Spokane Journal of Business

Retirement-planning tool created here

Vickerman & Driscoll seeks to assist clients with online "bucket" system for figuring needed income

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Retirement-planning tool created here
-—Staff photo by Treva Lind
Mike Vickerman, left, and Kevin Driscoll say the My Bucket System software helps clients think about retirement savings in five-year increments.

Spurred by the 2008 financial collapse, Spokane-based Vickerman & Driscoll Financial Advisors Inc. has developed a new retirement planning tool that breaks up post-employment income into a monthly spending plan instead of focusing on a lump-sum figure that can get obscured by market fluctuations.

The firm's co-founders, Mike Vickerman and Kevin Driscoll, developed the tool, called My Bucket System, to help provide a clear investment strategy. It breaks retirement planning into four buckets of five-year increments, Vickerman says, and rather than looking at the overall sum needed to fund retirement, this approach determines how much a prospective retiree will need on a monthly basis—or how much he or she can spend monthly without running out of money.

Two months ago, the firm launched My Bucket System online, allowing clients and others to use the free tool at MyBucketSystem.com. Vickerman says he created the online formulas a few months ago to help the firm's 210 clients. By mid-March, about 75 nonclients had registered to use the software as well, he says.

"I've been presenting this concept to my clients for over the last two years," says Vickerman. "I thought it would be helpful for clients to access it from home. It gets people to think about their retirement in shorter increments. You break it down. When you say a lifetime retirement goal, they struggle with it."

Vickerman is pleased with the response so far from people going to MyBucketSystem.com and hopes those who are serious about retirement will consider the firm's services. "Our goal is just to help people plan for their financial future, but at the same time, we also hope Vickerman & Driscoll can help them execute their plan," he says.

Vickerman & Driscoll, a U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission-registered investment advisory firm, occupies an 1,800-square-foot office space on the third floor of the old American Legion Building downtown, at 108 N. Washington. The firm employs two other people: Wayne Haas, a portfolio manager and principal in the firm's insurance services, and Cindy Cranfill, an administrative assistant.

Both Vickerman and Driscoll are financial advisers and also certified public accountants, so they often work with clients to solve complicated tax problems related to investments. The firm manages $128 million in investments for clients.

"Our niche is high net-worth individuals," Vickerman says. "We help them manage their money, do estate planning, tax consulting, and financial planning."

He adds, "We both started as CPAs, then went into the investment services, so we bring that breadth of knowledge about tax consequences, financial planning, and estate planning."

The firm often focuses on retirement questions. Vickerman says the No. 1 question from clients is, "Can I retire?" Next, he says, is, "How much income can my investments provide during my retirement without the money running out?"

"We call it retirement cash flow," he says. "It used to be that people would ask, 'What is my big number?' for retirement, and after the collapse, they wanted to know, 'How much money can I have on a monthly basis during retirement without running out of money?"

With the firm's My Bucket System, users can plug in the monthly dollar amount they think they need in retirement, and the calculator tool breaks retirement savings into four categories—or buckets—based on short-, medium-, and long-term returns. "It's a tool to show people, this is what you need," Vickerman says.

When people register under My Bucket System, the site offers instructions, although individuals mainly chart it by inputting their projected monthly income amount in retirement.

The bucket for the first five years of retirement has an amount of investments in "ultra safe shortterm fixed income," Vickerman explains, such as bonds or U.S. Treasury notes. The bucket for the next five-year increment will have intermediate fixed income investments, such as intermediate bonds and perhaps annuities with certain return rates, while a bucket for the third five-year segment has long-term fixed income investments such as bonds that mature over 10 years or longer.

"At the end of the first five years of retirement, the money in the first bucket is gone," and clients then move on to using income from the next bucket, Vickerman says. The retirement calculation allows for a 15 percent increase in monthly income every five years.

The fourth and final bucket—designed to be in place the longest—puts investments into stocks anticipated to bring at least an 8.5-percent rate of return over 15 years. In theory, this bucket is used to replenish the prior three buckets after the first 15 years of retirement, while at the same time, about 40 percent of the fourth bucket investment is left behind for continued growth so that funds are available for another 15 years.

A total retirement figure needed from all investments also displays in the calculation, such as, for example, the target sum of $1 million for a person or couple who want a $4,000-a-month income in retirement. Although the tool allows for planning, the firm hopes that clients and prospective clients will seek its detailed advice for how to invest the money needed for retirement, Vickerman adds.

Treva Lind
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