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Planning for Purpose: Addressing the Unique Needs of Clients in Decumulation

In financial planning, the fundamental shift from accumulation to decumulation necessitates a change in strategies and attitudes. The recent Financial Conduct Authority’s Consumer Duty regulations highlight the importance of tailoring retirement advice to meet these evolving needs. As depicted in the attached image, a life spent relentlessly chasing money often culminates in a stark realisation that wealth alone does not fulfill all life’s needs. This underscores the essence of proper financial planning: planning the client before planning the money.

Understanding the Purpose of Money

Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Effective financial planning must prioritise understanding the purpose behind the accumulation of wealth. This involves asking pertinent questions about clients’ life goals, aspirations, and desired legacy. Such an approach helps in crafting a financial plan that aligns with the client’s holistic vision of a fulfilling life.

The Shift to Decumulation

Clients in the decumulation phase exhibit distinct characteristics, attitudes, and circumstances compared to those in accumulation. They often prioritise security, stability, and predictable income streams over aggressive growth strategies. Their capacity for risk typically diminishes as they age, necessitating a reevaluation of investment strategies to ensure they remain aligned with their changing risk tolerance and income needs.

Tailored Advice and Client Understanding

A critical aspect of providing effective financial advice lies in the ability to ask the right questions. As highlighted in FT Adviser by Christian Markwick from the Verve Group, many advisers need to enhance their questioning skills to extract essential information about clients’ spending patterns and needs. This insight is crucial for developing a suitable retirement plan. The lack of such understanding can lead to suboptimal advice that fails to meet the clients’ actual requirements.

Consistency and Customization

Financial advice in retirement planning has grown more complex and nuanced. This complexity can hinder consistency, especially in larger firms where different advisers might offer varying solutions to clients in similar situations. To overcome this, firms must strive for a balance between tailored advice and scalable, cost-effective solutions. Leveraging the right tools, platforms, and technologies can aid in achieving this balance, ensuring that advice is both personalised and consistent across the board.

Investment Strategies for Retired Clients

Advisers must distinguish between the accumulation and decumulation phases and adjust their investment strategies accordingly. The BNY Mellon IM research in the article indicates that many advisers do not alter their strategies between these stages, a practice that could be challenged under the new Consumer Duty rules. Retired clients need different approaches, considering their lower risk tolerance and need for steady income. Strategies such as natural income, involving high-quality bonds and dividend-paying stocks, can be suitable for clients whose basic needs are met through guaranteed income.

Addressing the Challenges

Advisers face a dilemma: balancing the need to make money last through potential economic challenges with the need to maintain an appropriate risk profile for their clients. This balancing act requires a nuanced approach to financial planning, incorporating both long-term investment principles and tailored, client-specific strategies.


The journey from accumulation to decumulation is a significant transition that requires a comprehensive understanding of the client’s life goals and risk tolerance. Financial advisers must evolve their questioning techniques and strategies to align with the unique needs of clients in decumulation. By doing so, they can provide advice that not only ensures financial security but also supports a fulfilling and purpose-driven life. Afterall, a life well-planned goes beyond mere accumulation, focusing instead on achieving a harmonious blend of financial security and personal fulfillment.

Q&A on Planning for Purpose and Decumulation

Q: Why is it important to plan for the client before planning their money?

A: Planning for the client before planning their money ensures that financial strategies are aligned with their life goals, values, and aspirations. It helps in understanding the purpose behind the accumulation of wealth, allowing for a more personalised and effective financial plan.

Q: What is the difference between accumulation and decumulation phases in financial planning?

A: The accumulation phase focuses on building wealth through savings and investments, while the decumulation phase involves drawing down on accumulated assets to support living expenses in retirement. Each phase has distinct characteristics, attitudes, and risk tolerances that must be considered in financial planning.

Q: How do the Financial Conduct Authority’s Consumer Duty regulations impact retirement planning?

A: The FCA’s Consumer Duty regulations emphasise the need for financial advisers to provide tailored retirement advice that meets the specific needs of clients. This includes distinguishing between accumulation and decumulation phases and adjusting investment strategies accordingly.

Q: What are the challenges financial advisers face in updating retirement strategies?

A: Advisers face challenges such as inadequate questioning skills to gather necessary client insights, the complexity of providing consistent yet personalised advice, and the operational difficulties in implementing tailored retirement solutions. These challenges can hinder advisers from fully meeting clients’ needs.

Q: Why is it important to understand a client’s spending patterns and needs in retirement?

A: Understanding a client’s spending patterns and needs is crucial for developing an effective retirement plan. It ensures that the financial plan aligns with the client’s lifestyle, providing sufficient income to cover their expenses without depleting their assets too quickly.

Q: What strategies can advisers use to address the distinct needs of clients in decumulation?

A: Advisers can use strategies such as natural income, involving high-quality bonds and dividend-paying stocks, to provide a stable income stream. Additionally, they must consider the client’s reduced risk tolerance and need for security when designing decumulation strategies.

Q: How can financial advisers balance the need for long-term growth with the need for security in retirement?

A: Balancing long-term growth with security involves creating a diversified portfolio that includes both growth-oriented and income-generating assets. Advisers should also regularly review and adjust the plan to ensure it remains aligned with the client’s changing needs and market conditions.

Q: What role does technology play in providing tailored retirement advice?

A: Technology can help advisers gather and analyse client data more efficiently, enabling them to provide personalised advice. It also facilitates the implementation of tailored investment strategies and enhances communication with clients, ensuring that their needs are consistently met.

Q: Why is it important for advisers to distinguish between accumulation and decumulation in their investment strategies?

A: Distinguishing between accumulation and decumulation ensures that investment strategies are appropriately matched to the client’s phase of life. This distinction helps in managing risk, optimising income, and ensuring that the client’s assets are used effectively to support their retirement lifestyle.

Q: How can advisers improve their questioning skills to better understand client needs?

A: Advisers can improve their questioning skills by undergoing training in effective communication techniques, practicing active listening, and using structured questionnaires. These skills help in extracting crucial information about the client’s goals, preferences, and financial situation, leading to more accurate and personalised advice.

These Q&As should help clarify the key points of the article and provide valuable insights into the importance of planning for purpose and addressing the unique needs of clients in decumulation.

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