ROXBURY, NJ – Hiking to lofty peaks is a rewarding form of exercise. But older hikers might find the trip down from mountaintops to be tougher on aging knees than the journey up.

Succasunna financial planner Richard D’Ambola, CSA, CLTC - a TAPinto Roxbury sponsor - sees a parallel between mountaineering and retirement planning, his specialty.

“I like to use climbing a mountain as an analogy,” said the 56-year-old D’Ambola. “Most of us begin our working career in our 20s and it’s a 30- to 40-year trek up that mountain. The hope is that along that journey, you’ve been saving money.”

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In this analogy, the summit is like reaching retirement age. D’Ambola, who’s been a financial planner in Roxbury for three decades, says his role involves helping people enjoy the rest of the journey with as little pain as possible.

D’Ambola, who was an avid baseball player in Morris County, concedes he knows more about running bases than about scaling peaks. However, he said the mountain climbing analogy serves as a great visualization tool when it comes to retirement planning.

“As a mountain climber, you know you are only halfway there when you reach the summit, because you now have to get down the mountain,” he said. “Upon attaining the goal of reaching the summit, unbeknownst, people enter into what we call the retirement risk zone.” More on this later.

Many financial advisors focus primarily on helping clients maximize their working-years with savings and investments, the equivalent of climbing the edifice when they are paycheck dependent. “We like to position ourselves as that of financial Sherpa guides, helping you down the mountain when you are no longer receiving that paycheck,” D’Ambola said. “Getting up the mountain is a whole different skill-set than the retirement or distribution phase.”

It Can Be Complicated

Being prepared for retirement involves crafting a viable plan and sticking to it, D’Ambola stressed. “It’s helping people create a strategy that produces reliable, predictable, inflation-adjusted income for life,” he said.

Crucial in accomplishing that is understanding some very complicated factors, laws and systems, not the least of which is social security, D’Ambola noted. “At the heart of it, is social security maximization; understanding when and how to file for social security. It’s a very complex area. We have found that the average family leaves in excess of $100,000 dollars on the table in terms of their life expectancy, due in part to lack of understanding. There are probably more rules and regulations involved with social security than there are in the tax code.“

A good retirement planner also needs to be adept at guiding clients through the twists and turns of market risk, taxation, inflation risk, healthcare costs and the impact of longevity.

Once or twice a month, D’Ambola and his colleagues discuss these matters at complementary dinner seminars that are hosted at local restaurants including LaStrada Ristorante in Randolph and Mattar’s Bistro in Allamuchy to name but a few.

“These educational workshops run for approximately two hours,” he said. “And then, as an extension of the class, we offer those in attendance a complementary consultation should they want to go little deeper.”

Empathy is Vital

D’Ambola said the workshops have revealed an unfortunate, but common, trend. “One of the things we’ve found is that far too many people may have accumulated assets in the growth phase, but when we ask them to articulate their retirement income plan, nine out of ten don’t have one,” he said. “This is where we think we can bring value to the table.”

It’s important to do so not only with expertise, but also with empathy, D’Ambola acknowledges. That empathy comes from personal experience.

“I saw the effects of a lack of planning and healthcare prices with my dad getting sick at an early age and ultimately passing away,” D’Ambola said. “I saw the effect this had on my family. When you live it first-hand, it kind of makes the process more clear in terms of what those hurdles are.”

Richard D'Ambola & Associates LLC is situated at 165 Route 10 in Succasunna. They can be reached by calling 973-927-3700. Richard D’Ambola also runs the Retire Ready with Rich column on TAPinto Roxbury, offering some time-proven tips on retirement and other financial planning topics.

Advisory Services are offered through Creative Financial Designs, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser, and Securities are offered through cfd Investments, Inc., a Registered Broker/Dealer. Member FINRA & SIPC, 2704 S. Goyer Rd., Kokomo, IN 46902. (765)453-9600. Richard D’Ambola & Associates LLC is independent of Creative Financial Designs, Inc. and cfd Investments, Inc.