Diversification is a common term heard by most investors. However, its true meaning is sometimes lost. Recently, we were meeting with a new client of ours that is retired. When the woman brought her giant, purple, three-ring binder to the first meeting, we were somewhat puzzled. Near the end of our first meeting, she opened up the binder to reveal that she owned six, yes six, different IRAs with a total of three advisors!
She must have noticed the look of shock on my face and responded with a phrase we hear, although erroneously, that this is a form of diversifying her portfolio. We examined her statements for the different custodians and asked if we could provide her a “second opinion” as to the state of her investments according to her goals. She quickly responded affirmatively and we set the next meeting.
After much review of the statements, we noticed a trend among the various advisors. Each advisor had taken a similar strategy to helping the client meet her lifetime income goals! Further analysis explained what we previously thought about her approach to diversification – the client had not truly diversified her portfolio but had concentrated her portfolio, inadvertently, by never informing the advisors of her use of multiple advisors. In other words, she was highly concentrated in certain assets classes within her total holdings that exposed her to significant risk. We use the term “overlap” to describe the result of using several advisors that essentially invest in the same assets classes.
During the second meeting we verified her goals, risk tolerance and cash flow needs to confirm our understanding. We provided her a consolidated report of all six IRA statements and she was alarmed at the problem she created with so many accounts. After explaining our recommendation of diversification in many different forms – asset classes, geographically, market sectors, etc. – she was ready to simplify her life.
By combining all of her IRAs into one account, she reduced the amount of paperwork necessary to be maintained for tax purposes and monitoring of her investment positions. Additional diversification was achieved by including asset classes not previously in the portfolio that would reduce her exposure to risk while maintaining her need for immediate cash flow each month. Her smile was all we needed to see to know that we had provided her the highest level of response and service as well as a resolution to a worry she had been carrying for some time. She also through away the giant, purple binder!
If you have multiple accounts with multiple advisors, you should consider a simpler approach to achieve your desired result with a consolidated account of truly diversified investments. We have a saying in our company, “To make things complex is simple. To make things simple is complex.” In other words, let us help you make life simple that you can enjoy retirement on your own terms. Stress? We don’t think it’s necessary when you work with a retirement planning specialist.