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When it comes to financial decisions; never say “Never” never say “Always”…It Depends

While it’s easy for most people to understand that a “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t work for most things in life (imagine a physician giving the same prescription to all their patients without an individual diagnosis). The average American fails to recognize this is happening in personal financial planning. Unfortunately, many financial professionals and media personalities have created major money-making enterprises promoting cookie-cutter approaches based on their own agendas, which often do more harm than good for their clients.

That is why a team of nationally noted financial-services leaders and media veterans decided to establish the Institute of Financial Wellness — the country’s first multi-media financial education network providing access to unbiased, engaging, and fact-based financial information Americans need to make the right decisions based on their unique situations and life stages.

A case in point: Byron Hazley, a 66-year-old medical professional, and resident of Loma Linda, CA, whose wife passed away six years ago from a rare blood disease. Concerned about his life as a widower after he was no longer able to earn income, Byron decided to begin scouring the internet for information about retirement planning. Then, he did something which he says changed his life: He signed up for IFW’s Retirement Roadmap Webinar.

Not unlike many Americans, his prior financial experience mostly consisted of receiving information from an asset management firm focused on only the accumulation of assets. “I was very worried about running out of money, market risks, and high taxes in retirement,” Byron recalls. “After attending the webinar, for the first time, I felt informed. I signed up to receive a retirement roadmap, selected a financial professional to review it with me, and help me implement the right strategy and products.”

Byron adds: “Before meeting with my IFW Financial Professional, I did not have any products with features that guaranteed I would not run out of money. This was concerning because it had me living in a constant state of worry! I now have peace of mind because I have a more well-rounded mix of product solutions (some with guarantees), and it helps me sleep better at night.”

Byron is a perfect example of the problems happening in countless homes across every city around the country: Americans are misinformed after receiving propaganda stating that certain financial products are always bad. By exposing Byron to more well-rounded solutions, he is now addressing not only the accumulation of assets but also the distribution side of planning too.

Numerous products, which are often demonized by some financial professionals and media personalities, are excellent solutions for distribution planning and longevity risk (people outliving their money).

Without a doubt, there is no one-size-fits-all financial solution that answers all our questions and works for everyone, because the fact is, “It Depends.” Everyone has unique circumstances, needs and goals. Therefore, when it comes to financial decisions about wealth management, asset protection, and retirement planning – some of the most critical decisions in life – the right diagnosis and prescription are required. Unfortunately, over the past several years, as more people have been forced to rely on their 401(k) plans, personal savings, IRAs, or inheritances, for example, many in the financial services industry developed agendas that led people down one singular path without considering other options that may be better for them. History is filled with examples of products which have been touted and popularized as the only ones needed while other viable options have been unfairly bashed. Examples include the endless propaganda unfairly positioning annuities, the stock market, life insurance, reverse mortgages, and other options as the devil’s playground. While none of these products are perfect for everyone, they all have distinct attributes which may bring value depending on the situation. Everyone’s needs are different and bashing or pushing one product over another usually does not make sense.

Why do some financial professionals, organizations, and media personalities have these agendas, causing them to promote and market this way?

A few reasons include:

  • They have limited licenses
  • They must meet quotas set by their employers
  • They are incentivized to sell certain products
  • They create controversy to gain attention and promote their products
  • They present a limited set of financial solutions that they believe are right for them personally, but neglect to consider the multitude of other available approaches that may be much better suited for their clients

Based on our training and experience solving financial problems for countless Americans, we developed our mantra “It Depends” as a philosophy to address the above-mentioned issues.

How?

At the Institute of Financial Wellness (IFW), we apply this philosophy to provide purely objective and unbiased financial education for consumers. This philosophy is rooted in the belief that when it comes to financial decisions; never say “never” – never say “always,” it depends.  Limiting your options without considering the universe of financial strategies can cause you to miss significant opportunities or make avoidable financial mistakes.

“We need to level the playing field for consumers to have content they can trust as unbiased, factual, yet subjective to their unique situation, stage of life, and goals” says IFW CEO & Founder Erik Sussman.

Adds Darren Sussman, Erik’s brother and IFW Co-Founder: ” Everyone has a financial destination they want to reach that is unique to their situation, and we created the IFW to help people Get There.”

Toward that end, the IFW has created a multi-platform content distribution model and assembled a team of expert financial educators, top tier financial services content partners, media veterans, and experienced financial journalists to achieve this goal. IFW content and education aims to help audiences by giving them not only enough information and perspectives to help them make informed decisions, but also the right information for their particular circumstances.

“When I seek strategies to help my clients, it’s critical to consider their specific needs and wants”, says Dr. Jason Heller, PhD in Financial & Retirement Planning. “I must have access to a myriad of products and services to properly do my job. If I only had access to limited products or held preconceived notions about what my approach should be, in my opinion, that would be equivalent to medical malpractice.”

To serve their audiences and provide the opportunity to take action for themselves, the IFW created its own Financial Professional Network. IFW’s Network of Financial Professionals are not beholden to any one product or employer, allowing consumers to receive unbiased information that empowers their decision-making process. Because the Financial Professional is independent this builds more trust between the Financial Professional and the consumer. Again, the choices you make together will depend on your needs today and into the future.

What Has Changed?

Consider:

  • Currently, the average American saves less than 5% of their income, according to recent data from the Federal Reserve.
  • Only 3% of the population has a Defined Benefit Pension (a plan that provides guaranteed income in retirement) which is now more necessary because life expectancy has increased by over 10 years from 68.2 to 78.7 since 1950. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • 60% of the US adult population has either inadequate or no life insurance. (Life Insurance Market Research Association)

The financial services industry has changed dramatically during the past half-century. Advances in medicine are pushing the lifespan of people farther than our parents’ generation — forcing us to save more for retirement and healthcare needs. Also, work has changed. Many people are changing jobs more frequently and are being asked to manage their own retirement or other savings (unlike the old Defined Benefit Pension Plans where the company thought more about investments than we did). With that came an entire industry of financial products vying for our attention (and dollars).

As traditional methods of saving become obsolete, and more options become available, consumers, who are not necessarily used to managing their own money, are now relying on choices, information, and opinions that may or may not have been right for their circumstances. Finding the right information is critical and consumers are left scratching their heads as more choices and information become available. That’s where a trusted, unbiased financial professional comes in.

What Should Consumers Look For?

As with any advice being shared, carefully consider the messenger providing that information. Whether it’s an advertisement, the news, bloggers, or any form of media, make sure they are not serving an agenda (whatever that may be) like a product, single strategy, or high ratings featuring the latest trend or headline. It’s important to remember, you don’t need to be an expert on financial matters. However, getting unbiased and factual information that can help you make informed decisions and then seek the right expert(s) to be on your financial team, will matter to your bottom line and future financial health.

Remember, the average investor on Main Street doesn’t have to look to Wall Street for help. Simply, they should look for a trusted professional with experience and, most importantly, someone who is not tied to any one product or company. You should make sure the person you choose is qualified and holds all the proper licenses and certifications necessary for whatever advice, strategy, or product they are presenting.

Also, do your due diligence. If the professional has a clean track record with few or no complaints — then that’s a pretty good sign of their integrity. Also, see how they manage their own money, and what patterns they follow. Everyone is different and some will appeal to you more than others. The strategies will be multi-layered, if the Financial Professional is a good one, they will take into account many factors of timing, emotion, seasonal financial issues, and simple wealth management practices, when working with you.

The best part of seeking out someone you trust, and who has the right strategy for you, is that it leaves much of the heavy lifting to him or her. You shouldn’t have to be an expert nor should you feel intimidated when it comes to investing — and the lingo around it. Let your Financial Professional explain and walk you through the technical side of your financial situation so that you better understand your investments, insurances, retirement plans, and how to achieve your goals.

It Starts With You

Doing due diligence, getting educated, and seeking out the best, unbiased advice will always begin with you. No one has your best interests at heart more than you do. Choosing wisely takes the right tools and information, which is why a good place to start is the IFW. The IFW provides financial education to help people live their best life. Whether you are creating a roadmap for retirement, saving for college, protecting your assets, or simply seeking the best path forward with the funds you have, independent, unbiased, and “no agenda” advice will always be the right tools to move forward. The more you learn, the more demystified the process will become, and eventually, the better your financial situation will be so you can “Get There” and live your best life.

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