Financial adviser urges people to plan carefully for retirement

It is imperative to know how much money one needs to retire and to develop a plan, Howard Joe urges. When he is not advising people at his office, educating listeners on the radio or conducting training sessions, Joe is jetting off in his private plane to meet with new or former clients.

Joe, a Dunwoody resident, is a Merrill Lynch senior vice president. He has been with the Merrill Lynch for 27 years—the only company the 49-year-old financial advisor has worked for in his life.

Financial advising is nothing like the movie Wall Street, Joe explained. He said his work is similar to a travel agent’s job. “I take people from where they are to where they want to be,” Joe explained, “and I map that out through the medium of money. A travel agent’s medium is a plane, ship or train. My medium is money.”

Joe’s typical client is a high-income individual because they have money to invest. People with fewer resources often come to him and express an interest in making money in the stock market. But he recommends they first secure their retirement. With life expectancy increasing, people too often outlive their retirement savings.

Everyone should know exactly how much money he or she needs to save and develop a plan, he said. Joe recommends the following formula: 2 x 3 x 5 x 7 x 52 x 25 = $273,000.

What it reveals is the cost of eating three meals a day for 25 years into retirement. It costs $273,000 for two people to eat three meals a day, at $5 per meal, seven days a week for the 52 weeks of the year, 25 years after retirement.

“If you don’t plan to cross the finish line and retire with at least $275,000 then you need to do a lot of work,” Joe said. “Otherwise you will not have enough money to eat.”

Having enough money to retire is one of the topics Joe discusses on his radio talk show, “Financial Update with Merrill Lynch,” on Biz 1190 AM in Atlanta. For 18 months, he has been sharing common sense financial practices with his listeners.

When he cannot meet with clients in his Atlanta office, Joe flies his private jet, a Beechcraft Bonanza, to meet with them. His desire to fly began at age 3 when he observed the astronauts flying between earth and the moon. He and his cousin dreamed about becoming pilots while in high school. Today, he has flown as far as Santa Barbara, Calif., to meet with clients who have moved away from the metro area.

Joe, a multiple Circle of Excellence Award winner for his productivity, started out on an academic road leading to a career in medicine. His father’s side of the family is replete with doctors, so he entered the University of Georgia as a pre-med student.

“From the time I was little it was not whether I was going to be a doctor but what kind of doctor,” Joe recalled. But after seeing his mom’s success and taking a few business courses, he decided to become a business major. His interest in business markets also stems from sitting on his grandfather’s knee as a child and learning about the stock market.

Joe’s grandfather emigrated as a child from Canton, China, to Augusta in the early 1900s. His success is one of the great American stories. He worked first in a Chinese grocery store and later became a real estate investor, buying shotgun houses and renting them. He invested the rental income into the stock market, and by the mid-1970s, when he died, had amassed a large financial portfolio of stocks.

As the eldest son, Joe’s father, a CPA, became the trustee of the family’s stock portfolio. Since he traveled constantly, Joe’s mother, a concert pianist, went to Merrill’s brokerage office routinely to watch the ticker tape and manage the portfolio.

After spending so much time at Merrill, a manager invited her to participate in the company’s financial advisor training program. Ultimately, she not only obtained a position with the company but also worked her way up to the top, at a time when financial management was considered by many a man’s job, Joe said. He is fond of saying that he has a Merrill family: Joe’s two sisters and brothers-in-law also work for the company.

Joe’s message is simple: know how much money you will need to retire and speak to an advisor to map out a plan.

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