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“Live within your means” With Beau Henderson & Jeffrey Swett

It’s important to consider your physical health, your mental health and your emotional/spiritual health because a well-balanced retirement lifestyle is key to both happiness and longevity. We find that the most successful retirees tend to be active, social, diverse and moderately busy. We have a client who retired about 15 years ago and his retirement […]

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It’s important to consider your physical health, your mental health and your emotional/spiritual health because a well-balanced retirement lifestyle is key to both happiness and longevity. We find that the most successful retirees tend to be active, social, diverse and moderately busy. We have a client who retired about 15 years ago and his retirement is incredibly one-dimensional, as golf is his only activity. This worked well for a few years, but now he has back problems and can’t play as often as he’d like. He would benefit from having some additional interests and activities.


As a part of my series about the “5 Things, Retirees Say They Wish They Were Told Before They Began Retirement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey Swett, Managing Director of the Swett Wealth Management Group at UBS Financial Services, New England. Jeff’s passion for the industry began at an early age. After graduating from college in 1991 Jeff began his career at UBS, formerly PaineWebber, in the downtown Chicago office. He later moved to Boston, where he officially formed The Swett Wealth Management Group at UBS. The team has grown to seven members and over $900 million in assets under management.

With over 27 years of experience, Jeff is responsible for the group’s overall investment strategies and personalized client solutions. Jeff builds relationships with clients to fully understand their financial needs and to ensure their plan aligns with their values. Clients turn to Jeff for financial advice on a range of topics that may include portfolio management, retirement planning, business planning and succession, credit and lending, insurance, income management, estate planning, and charitable giving.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

After graduating from college, I wanted to be a sports agent and negotiate contracts for professional athletes. My mother, who of course knew me well, suggested that I take a post-grad course in business law before I started applying to law schools. I followed her advice and soon learned that I wanted nothing to do with law, but thought that business was very interesting. I interviewed four brokerage firms and ended up receiving an offer at PaineWebber. My mother knew what she was doing, but also realized that I needed to figure it out for myself. To this day, that’s some of the best advice I have ever received.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Early in my career, I called a guy that I played basketball against in high school and who had recently signed a large contract with an NBA team. He agreed to meet with me, so I flew down to see him — he didn’t show for the meeting and never called me back after that. Twenty-five years later, he filed for bankruptcy and has had significant legal troubles. Sometimes I wonder if I could have made a difference for him had he showed up to our meeting, or returned my calls. With some financial education and some discipline, maybe his life would have turned out differently.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

One of the most humorous mistakes I made was calling on a particular attorney every day for about a month straight. Eventually, I wore him down and he agreed to meet with me, I’m sure out of pity. Or maybe he admired my persistence. Either way, there was no chance he was going to do business with me — he was just a very nice guy who was willing to give me a few minutes of his time. What I learned from that rookie mistake was that people will always take action for their own reasons and on their own time. It doesn’t matter what I think and it will never be about me. If you are going to be effective at helping people with their finances, you must be patient and wait until the timing is right.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are many, but two in particular stand out. One is my ex-business partner who taught me an incredible amount about the wealth management business. The irony is that when we decided to partner, I thought I knew everything. After about three months of working with him, I realized how smart he was and how much I still had to learn. Although we don’t work together anymore, he’s still a good friend and I’ll always be thankful for his mentorship. The other is a branch manager I had many years back. He had a very strong EQ and was well respected. At first, I thought he had taken a special interest in me, but later realized he was like that with everyone. He was extremely unselfish and always made it about others and their success. It was never about him. He was a terrific asset to our industry and our firm- I feel very lucky to have crossed paths with him.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Make the time and the effort to hire and invest in a first-class team. Steve Jobs said that Apple did not hire people to tell them what to do. Instead, Apple hired people that could tell Apple what to do. This makes sense to me and applies to building a wealth management team too. Great team members and team chemistry are essential for both thriving and avoiding burnout. Every day I’m very thankful for working with amazing people who all share a common vision. Plus, they make me laugh every day. Hiring good people and getting out of the way is an excellent business philosophy for building a team.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

It’ s important to clearly define both expectations and the specific responsibilities of each role on the team. When things get contentious it’s frequently because there’s a discrepancy between expectations and reality. This can be avoided if everything is laid out up front. Encourage a work-life balance and maximizing vacation time. Give people complete autonomy to operate within their role. If team members are able to take ownership of their role and can put their own stamp on it, they feel valued, appreciated and part of something bigger than themselves. Avoid micromanaging at all costs.

Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact nearly every aspect of one’s life. Obviously, everyone’s experience is different. But in your experience, what are the 5 most common things that people wish someone told them before they retired?

1) Plan well in advance — have a written and formalized retirement plan that identifies assumptions regarding income sources, taxes, charitable giving, inflation, estate planning, asset allocation, risk tolerance and insurance. It should be quite detailed. Annual updates to your retirement plan should take place starting at least five years prior to your desired retirement date.

2) Maximize Roth account balances — when certain parameters are met, Roth balances can be withdrawn tax free. Be sure to make an annual contribution if you’re eligible and if you’re not, make a post-tax contribution to a traditional IRA then convert it to a Roth.

3) Understand and embrace the time value of money — the earlier in life you begin to save, the less you have to save. Allowing the time value of money and the concept of compounded interest to work in your favor is very powerful.

4) Define what you want — It’s very important to spend time thinking about how you want to spend your time during retirement. Hobbies, travel, community service, charitable inclinations, teaching, relationships and other business ventures should all be considered. We’ve seen several situations where retirees did not think about this and ended up going back to work because they were bored, or dissatisfied.

5) Engage your family — Most people do not think to do this in advance, but it’s a good idea. If your spouse and kids are aware of your plans and your desired retirement lifestyle, they can contribute to it and help you enjoy your retirement. They can also become knowledgeable about their inheritance and your charitable wishes and help facilitate them.

Let’ s zoom in on this a bit. If you had to advise your loved ones about the 3 most important financial issues to keep in mind before they retire, what would you say? Can you give an example or share a story?

1) Have an understanding of the basic concepts of personal finance — you certainly don’t have to be an expert, but a general working knowledge can make a significant difference in your life.

2) Live within your means — this can be important for financial reasons, but equally important for stress management.

3) Aim to be debt free — this can be important for peace of mind in retirement. Most people have at least a small amount of debt during most of their lives, but in retirement, you owe it to yourself to be debt free and enjoy the freedom that comes with that.

If you had to advise your loved ones about the three most important health issues to keep in mind before they retire, what would you say? Can you give an example or share a story?

It’s important to consider your physical health, your mental health and your emotional/spiritual health because a well-balanced retirement lifestyle is key to both happiness and longevity. We find that the most successful retirees tend to be active, social, diverse and moderately busy. We have a client who retired about 15 years ago and his retirement is incredibly one-dimensional, as golf is his only activity. This worked well for a few years, but now he has back problems and can’t play as often as he’d like. He would benefit from having some additional interests and activities.

If you had to advise your loved ones about the three most important things to consider before choosing a place to live after they retire, what would you say? Can you give an example or share a story?

My advice to people is to go where you are most happy. It’s a very simple suggestion but we’ve seen people make lifestyle choices with financial rationale and it tends not to work out. For example, some people relocate to a certain state for tax benefits, but later realize that they would prefer to be closer to loved ones. Other times, we’ve seen people relocate for warmer weather, but later realize that they could seasonally rent and maintain more flexibility. They don’t find they don’t need warm weather in perpetuity.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would start a movement for state governments to require financial education as a core subject in schools. High school students are currently required to learn chemistry, history, English, etc. These subjects are important, but may or may not be useful in their daily life after graduation. Personal finance knowledge is used every single day of one’s adult life. Those without it are at a significant disadvantage. Kids should be able to benefit from a formalized financial education class in high school, and it should be a requirement in school curriculums.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

You Can’t Predict a Hero, by Joe Grano. When I started at PaineWebber in 1992, Joe was president of the company. He was a fearless leader that led by example. During the early 2000s, there were attempted anthrax letter attacks that paralyzed mailrooms with fear across the country. When the fear was at its peak, Joe visited the PaineWebber headquarters mailroom, embraced each employee and told them that if anthrax was contagious, he was now infected too. He then proceeded to open mail with them for the next hour. His message was that we were all in this together and people respected that.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Teddy Roosevelt said, “It’s not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” In today’s time of instant information and an emphasis on headlines rather than details, Roosevelt’s quote seems especially important. It’s easy to pass judgement on situations or actions that you know little about and there’s zero risk in that. The person taking the action, taking the risk, sacrificing their time/safety/money etc. needs to be recognized. Win or lose, succeed or fail, the doers, or the ones in the arena, are the ones that change society and create good in the world.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Follow me on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeff-swett

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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