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“Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about.” with Suzanne Wheeler and Beau Henderson

Now out of the workforce, and having less people-to-people interaction, consider ways to upkeep social activities and keep your brain active, including sitting on a board, volunteering for a cause you are passionate about, or mentoring someone starting their career in the industry. We all have so much to gain by others’ wisdom, experience and […]

Now out of the workforce, and having less people-to-people interaction, consider ways to upkeep social activities and keep your brain active, including sitting on a board, volunteering for a cause you are passionate about, or mentoring someone starting their career in the industry. We all have so much to gain by others’ wisdom, experience and encouragement.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Suzanne Wheeler, Managing Director, Mariner Wealth Advisors. For more than two decades, Suzanne has served as a trusted partner to clients as they navigate divorce, death, retirement, inheritance, legacy planning and the day-to-day challenges life can bring. Her passion lies in being an advocate for clients as they develop goals, and she creates plans that use a range of strategies to help clients meet those goals. Previously, Suzanne was co-founder and director of Adams Hall Wealth Advisors. Suzanne has a bachelor’s degree in finance with an emphasis in financial planning from Northeastern State University. She is an Accredited Investment Fiduciary® designee, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, a Certified Financial Transitionist® (CeFT®), and she has passed the Series 63 and 65 exams.


Thank you so much for doing this with us, Suzanne! 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?

Ilove numbers and puzzles, which has led me to my line of work. I was working in an accounting firm and one of the partners wanted to open a Registered Investment Advisory firm and asked me to join her. Then in 2012, we joined Mariner Wealth Advisors. It was truly one of the best decisions we’ve made as it has provided us, as well as our clients, with more resources. I have always enjoyed helping others, but the best part is that clients enjoy coming to see you to talk about their portfolio returns and goals much more than reviewing their tax return!

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

As I mentioned, I loved helping people and I often say we need each other to get through life. This led me to become a Certified Financial Transitionist (CeFT(r)), which involves helping individuals with the emotional side of money. This fit my personality and how I work with clients perfectly. After receiving the designation, many of my clients said “so you finally have a designation for something you’ve been doing your whole career!” I help clients through death, divorce, retirement, changing careers, etc., — basically some of the biggest and most emotional events of our lives.

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?

Early in my career, I was presenting a financial plan to a client and blurted out “when you die, you will have a portfolio of X”. We both looked at each other and burst out laughing. I realized “when your plan ends” might be a little softer. That was over 20 years ago. I am happy to say she is still living and still a client. I learned the power of words and was grateful to be with someone who enjoyed the humor!

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?

I was fortunate to begin my career with Jana Shoulders, now a managing partner at Mariner Wealth Advisors, who believed in me much more than I believed in myself. Her expectations were extremely high and I never wanted to let her down. She offered me many opportunities throughout my career. I feel like I have had every job within an RIA — from back office to compliance office to now a Managing Director of a thriving firm. I am grateful for the opportunities, and I am hopeful she has seen the value.

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

My advice to someone who wants to thrive and avoid burnout is to first find your passion. If you love what you are doing and with whom you are doing it, you are likely to do it longer. I suggest enjoying the journey. You will be a better advisor to your clients if you don’t try to build your practice in a short amount of time. There is so much to learn and your experience is so valuable to others. Be kind to yourself as you have many others depending on you.

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

Culture is key to success and happiness. I think it is important to let people know they are appreciated. Taking the time to sit down and look them in the eye and tell them how much they are valued. I think this can be lost in the day-to-day while taking care of business. This appreciation needs to come more often than just an annual review and should be performed by all leaders.

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?

Retirement is most clients number one goal. Many have worked long hours and had little vacation in building their careers and they are ready to retire cold turkey — but many fail at retirement. It’s not always about the money. I have seen clients retire with more money than they will ever need, but that haven’t prepared themselves for what will occupy their time — nor has their spouse. Therefore, the following are the most common things I would share with people before they retire:

  1. Your sense of self-worth may be tied to your job, so in retirement, it is crucial to think through what drives your passions and gives you a sense of day-to-day purpose.
  2. Now out of the workforce, and having less people-to-people interaction, consider ways to upkeep social activities and keep your brain active, including sitting on a board, volunteering for a cause you are passionate about, or mentoring someone starting their career in the industry. We all have so much to gain by others’ wisdom, experience and encouragement.
  3. Some may think of retirement as an endless vacation, but travel plans eventually fade, and then you must consider your new normal.
  4. Although unthinkable for most, consider the possibility you may need assisted living care one day, and begin those conversations with your family.
  5. Share your wishes with your loved ones. Share your insights on life. We often think of estate planning and how dollars with flow to others, what about the personal items you care about? Start making a list of jewelry, paintings, dishes, etc. and who you would like to receive each. I’ve worked with clients that have made a game out of this over the holidays! Each person selecting an item (of those among the table.)
  6. Share your stories by video or recording. This is priceless and a gift that you can share with many generations! You have much wisdom in which younger generations can learn.

Lets 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?

If I were talking with a family member about the three most important financial issues to keep in mind before they retire, I would discuss:

  1. Consider working part time and phasing into retirement. Not only could this help your Employer/Business as they are adjusting to their loss, it gives you a chance to live life at a little slower pace and graduate into retirement. It could also be beneficial to your partner/spouse.
  2. Understand that the probability of spending more during your first five or so years of retirement is likely high. Many tend to travel quite a bit, or try to catch up on the remodeling of their house. It’s amazing the projects you can come up with when you have more time on your hands — which can equate to more dollars.
  3. Knowing the timeline/dates to sign up for social security, Medicare and supplemental plans.

If you had to advise your loved ones about the 3 most important health issues to keep in mind before they retire, what would you say? Can you give an example or share a story?

While many have thought about financial wellness as they retire, it is also a time to consider their mental and physical wellness too. As they begin to think about the extra time they will have and how they will spend their time, a great way to spend it would be “me time.” Consider a fitness plan as well.

  1. Personal training — If they are new to physical fitness, maybe a personal trainer is an option. Rather than sign up for a group class at the local gym, learning the basics and your limitations one on one from a professional in the field could eliminate injuries and can provide encouragement instead of frustration.
  2. Nutrition — While there may have been little time to plan and shop for meals which resorted in eating out a large portion of the time, you might find you enjoy cooking. Consider a cooking, nutrition or entertaining class at a local university or restaurant. When you are no longer pressed for time, cooking might be enjoyable, especially when you can include friends — new or those with whom you have not had time for in the past.
  3. Mental — Take time for a slow walk, breathe and enjoy nature! Taking the time for yourself and walking alone can clear your mind and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. If it isn’t walking, maybe it is enjoying a cup of coffee and watching the sunset. Just a little time to reflect and appreciate.

You don’t want to be the person that retires and sits in the recliner flipping channels. You’ve worked hard for many years. It’s time to focus on caring for you and your family.

If you had to advise your loved ones about the 3 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?

This question comes up a lot. I have been honored to work with many couples that got retirement right immediately. One couple in particular said their successful retirement was largely due to never letting work define them. They ALWAYS had a life and friends outside of their busy careers. They enjoy each other’s company, but they also respect each other’s needs to spend time with friends. They are avid golfers and share their time between their hometown and hit the road for several months when the weather is not ideal!

When choosing where to live in retirement my top things to consider would be:

  1. Take your time! Don’t rush into a decision. If you do, don’t feel you are stuck in a place you don’t want to be. While moving could be costly, you don’t want to be miserable.
  2. Take several years to take advantage of long-term rentals. Engage in each community (the arts, church, sporting events) to see if this is where you feel comfortable. You might be surprised that where you might end up is somewhere completely unexpected.
  3. Consider where you would want to be if you became unable to care for yourself. Look at assisted living facilities before you need them. I recently looked at three well known assisted living facilities with clients. I went in knowing exactly where I would go if it were me looking. After the tours, my first choice was my last! It wasn’t necessarily the facility as much as it was where I felt comfortable and peaceful. It is nice if you can make the decision instead of someone else making the decision for you.

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? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Too many people pass by in our lives without being noticed. If we could get to a point where we relate to others on a deeper level and make lasting bonds, we could create a meaningful community. Too many people are interested in being “right” all the time, and a kinder world would have people that focus on being “compassionate” all the time, instead.

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

“Riveted: 44 Values That Change The World,” by David R. York and Andrew L. Howell. I am particularly impressed with the first two lines of the book, which come from the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for Children in Calcutta: People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

You never know what people are going through. Over the years I have worked with many people experiencing life as well as myself. Often times, we can feel the brunt of their pain. We all need to be compassionate. Usually, their outbursts have nothing to do with us, but listen. They need your help, not your judgement.

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

“Life can be hard and we all need to help each other get through it!” We have all felt pain, frustration, illness and loss. We need to lend a hand, a prayer or an ear as those around us go through life. On the flip side, we need to be able to accept help. In general, people want to help. Instead of feeling like you are going to be a burden, how about including them and letting them be part of the wonderful things ahead? When Michael J. Fox learned he had Parkinson’s decease, he could have gone in hiding. He could have felt sorry for himself and his family. Instead, he shared his story and others came forward to share theirs. This inspired him to help others find a cure for Parkinson’s, and he has raised over $700 million dollars.

I don’t have Parkinson’s, but my daughter was diagnosed at 21 with end stage renal failure. I was grateful to be her kidney donor. My husband was her donor 6 years later. Our entire family works hard to promote organ donation. Do you have a little red heart?

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/suzannecwheeler/

Twitter: @SuzanneWheele21

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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