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Financial and Career Advisers: What They Know That You Don't

The unvarnished truth from a financial planner, career coach and HR professional

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The Financial Planner

Allan Roth, 58

Founder of Wealth Logic, Colorado Springs, Colo.

You're too cheap. It's hard to get someone who is frugal to suddenly begin to spend down a portfolio. Though we all know we can't take wealth with us, frugality is built into that person's brain. Try framing a purchase as practical: A massage is worth the price if it reduces stress and improves health, not just because it's pleasurable.

Get money and investment savings tips in the AARP Money Newsletter

You're too generous. I often see clients gifting gobs of money to the kids, yet I'm not sure it's helpful. I've seen some of those kids quit their jobs and lead a life of entitlement. In fact, the generosity at times seems to actually harm relationships, with children demanding more and more.

We're all programmed to be bad investors. We act irrationally, such as buying after an asset has surged only to sell when it plunges. A sign that you're making a bad move is it feels good, and good moves generally feel bad. It's far more rational to buy low and sell high than the reverse, but to do it we've got to fight our instincts.

You're not as savvy financially as you used to be. Financial acuity declines after age 60 by an average of 1 percentage point a year. To better protect yourself from scams and predators, exercise regularly to keep your mind sharper while keeping your body in shape. Use trusted family members as a financial sounding board. Consider consolidating accounts to simplify your financial life. Be skeptical if something looks too good to be true.

You might not truly know how comfortable you are with your plan until stocks plunge. My clients who went through the drops in 2000-2002 and again in 2008-2009 know what I'm talking about. And they know that, during bear markets, not panicking is what defines a good investor.

The Human Resources Professional

Suzanne Lucas, 43

10-year veteran of corporate human resources and the Evil HR Lady blogger, Basel, Switzerland

Discrimination and fear go both ways. Some managers are uncomfortable managing people who are older than they are — just like some people are uncomfortable with a younger boss.

Take your job from 30 years ago off your résumé. It has no relevance to what you can do today. And it makes you look old. Age discrimination is real.

Today's young adults aren't any worse than you were when you first hit the workforce. The older generation always thinks the younger generation is bad news. Don't judge people by their generation and then be shocked when they turn around and judge you by yours.

See also: Boomers, Millennials reverse mentoring roles

We don't give a darn how long you have been working here. You don't earn promotions or pay by longevity. Almost all jobs have a level at which additional experience doesn't help.

You're not ambitious enough. We don't care how old you are; we care about where you're going. A 25-year-old will almost always have plans for moving up, but lots of 50+ people don't. Make it clear that you're interested in increasing your knowledge, skills and abilities.

The Career Coach

Beverly Jones, 69

Author of Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO, Washington

Stop worrying so much about prestige and using its trappings as measures of your success. Concern about losing prestige or looking like a beginner can blind you to opportunities and block your way to finding the next interesting thing.

People treat you like you're too old when you act and talk like you're too old. If you're resentful of change and can't stop complaining about it, you're broadcasting that you're not quite up for the job. You can transform the way people look at you.

How to Tell if You're Not Getting the Whole Truth

Retired Baltimore homicide detective Bryn Joyce, 69, learned about getting the straight dope questioning victims, witnesses and perps.

  • They fidget nervously. They touch their nose. They pull an ear. It's like a "tell" for a poker player.
  • They talk real fast. You almost can't understand what they're saying. It's like they don't really want you to hear them.
  • They try to change the subject. It's an attempt to deflect your attention.
  • They repeat the question when you know they've heard it loud and clear. "Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. You're seriously asking me …" It's a stalling tactic as they try to come up with a convincing response.
  • They won't look you in the eye. Or else they will. It helps if you know how the person usually behaves. If they ordinarily look you in the eye but suddenly don't, they're probably not giving you the whole truth. And vice versa.