Sometimes we learn
the most when we least expect to learn anything at all. That is part of the
beauty of remaining on a path of continuous improvement throughout one’s
As is the case with
many of us in the retirement plan advisory space, thanks to abundant travel
opportunities, we regularly find ourselves next to a complete stranger as we
settle into our train or airline seat. When traveling with such a companion,
knowing that he may be beside you for an interminable number of hours—a
give-and-take often occurs.
gymnastics and desire to participate in that repartee can be driven by factors
such as: duration of the trip, how the other person carries himself or the amount
of sleep that either participant logged in the preceding 24 hours. Countless
factors are at play when someone asks, “What is your final destination?”
Recently, I was
seated next to an individual who knew nothing about our business, had no clue
what retirement plan advisers “do” but every reason in the world to learn— his
retirement security could depend upon it.
Why the Confusion?
In this case, the
person seated beside me was retired from a Fortune 500 company. He had been
extraordinarily successful over the years, and he told me some things that
surprised me. After I explained that I deliver services to retirement plan
sponsors and retirement plan advisers, he quickly asked, “What does a plan
adviser do?” then indicated that he could use some help with his 401(k) plan.
I informed him that the firm “handling” his
401(k) plan did have resources that would help. I was informed that he knew
that because he had called the 800 number and discussed the various methods
that could be used to assist in the management of his fund balances.
As I navigated the
conversation, with all the predictability of an experienced retirement plan
adviser I started to learn the basics. … He told me he had called the help desk
and told them what he was attempting to do with his money. However, his next
comment is what startled me the most: He had called the help desk approximately
two years ago … and was still waiting for them to call back!