WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County attorney Tuesday said the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on financial health has raised many deep concerns.
Alex E. Rogers, a Wilkes-Barre-based attorney, said personal health and safety and the welfare of healthcare providers and grieving families must remain the highest priorities.
”The pandemic-induced plunge in the stock market has shrunk retirement nest eggs that took years of hard work and prudent savings to build,” Rogers said. “The steep declines in accounts are deeply disturbing, prompting many to check portfolios more closely than before.”
Rogers said as unnerving as those losses may be, now is the time to examine whether your financial losses are attributable to an advisor’s wrongdoing — or an alluring, but incomplete, sales pitch — that perhaps went undetected during the robust market of the last 10 years.
Rogers said billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett was quoted as saying, “Only when the tide goes out, do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”
Underscoring Buffett’s truism, Rogers said lawsuits filed by clients against financial advisors surged 42 percent last month, compared with the number of cases in March 2019, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (known as FINRA).
The attorney went on to say that The American College of Financial Services likewise reports a spike in retirement savers’ anxiety, with 69 percent of advisors reporting that clients have adjusted their retirement plans during the pandemic.
And, Rogers noted, the investment research firm Morningstar disclosed that investors planning to retire within the next 15 years have withdrawn an eye-popping $9.4 billion.
“To be sure, all investment activity entails a degree of risk and a market decline, in and of itself, is not evidence of a financial advisor’s malfeasance,” Rogers said. “Many advisors commendably educate clients about market swoons. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case.”
Rogers said the world of saving for retirement is “complex.” He said the names of investment products and the terminology of the financial services industry can seem like a foreign language.
“Decades ago, in a more paternalistic economy, most Americans had company pension plans managed by their employers,” Rogers said. “Today, many people feel left on their own to navigate the complicated and intimidating world of retirement investing.”
Rogers said numerous factors and circumstances — unique to each person — determine whether investment losses are attributable to broker misconduct.
Rogers said the most important questions to ask yourself are:
• Does my retirement account mirror my investment profile and goals, including my risk tolerance?
• When do I need to withdraw funds for living expenses?
• Has your advisor fully explained the products, fees, and risks?
Rogers said a person’s advisor’s compliance record can be found on FINRA’s website — www.brokercheck.finra.org.
He said FINRA also provides an arbitration forum in which customers can seek financial recovery for broker negligence or fraud.
“With financial markets now miles from the shore — jeopardizing the retirement savings you worked hard to build — you deserve sensible, customized guidance and full disclosure,” Rogers said.
Rogers is a Wilkes-Barre-based attorney who represents clients nationally to recover investment losses caused by wrongful misconduct.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.
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