chairman and co-chief investment officer at Fisher Investments, says he is bombarded by clients with questions about preparing for retirement because it’s become much more of a major concern for the typical American.

“Forty years ago, retirement following a long career meant collecting a steady pension that was largely managed by the company you used to work for. Retirees didn’t have to worry much about decision-making,” Fisher says. “Today, investors are increasingly responsible for their own retirement success: saving, investing prudently, determining how to generate income and how much they can safely take from their portfolio. These aren’t easy decisions to make.”

While clients who seek out financial advisors for the first time are asking the right questions, Fisher wishes they would widen the scope of their inquiries.

“People today are preoccupied with what negative surprises might present themselves and derail markets or their retirement. Few fathom to question what positive surprises might actually exist,” Fisher says. “The preoccupation with the negative is what causes many people to make investing mistakes – trying to time the market, chasing heat, etc. – and prevents them from reaching their long-term investing goals."

Ken Fisher

Here are the top three financial security-related questions Fisher is asked by his clients, and how he answers them:

#1 How long do I need to plan for my retirement?

“Many investors incorrectly believe retirement planning ends when they retire. However, investors need to plan appropriately to ensure that their savings provide for them much longer than they might believe – in many cases 30 years or more after retirement. Then too, don’t forget the insidious impact of inflation. Investors should plan to live a long life and save accordingly.”

#2 How do I generate income to meet my financial needs in retirement?

“Generating income in retirement can be complicated. Investors need to understand their overall financial situation, including their income needs and sources of income. However, there are many other factors to consider too. Investors should calculate a reasonable yet conservative long-term after-tax rate of return on their portfolio and not count on spending even that much if they want their portfolio to sustain over a long lifetime. Too many people focus on income yields available in the market place and then aim their spending at that. In many past writings I’ve discussed how it is better to think in terms of sustainability and generate what I’ve called home-made dividends by taking that amount from principal instead of taxable income. The tax man largely pays you to think that way.”

#3 What’s the right asset allocation – mix of stocks, bonds, cash or other securities – in my retirement portfolio?

“The answer to this question requires a comprehensive understanding of an investor’s financial situation, investment goals and objectives, time horizon and other factors unique to them. There is no simple one-size-fits-all solution – like using age to determine the appropriate asset allocation – for investors.”

Founded in 1979, Fisher Investments is an independent, fee-only registered investment advisor. As of June 30, Fisher Investments says the firm and its subsidiaries managed more than $100 billion in client assets – including more than $53 billion for North American private investors, more than $38 billion for institutional investors and more than $7 billion for European private investors.

Fisher Investments maintains four principal business units: Fisher Investments Institutional Group, Fisher Investments Private Client Group, Fisher Investments 401(k) Solutions Group and Fisher Investments International.

Fisher Investments says the firm and its affiliates have more than 175 large institutions and more 50,000 high-net-worth individuals as clients.

* Next week: Ric Edelman.