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Michael Kitces' #FASuccess Podcast: Retirement Researcher Jon Guyton Practices What He Studies

Cornerstone Wealth Advisors founder Jon Guyton doesn't just run a financial planning firm that serves retirees, he also conducts retirement research himself.


Welcome back to the 108th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!

My guest on today’s podcast is Jon Guyton. Jon is the founder of Cornerstone Wealth Advisors, an independent RIA in the Minneapolis area that oversees $240 million in assets under management for about 240 mostly retiree clients.

What’s unique about Jon, though, is that he doesn’t only run a financial planning firm that serves retirees, he’s also contributed to the retirement research himself, with several seminal articles in the mid-2000s on creating retirement withdrawal rate guardrails and decision rules, and now has spent the past decade actually implementing those strategies with clients and finding out what really works in practice.

In this episode, we talk in depth about Jon’s retirement planning approach with his clients. How he separates out a client’s prospective retirement expenses into core and discretionary categories, the way he applies decision rules to adjust that retirement spending in subsequent years, and the way he then creates multiple portfolio buckets, each with its own investment policy statement, to handle each of those retirement spending categories but notably does not create a cash bucket for short-term expenses because of the consequences that cash drag can have on actually reducing a client sustainable retirement income in the long run.

We also talk about the unique resident program that Jon created in his firm, similar to a medical resident program, to leverage next-generation talent. Why he deliberately chose a model that brings in young advisors with the plan that they will leave after three years, how having a limited duration financial planning resident program has actually allowed his firm to attract even better talent regardless of geography, and the key traits that Jon has found that really make a financial planning resident and in the long run a financial planner themselves more successful.

And be certain to listen to the end, where Jon shares the challenges he faced in his own advisory firm at the start and how even though today he’s the owner of an incredibly successful $240 million AUM practice, in his first year in the business, he qualified for the low income Earned Income Tax Credit and had to continue for nearly 4 more years before he finally reached the point of earning a livable wage from his practice. Because the reality is that the first few years are incredibly difficult for any financial advisor, even those who are incredibly successful in the long run.

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