NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Stretching the truth by avoiding uncomfortable topics in discussions with your financial advisor usually means consumers are either spending too much money or not saving enough.
Some people consider a financial advisor their confidant or even a therapist, while others refrain from opening up. Many clients tend to omit key elements and “neglect to tell us their entire financial story," said Brian Beasley, a financial services representative based in Columbia, S.C. for MetLife Premier Client Group.
While some of these omissions are basic, others are more intricate details that could effect retirement planning in a big way. A survey conducted by The Principal Financial Group, a Des Moines, Iowa financial investment company, found that clients are most likely to stretch the truth about "living within their means." In 2014, 67% of people said they lied about living within their means, while 48% didn’t tell the truth about debt and 32% lied about their risky financial behavior. That deception could spell trouble for retirement investors who are not being completely forthcoming about their finances.
Many consumers, even ones who earn six figures, fail to create a budget for their household. While many clients may claim they are saving 20% of their salary, many of them are spendthrifts and are deceitful about their purchases, said Mike Chadwick, CEO of Chadwick Financial Advisors in Unionville, Conn. Too many of Chadwick's clients cannot even keep track of the amount of debt they are accruing to furnish and remodel their homes, purchase new cars or items for their kids.
“This generation spends so much money on housing that it’s incredible,” he said.
One of his clients buys new furniture frequently such as new living room sets -- dropping $30,000 every two years or so. This Connecticut couple earns $400,000 combined each year, but have accumulated $500,000 in debt from just remodeling the kitchen, buying furniture and other items.
“They can’t account for it, because they are not keeping score,” Chadwick said.
Some of his clients, regardless of their age, are big spenders as “shopping has turned into a form of a therapy and they must get the rush,” he said.
Too many people are spending money that they do not have, which “leads to path of destruction,” Chadwick said.
While some people think they are sly and their dishonesty goes undetected, the duplicity is easy to uncover by examining their income level. If a person earns $300,000 and takes home $220,000 after taxes, but is only saving $500 a month, he's spending too much money on vacations, weddings or extravagant items.
"It’s mindboggling to think how wasteful people are,” he says.
Others leave out the amount they are allocating in a 401(k) or IRA. What’s even worse is that many people avoid mentioning how many retirement accounts they have.
Too many people remain unaware and lackadaisical about their finances, including the amount of debt they have from car payments, credit cards and mortgages or how much insurance they have on their cars and home, Beasley said.
“Sadly, I think many people are ill-informed and haven’t taken on the responsibility of understanding their financial position and learning all they can about personal finance,” he said. “It’s something that is put on the back-burner as life gets in the way, or they are too scared to face the music and end up letting the problems compound due to inertia.”
Maintaining a secret bank account is not uncommon, especially among self-employed people who keep greenbacks in a safe or under the mattress, Chadwick said. Others keep a secret stash of cash because their spouse or significant other is a shopaholic.
Some couples view their future from different perspectives, said Beasley. Instead of working toward the same goals, they need to communicate their individual ideas to accomplish their objectives.
“They need to make sure they are both living within their means and saving for the future in a prudent, regular fashion,” he said.
Result When You Hide Information
While some people simply forget about previous 401(k) accounts, others omit other pertinent information that leaves financial advisors guessing. It makes it more difficult to construct a true and current financial picture of their situation.
In other instances, rolling over their previous 401(k) accounts into an IRA would help them maximize their earnings and pay less in mutual fund fees. With some clients, you can take a deeper dive so that they can understand the amount of risk they have in their equity and fixed income investment portfolios and to consider the possibility of outliving their nest egg.
These investors should be “letting their investments enjoy compounding interest,” said Beasley.
A study conducted by Charles Schwab in 2014 found that people spend more time planning for vacations than reviewing their budgets, finances and retirement accounts.
“This is a real shame and worries me, which is why I often talk to my clients about the dangers and problems ignoring their finances could lead to,” Beasley said.
The effect of lying to your advisor is that the damages can be “catastrophic and even insurmountable,” Beasley said.
Even if you have only begun saving for your retirement in your 30s and 40s, it is never too late to start. And honesty can help those planning for the future come up with a feasible game-plan. Some Americans, for example, will simply have to work longer to make up the shortfalls in their savings.
“The best course of action is to use the time you still have on your side to your advantage,” he said. “With every month and year that goes by that you haven’t been honest with yourself and your financial representative, the chances of financial failure only increase. By taking action now, being informed and educated on your current situation, can potentially save you money down the road.”
Trying to Beat the Advisor
Some clients still want to manage some of their money and make their own trades. While some of these investors are smart and earn a good salary, others wind up buying stocks at the wrong time or ones that are popular at the time and could be overvalued, Chadwick said.
“They realize they are leaving a lot on the table,” he said. “Most people think they are investment gurus, yet they lose money in their accounts.”
Once some investors start to realize they are not meeting their goals, they will stop “competing” and allow the advisor to manage their brokerage account.
“Some clients will only give you part of their money,” Chadwick said. “Depending on the relationship, they will tell you more over time as they get more comfortable with you.”
While independently managing a portion of their own money can be beneficial to some investors, it's still important for retirement planners to vouchsafe their full financial picture to an advisor so the advisor can, in turn, incorporate all elements of a person's risk profile and assets when making decisions.