Women's Retirement Radio

Mark Ciucci, Retired Financial Services Executive - The many facets of financial advice - Episode 38

November 01, 2021 Russ Thornton Season 2 Episode 22
Women's Retirement Radio
Mark Ciucci, Retired Financial Services Executive - The many facets of financial advice - Episode 38
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Women's Retirement Radio, I'm joined by Mark Ciucci.

Mark is a friend of many years and a recently retired financial services executive, and former financial advisor.

I've always appreciated and respected Mark's view on the topic of financial advice, so I was excited to have this conversation and share it with you.

And if you want check out what Mark is currently reading, here you go.

For more on Mark, please check out these resources:

Get in touch and let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

And thank you for listening.

Visit my website to learn more.

Disclosures

Russ Thornton:
Hi, everyone. It's Russ and welcome to another episode of Women's Retirement Radio. Today, I am excited to be joined by a friend of many years, also, someone who has spent four decades in the financial advice industry in one role or another. So Mark Ciucci, welcome to the podcast.

Mark Ciucci:
Glad to be here, Russ.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. I'm glad you could join us. I'm excited for our conversation and happy we can share it with our listeners. Why don't we start by you just telling us a little bit about who you are, and what it is you do, or what you've done maybe over your 40 years or so in this industry?

Mark Ciucci:
Well, 40 years covers a lot of ground. I've done everything from meet with clients personally, build an advisory business, sell that business, started another company that really was designed to train advisors to deliver a better client experience. So that company ended up semi-retiring at the beginning of this year, and now I'm just doing some consulting on projects of interest. So it's been a fairly very varied journey to be sure.

Russ Thornton:
I was thinking before we got on to talk this morning, I was thinking like when you and I first met, and I've got to think it was probably 12 or maybe 15 years ago. I think it was back at a meeting in Las Vegas, as I recall.

Mark Ciucci:
It was indeed.

Russ Thornton:
So yeah, you and I have got a lot of history, in addition to your work, doing a lot of different and interesting things in this industry. What I'm curious about is having been an advisor, having built, run and ultimately sold a business, then having moved into more of a training, coaching role for other advisors, and continued to do that a little bit today through your consulting work. How would you say that your perspective on the business of financial advice has evolved or changed over those 40 or so years?

Mark Ciucci:
I think there's a segment of our industry, well represented by your firm, by the way, that have really figured out the right way to help clients make quality financial decisions, and advance their financial life in a manner that is consistent with their goals and values. Unfortunately, I don't believe that that's a statement you can apply across the industry in quite the way I would have liked to believe would happen, considering how long I've been doing this. There's still people making a living selling commissionable products. If you told me in 1985 that, that would be the case 40 years later, I would have told you that you were crazy. But yet here we are.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. Having your perspective, having been at this for a number of years, having seen what's changed, and maybe more importantly, what hasn't changed. From your perspective as both a former advisor and now working with advisors in other firms, what would you say is the biggest challenge that a financial advisor, and I'm speaking generally, but a financial advisor, what's the biggest challenge they have the opportunity to help people address or solve?

Mark Ciucci:
Say it again a little differently. I want to be sure I answer the question you're asking.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. So I guess what I'm wanting to know is speaking either from your perspective, personally, or from the perspective of an advisor that maybe you've worked with or are working with. I think a lot of consumers have different perspectives or different ideas of what it is they think an advisor does or what it is they think their advisor does. And so I'm curious to know what you think the biggest challenge or the biggest opportunity, maybe is a better word, that advisors have to help people address.

Russ Thornton:
If you're thinking of me as an example, and I'm working with a woman that's preparing for retirement, what do you think is the biggest challenge that a woman preparing for retirement or a similar say, pre-retiree type person might be facing that an advisor like myself or another advisor that you've worked with, doing it right, by the way, I can help them solve? If that makes sense.

Mark Ciucci:
Yeah, it's just a big question.

Russ Thornton:
We're here to answer the big ones Mark.

Mark Ciucci:
Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough, Russ. I think starting from the advisors and then working to the client, I think that the biggest challenge for the advisor is getting out of their own way. And what I mean by that is advisors who have come into this business have come into this business primarily because they were good at gathering assets. That is the business that we are in, is gathering and managing assets. That's how our industry compensates itself, is by gathering and managing assets.

Mark Ciucci:
And yet, an advisor's ability to gather and manage assets is not in any way correlated with a client's successful journey to their individual financial goals. The advisor's ability to counsel the client wisely to pursue their individual values and goals is completely disconnected from the business of managing money. And I think that, that disconnect is the biggest challenge.

Mark Ciucci:
And I think the most difficult thing for somebody contemplating working with an advisor, particularly in the context of a decision as important as is this the right time, or can I afford to retire, is simply identifying an advisor who's moved past the asset gathering model, and is delivering some form of meaningful advice. So a fairly sprawling answer to a very large question.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. Well, that's helpful. And I think that helps set the stage for some other things that I think it'd be interesting for us to discuss. Maybe it might be helpful to put a little bit more context around this idea of maybe transcending the asset gathering kind of mode of thinking and to more of a holistic client centered advice model. Could you maybe give an example or maybe a story of either winding back to when you worked as an advisor, maybe working with a client, or maybe more recently, maybe an advisor or firm that you worked with that you kind of helped guide through that process, that evolution, that shift, and maybe some of the positive outcomes that were experienced as a result?

Mark Ciucci:
Well, let me just start with an anecdote that I think helps highlight the problem we're trying to solve on this call. I was talking to the CEO of the largest financial planning software firm in the country. And we were talking a little bit about this issue of is the software truly being used to develop financial plans, financial plan as a context or a metaphor for a meaningful wealth strategy over a client's financial lifetime? Is it really being used for that? And he said, "No, it's not." And I said, "Well, how do you know?" And he said, "Well, we have 2 million plans on our platform." 2 million plans. That's 2 million households.

Mark Ciucci:
And he asked me, "So what do you think the average number of individual goals are on that financial plan?" And I thought, well, retirement, education, legacy, travel, health and wellness. I don't know. I said five to seven. He said, "No." He said, "1.1." And what that really highlighted to me was yes, in fact, they are using financial planning software to gather assets, not to create a meaningful financial plan. And I don't even mean financial plan in the tactical sense of are your estate documents current and all that?

Mark Ciucci:
I mean, at the most fundamental level of, hey, is this client going to be okay? Can they live their life with a reasonable degree of confidence, given all of life's uncertainties that they're on the proper path? And the industry doesn't do a very good job of that. As a matter of fact, my former CEO was very smart when he said, our industry is very, very good at helping people to die rich. And what he meant by that was, we are very, very good and out of an abundance of caution at telling people to save more, spend less, work longer, stay fully invested in an effort to make sure that we minimize life's uncertainties.

Mark Ciucci:
Well, that's all fine if your goal is to die rich. But for most people, it isn't. Matter of fact, only 15% The clients that I work with ever had a specific dollar amount that they want to believe to their heirs. The most common legacy goal for my clients was whatever's left. They just wanted to live their lives as originally as possible. And so I think one of the biggest disconnects in the industry, is the notion of minimizing the chance of failure with the concept of helping people with a life well lived.

Russ Thornton:
I appreciate you sharing that. There's a lot we could unpack there. And let me preface this next question by saying, I think you and I largely see or think of planning done the right way in a similar fashion. But having said that, since you kind of mentioned it based on that conversation you had with the CEO of the planning software firm, and the apparent evidence of, or lack of evidence, of real financial planning taking place for the majority of their 2 million clients, or end clients or customers. Could you speak at least at a high level? Like, what do you think, from your perspective, Mark, how does a client with the help of an advisor, let's say, go about actually building or creating or experiencing a well delivered financial planning process?

Mark Ciucci:
Well, let's get definitional for just a second because it's important. There's, the big picture plan, which to me is the, am I going to be okay? And how do I with some reasonable amount of confidence plan for life surprises? That's sort of the big picture when people think about being on track for retirement, for example, those are the things they need to consider. So let's talk about planning as a strategy versus tactical financial planning.

Mark Ciucci:
So doing a comprehensive financial plan that meets the definition, say, of the board of standards and practices for certified financial planners, who would look at budgeting, debt management, income taxes, estate planning, things like beneficiary designations, life insurance, a much more comprehensive view. And those are two very different things. Somebody who's five years into retirement is not going to see their financial planning needs change all that much. They still have to make sure they're okay, and they still have to account for life surprises.

Mark Ciucci:
But they're not going to be ... They may not even having the life insurance anymore. Versus somebody who's starting a family and has education goals and a whole bunch of things that are very, very granular that they need to account for. So when you talk about a financial plan, you have to be very clear about what you're talking about, because one can very easily be confused with the other.

Russ Thornton:
Got it. So with those definitions or concepts in place, from your perspective, if we're talking about more of the, am I going to be okay plan, am I going to have enough with a reasonable level of confidence to deal with life's uncertainties and surprises along the way? I think you've already kind of indirectly spoken to the fact that while a lot of advisors and a lot of firms give lip service to that idea, maybe they're not actually delivering it in the sense that it could or should be delivered. So using that as kind of the foundation, as you kind of laid it out, what would you say is the best way for advisor/client relationship to work on that project together?

Mark Ciucci:
Well, you and I are going to be in violent agreement on this. But it first starts with a conceptual understanding of the problem we're trying to solve, right? So as much as we would love to have certainty in our life, the fact is that life and the markets are fundamentally uncertain. And so the first thing we need to do is we need to understand and embrace that uncertainty, and that we're going to build this plan to deal with life surprises. So we have some goal in mind, let's make it simple. I want to be able to retire at a certain age. And at that age, I want to be able to enjoy a certain lifestyle with a "reasonable probability of success."

Mark Ciucci:
Well, first of all, what is reasonable? Well, you don't want to live your life in the fear of running out of money. So we don't want to be so close to the guardrail or the line of uncertainty that there's too high of a probability that our plan will be successful. On the other hand, there's nothing virtuous about 100% probability of success either. And I'm speaking here in terms of something like a Monte Carlo simulation or something that's going to determine your probability of success with something other than a fixed rate of return in which we know has zero chance of ever happening.

Mark Ciucci:
So 100% probability is not desirable either because that means you're going to die in a mattress stuff all the money you could have spent. And for people who don't have a legacy goal, that would be a plan designed specifically to produce a huge legacy. So you don't want a plan that's designed to produce an outcome that you don't value. So with those two sort of guardrails in place, we want to live our life, we don't want to have the risk of running out, we don't want to run the risk of leaving too much behind. So that's the first concept we have to agree on.

Mark Ciucci:
And within that concept, then we can look at your assets, we can look at your goals, we can run that stress test, and we can determine out of a thousand potential simulated financial lifetimes, what percentage of those are successful. And that's going to be somewhere near between 0 and 100. And let's say we agree that below 75, too much risk running out. So we don't want to be below 75. Above 90, too much risk of dying rich. In other words, sacrificing lifestyle we could be enjoying for a future we might not live to see. So we're going to agree that between 75 and 90 is where we want to live.

Mark Ciucci:
And let's say we're fortunate enough to land right smack in the middle, we're at 83%. Well, what does that mean? Does that mean we have a 17% chance our plan will fail? No. No plan ever fails, because you'll adjust something in that plan so that you don't run out of money. So really what that 17% is, is more of a probability of adjustment. In other words, given the uncertainty, let's say simply in the market, what are the chances in the next one year, three years, five years, that based on stock volatility, I'm going to need to make a change to my plan. Well, in this particular person's case, that's a 17% chance.

Mark Ciucci:
And we can even tell them with a little bit of trial and error, how big of an adjustment they might need to make if the market were to, say, decline, 10%, 20%, 30%, whatever they want to look at. In other words, we can't give them certainty. But we can most certainly give them a high degree of clarity around what that range of potential futures might look like, and some certainty about their ability to make the adjustments that might need to be made.

Mark Ciucci:
So is my plan likely to succeed? Yes. Is that probability sufficient that I don't have a risk of running out or that I'm not at risk of leaving too much behind? Yes. All right. Well, when things happen, what sort of change will I need to make? And is that a change that I'm willing to accommodate such that I can say, yes, in fact, I am okay. I'm going to submit my retirement paperwork tomorrow, and I'm going to sail off into the sunset.

Russ Thornton:
There's a lot there that we could dive into, and maybe we'll touch on a few things. First of all, thanks for sharing that. I think you talk about a big question. I think you tackled a pretty big, broad, meaty topic in a very concise and digestible format, which is super helpful for both myself and our listeners. So thank you.

Mark Ciucci:
Well, remember too, that for the last 15 years, I've been speaking to advisors, not to their clients. And so a fair bit of that may sound like advisor speak. And that would be because it is. And so I guess anybody listening to this, take it with that in mind.

Russ Thornton:
Well, I appreciate that qualifier. But while listening to you, I thought it was very accessible from a non-advisor. Regardless, but yeah, to your point, I appreciate you explaining that context. But I think that was helpful regardless of who's listening.

Mark Ciucci:
That's good to hear.

Russ Thornton:
One kind of follow-up question. And I think this goes back to something we talked about earlier when you talk to the CEO of the financial planning software, and he said there's about 2 million plans, the average number of goals is 1.1, which in my mind, and maybe this is a little oversimplified, but in my mind, that seems to tell me that many of those plans were being more used more as a proposal than the actual start of an ongoing planning process or an ongoing planning relationship.

Russ Thornton:
And when you were just describing using Monte Carlo and this idea of stress testing a plan to account for future uncertainty and future markets, and having enough confidence, but not too much. That's all well and good, based on what we know today. But clearly, life changes, market change, tax legislation changes, the political climate is anybody's guess. So could you speak just a moment, Mark, about the value of planning on an ongoing basis, kind of planning the verb versus a plan as a noun, if you will?

Mark Ciucci:
Yeah. I think that's really the key to all of this because we know life's going to change. And we can, as you just did, catalog, a whole list of what those changes might be. Some of them are fairly certain. The markets are going to go up and down, that's certain. Our life is not infinite, that's certain. Something's going to change in the tax law here. Fairly likely. Somewhat less certain, but still highly likely.

Mark Ciucci:
So we can look at what we know about uncertainty, and simply make the judgment since we don't know what and when those uncertainties will manifest themselves in and on our lives, then it might make some sense to touch base every six months or at whatever frequency you decide is appropriate based on the unique circumstance. And check in. This is where we were supposed to be. Here's where we actually are, for whatever reason. We're ahead of where we thought we'd be. Okay, great. That means we have some great choices.

Mark Ciucci:
Maybe we do something like take a trip we didn't think we could afford or go somewhere with our grandkids. Or maybe it's something as simple as, hey, I don't have to take as much risk anymore. Maybe I shouldn't. Or if it goes the other way and we're now in a situation where there's some uncertainty, what's the right way to get back on track and to do that based on what I the client uniquely value. Because one person might choose to change the allocation in their portfolio and maybe take more risk.

Mark Ciucci:
Another person might say, I'm taking about as much risk as I care to, I'll just work an extra year. Or another person might say, you know what, I'm willing to settle for a little bit less, and retire with 90% of the income instead of 100. That's where an advisor can be uniquely helpful because you can do those sorts of what if scenarios, very, very easily, without regard to what planning software you use, provided that you have a shared vision of, again, where that client or what that client wants their financial life to look like and the means to update that plan on a regular basis.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. I've said in conversations, and I've actually written about this many times, as some of my listeners will recognize, but I'm really glad you kind of highlighted that idea about the ongoing check ins and basically reevaluating things, accommodating new information as we experience it. And as you highlighted, some of the some of the changes and dynamics of our lives, both financial and otherwise, we'll likely see coming, many we won't.

Russ Thornton:
And so I think that just underscores the opportunity and ultimately the benefit of regularly sitting down, reviewing things and saying, are we still on track? Do we still have enough confidence but not too much? And based on where that falls, based on what the data looks like at that point in time, you want to reevaluate your choices and the trade-offs among them to basically recalibrate and keep your plan on track. I think that's where the real crux of the planning benefit rest for clients.

Mark Ciucci:
Yeah. I mean, if you're going to drive cross country, you map out your route first, right? You got to know not just where you want to go, but the best path to get there. If I want to drive from LA to New York City, do I want to take the northern route through the Rockies? Do I want to take the southern route, maybe see the Grand Canyon? Or do I want to take 80 and just shoot right straight across the middle? So that's your broad stroke plan. Here's where I am, here's where I want to go, here's the route I want to take to get there.

Mark Ciucci:
How long you want to work, what sort of lifestyle I want to have. And of course, as you're making your journey cross country, things will come up. Maybe the dog ran away, you didn't leave on time. Maybe you were in a big traffic jam, maybe you run into road construction, maybe there was an accident, or maybe none of those things happened. And you were so far ahead of the game, you decide, hey, maybe we can take that drive up Pikes Peak, or go see the world's largest rubber band ball that we didn't think we're going to have time for.

Mark Ciucci:
So you use your GPS as you're making that cross country drive to determine whether you're ahead, behind or right on schedule. And a financial plan, in the broad sense, in the strategic sense, does the same thing for your financial life. And if you don't check it, and see whether you're ahead or behind, you're going to end up getting clipped.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. I promise to our listeners, this was not planned or set up. But I had written just a week or two ago in my weekly email newsletter about this idea of not thinking in terms of goals, but in terms of directions, and kind of tying it to this road trip or travel metaphor, which I think Mark just explained more elegantly than I've ever attempted to. And I think that just, I think does a really nice job of painting the picture of not just kind of the process, but the fact that this isn't set it and forget it, this is not Tesla autopilot where you just point your car the right direction and you'll be there in a few hours or a few days, depending on the distance.

Russ Thornton:
I think it really brings to the forefront this idea of the advisor shares, a lot of responsibility to regularly review and update the plan, but also the client bears some responsibility to be engaged as well and have a voice in where they're going, and the adjustments they want to make to their plan to keep it on track along the way as well. So I think that's a brilliant analogy, and I'm glad you glad to share it. I think that's a really helpful way to explain it to the folks that are listening. So thank you for that.

Russ Thornton:
Mark, before we kind of shift more to this idea of retirement and retirement for women specifically, we've covered a lot. I think you and I could easily talk another couple of hours without breaking stride. Is there anything that I didn't ask you that you wish that I had asked you? Or is there anything else you want to cover before we kind of move on to the next segment?

Mark Ciucci:
No. I think we covered it pretty effectively. From a big picture standpoint, I think you're hopefully people listening will get a sense as to what maybe is the right way to work with an advisor, or is an advisor I'm considering working with sharing these same themes, or are they more interested in, you said it, I was trying to be a little bit less blunt, but you hit it right in the head, using a financial plan or the promise of a financial plan simply as a means to produce an investment portfolio and tell somebody that if you invest your money with me, you'll have a better financial outcome. So maybe the takeaway from that first segment was, if you sense that approach, runaway.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. Good advice. And just to add on to that, I've encountered this, and I'm making air quotes as I say this, this kind of plan as proposal circumstance more times than I can imagine, unfortunately. And it's not just with investment advisors, I see it with insurance agents as well, that they're ultimately there to show you why you need to buy a certain type and amount of insurance or an annuity or things like that. So as Mark said, be very wary for someone that can't explain and kind of demonstrate that they have an ongoing planning process.

Mark Ciucci:
I would add one more thing is as I think about this. We have been in a bull market since 2008. And it's been going on now for what, 13 years, something like that, about as long as any bull market has ever run. And it's really, really important to think about when it's really, really easy to be in business, how much real work do you do other than simply writing away. In other words, to me, 2 million plans with 1.1 average goals, really tells me that we have a bunch of people in our profession that are just riding the wave.

Mark Ciucci:
They're delivering a minimum amount of service because they only have to deliver a minimum amount of service. It doesn't matter what your problem is, the market is going to bail you out. Hey, you're up another 20s, whatever percent last year. It's really, really easy to look good, when times are going really, really well. I'm concerned, frankly, that we have an industry that's not well prepared to help clients deal with financial adversity when it rears its ugly head as it inevitably will.

Russ Thornton:
And inevitable is the right word and the word to takeaway from that comment. I think that as good as things have been, and as long as they've been really, really good, almost inexplicably so, it's not going to be that way forever. I couldn't agree with more with what Mark said that are you as a individual or a family, and is your advisor, is he or she prepared for when things aren't going so well? Do they have a process or structure or framework in place with which to deal with that in a measured, calm, collected fashion? And have they been through times like that in the past? Those are all probably good questions you should ask if you're ever evaluating or interviewing advisors. So I'm glad you mentioned that Mark.

Mark Ciucci:
Yeah. I mean, what did your business go through in 1999 to 2002? You weren't in business then. All right. How about what did your business go through between 2006 and 2009? You weren't in business then either.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. All good questions. At the end of the day, as I always tell folks, and I would certainly emphasize this to our listeners is, despite good folks like Mark and others out there, and there are many, many really great advisors out there, you've got to be wary and keep your guard up. Because there are a lot of people that call themselves advisors that can talk a good game, but they're really just glorified salespeople, and there's no telling what they're going to sell you. So just be wary.

Russ Thornton:
Mark, thank you, again, by the way, for sharing all that. I think it's super helpful. And that's why I was really excited to have you join us today. But as you know, this is Women's Retirement Radio. And so everything that we do and talk about here comes back to retirement, especially as it relates to women and their families. So I'm curious, when you think of the word retirement for yourself, what comes to mind for you personally?

Mark Ciucci:
For me, personally, it was boredom. That's why I started doing consulting work. Granted, this is not a typical time, we are in fact, living through one of life's big surprises with this pandemic. So I'm not exactly sure what retirement would look like just because I chose a particularly crappy time to retire.

Russ Thornton:
Can you envision there ever being a time in the future where you do maybe retiring in the more traditional sense? Where you're not really doing anything from ... I don't want to generalize too much by calling it work, but where you're not doing something, where you're involved in this industry or another industry in some capacity, can you imagine where your ... Where boredom won't be a challenge and you'll just kind of be "retired"?

Mark Ciucci:
I don't know. It's a really good question. It's one of those things where maybe I'll know it when it happens. But it hasn't happened yet. So I can't really speculate.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. And I'm curious both from your experience as an advisor, as well as your role in talking with, training and coaching other advisors, what do you think is the biggest challenge that women face as they plan for their own retirement?

Mark Ciucci:
I think the biggest challenge is finding somebody that will talk to them in a way that they can understand. And I don't mean that disparaging, this is true for men and women. It's just that predominantly our advisor base are men, and you have all the challenges of any advisor talking to any client, that can be a little bit more complicated if that person doing the advising is not number one, a truly empathetic listener. And number two, willing to invest the time to truly communicate with clients.

Mark Ciucci:
The expert knowledge model of you don't need to understand it, just do it, because they tell you to do it is okay for a doctor. I had a broken leg once. I went in, the doctor showed me a whole bunch of images, didn't make a lick of sense to me. But fortunately, they did to him. And even better, he was able to then put the images away and talk to me about my injury in the treatment and in our path to deal with it going forward in a way that I could actually understand. And I found that extraordinarily helpful.

Mark Ciucci:
Our industry is very, very big at sending reams and reams of paper, whether it's performance reports, or financial plan outputs, that for most clients, men and women alike mean about as much to them as my doctor sending me an MRI of my leg what it meant to me, which is to say nothing at all. So find somebody who actually will listen and talk to you in a way that you understand, that deals with those issues of clarity and confidence in the manner that I described. And that you're comfortable is going to be around when life's uncertainties finally manifest themselves, if that answered your question.

Russ Thornton:
No. It does, wonderfully so. Thank you for that. Kind of as a maybe part two to that question. In your work, both as an advisor years ago and more recently working with other advisors and even working with the firm's that you do today, how would you say that your work and the work of the advisors and firms you work with? How does that impact women and their families as they're planning for in transitioning into retirement? So now, it's not the biggest challenge. It's now more of a like practical application? Like how do you think that your work, both directly and indirectly, has a positive impact on women as they are preparing for retirement?

Mark Ciucci:
Well, I mean, my job is to train advisors to, in fact, give empathetic listening a try, and training them with techniques to help them to help clients talk freely about what purpose money serves in their lives, what their fundamental values are as it relates to money? What does money buy that you truly value? And then beyond that, how do those values translate into actionable financial goals? So if I value spending time with my grandkids, and I do, to the extent that I need to have the money to go see them, then I need to have a goal for travel. And that goal didn't come out of nowhere, it came out of the things that are important to me.

Mark Ciucci:
So helping an advisor to ask the right questions, to understand not just what age and what income do you want to retire, but what do you want your life to look like today, tomorrow and in the future? And then having the proper tools to help them understand the reasonableness of their game plan, whether it's on track to be successful or not successful. If it's on track to be successful, what are the potential pitfalls that might take us off track and let's be mindful of those. And if it's not on track to be successful, what's the right change to make based on What you value, not based on what I value.

Mark Ciucci:
Because unlike breaking your leg when there's a relatively narrow range of treatment options, when it comes to your financial life, if you have a shortfall, you could work longer, you could save more today, spend less tomorrow, change your staple, change your allocation in your portfolio, none of which is any better than any other. They're all equal in their ability to remedy a shortfall. But they feel different to the person making the change. And based on what they value, some of them are going to have a bigger impact than most. Than others, rather.

Mark Ciucci:
So to me, it's helping advisors to have those kinds of values based conversations, to have the tools to help illustrate uncertainty, to give clients a level of clarity how those uncertainties are likely to affect them. And some level of confidence that they have the tools to make the changes they need to make at an acceptable level as life surprises come along. That's to me what I would want to help the good advisor to be able to do a better job of.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. That's fantastic. Hearing you describe it in those terms, Mark, I'm almost ... The image that came to mind for me is almost that of a guide. So less of an advisor dispensing advice, and more of a guide like kind of walking alongside someone and saying, like, hey, here's a detour, we need to make a choice. Let's talk about our choices and the pros and cons of each. It's just something that kind of resonated me.

Mark Ciucci:
Yeah. I mean, it doesn't matter whether we take the high road or the low road, you're going to have to walk it. So I want to make sure it's a path that you're going to enjoy taking.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. That's fantastic. As we wrap up the conversation today, Mark, I always like to ask this question. Clearly "retirement" did not suit you, as you I think used the word boredom earlier to describe that experience. And so you've got some commitments and responsibilities with work and you're consulting clients. I know you're also a family man. I know that's important to you. But how do you most enjoy spending your time when you have an hour or two all to yourself?

Mark Ciucci:
It depends on what I'm in the mood for. If I'm in the mood to do something outdoors, I'll hop on my bike. I'm very fortunate, there's a bunch of bike paths that are across the street from my house. If I'm feeling a little creative, maybe I'll go up and bang on my guitars and see what happens there. I'm a readeraholic, so there's always going to be something I'm going to want to read, typically fiction. If I want to do a deep dive on something, I may open up my computer and do some research on a topic of interest. It just depends really on the mood.

Russ Thornton:
What's a book you've read recently that you really, really enjoyed, something that we might recommend to our listeners?

Mark Ciucci:
Well, I am a speculative fiction fan. And so before I go see the movie with my son at an IMAX, I read re-read the novel Dune by Frank Herbert, one of my all time favorite science fiction classics.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. I know that one's coming out here soon. I'll be curious to see if this version does the book justice. That's a great book. I've read it, too. I like sci-fi as well. So great recommendation. Well, we'll be sure to share that in the show notes. Wrapping up, Mark, we've covered a lot. This has been fun. I'm thankful for the time and your willingness to join us and share some of your expertise and experience today. If there's one thing our listeners could take away from our conversation, what would you want that one thing to be?

Mark Ciucci:
If you have an existing relationship with an advisor, just look back and ask yourself, what's changed? In other words, the world is constantly changing and in many cases, not for the better. Has my advisor shown a willingness to change their business to account for everything else that we see around us? And I don't just mean switching to Zoom calls during the lockdown. I mean, are they fundamentally growing their expertise in a way that as a client means something to me? Are there visible changes in how they are running their business that I can see that have a meaningful impact positively, obviously, for me as a client?

Mark Ciucci:
But if I have somebody that's just mailing it in, maybe it's time to look around. If you don't have an advisor, and you're considering some important financial decisions, interview a few advisors, there's never going to be a time when do it yourself is going to be the right way to go. I think people given the wealth of information out there confuse access to information with acquisition of expertise. And they are sadly not the same. Don't wait to try to fix a mistake in your personal financial life, work with somebody that can help you to either not make a mistake or to minimize any bad outcomes. And if you're not sure, talk to somebody.

Russ Thornton:
I think that's a good place to wrap it up. So I appreciate that, Mark, and always enjoy speaking with you. Today was certainly no exception. If someone out there listening, maybe a consumer, maybe an advisor, and they're intrigued with some of your perspectives in what you've shared, and they want to reach out maybe just to say hello, what's the best way for people to reach out or get in touch or maybe just keep an eye on what you're working on?

Mark Ciucci:
Well, if you're in the profession, I do check my LinkedIn page now and then. If you're an individual, I haven't had an individual practice in the last 15 years, so that's probably not going to be helpful. What else did you ask?

Russ Thornton:
I was just wanting to know if people did want to reach out or wanting to know how they could follow you or keep up with what you're working on, what would be the best way to do it? It sounds like it might be LinkedIn. Any other resources you'd point them to?

Mark Ciucci:
Yeah, I'd say LinkedIn. I mean, bottom line is my footprint right now is pretty stealthy. I'm working with enterprise owners, trying to help build new tools to help advisors be more effective in doing all the things that we covered on our call today. So hopefully, some work that I had some input in developing gets out into the marketplace in the next 6 to 12 months in a way that can hopefully help somebody, either a client or an advisor.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. We'll be sure to share a link to your LinkedIn profile and a link to your book recommendation of Dune for those that might be interested in checking that out ahead of the forthcoming movie release. But all I can say is thanks, Mark. This has been great. I always enjoy speaking with you. This was a fun conversation and I know that it will be helpful and valuable to many of our listeners. So thank you.

Mark Ciucci:
My pleasure, Russ.

Russ Thornton:
And thank you to each of you out there listening. Always appreciate your sticking around and listening in on our conversations with interesting guests like Mark. Again, this is Russ Thornton. This has been another episode of Women's Retirement Radio and we look forward to catching up with you again next time.