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Understanding the future comes too soon

Cliff Thompson

EAGLE COUNTY – Richard Loth admits he’s on a bit of a mission.It’s a mission you probably can understand, particularly if you’ve tried to decipher what you need to do with the money you contribute to your 401(k) or other retirement plans.He’s an investment advisor who thinks he can help you have the financial wherewithal to enjoy your golden years. Loth says he wants to help you to understand how to invest money now for your retirement. He’ll provide the education and the rest is up to you.Most 401(k) investment plans have three partners: An investment management company, the individual investor and the employer who contributes to the plan.Loth, who owns aptly-named Mentor Investing, has put together a 4-hour seminar on retirement investing that takes rank amateurs and gives them the tools to make informed investing decisions. Properly made, those decisions could add up to many thousands of dollars, Loth said.For Loth, it’s not about the money, he said. He charges $1,400 per session and will take up to 30 people who will pay $47 a head.”I have this passion,” he said. “This is my way of making some sort of a contribution to educating retirement investors who admit to being clueless. “You can put money into investment vehicles, but if you don’t know how to drive you’ll have accidents or won’t get where you need to go.”No easy readIf you’ve ever read 401(k) information or other investing documents, it’s not too hard to be clueless. They’re complicated – perhaps unnecessarily so, Loth said.”I meet and talk to people every week who tell me they don’t know what they’re doing with their investment plan,” he said.The remedy, as Loth sees it, is being armed with knowledge, which will provide you with the tools to ask the right questions.His course comes in four, 50-minute parts. The first is an introduction, followed by a session on the fundamentals of asset allocation – what you spend money on seeking a return. “That’s a risk-and-return decision that’s absolutely key,” said Loth. “Many people confuse this with diversification, and what I see is often a disaster.”The second session is about fund selection – stocks and bonds. It’s about what your investment objectives are, or should be.The third session gives you a fundamental tool for deciding the worth of investments – The Morningstar Report – which rates stocks and other investments. It’s free at public libraries across the county, Loth said.”This is the Lance Armstrong of fund-investing tools,” he said, adding that it rates the relative strengths and weakness of investments.Don’t waitProcrastination and starting too late may be the greatest danger to creating a retirement plan, he said. Most people think their retirement is a long way off, so they defer making retirement investment decisions until it’s too late, he added. Getting individuals to understand the future arrives too soon is a bit frustrating for Loth, who said it makes him feel a bit like Chicken Little. “The sky is falling,” he said. “You have to pay attention because it’s critical.”Loth has distilled a series of investment lectures he delivered over the last two years into a “lean and mean” investment boot camp of a sort. He said he found most people weren’t able to allocate the time it took to attend all the lecture sessions, but most said they could afford to take a half-day off.He’s actually aiming his course at employees of the companies that have 401(k) and other investment plans. Those companies, he said, have a fiduciary responsibility to give employees participating in the plans with education on the Internet and with printed materials. But that’s really not good enough, he said. “Nine out of 10 don’t read that material,” he said. “Company sponsors have a responsibility here.”Employees of the Eagle Valley Library district attended one of Loth’s presentations and were pretty happy with the results, said Charlyn Canada, director.”I got e-mails from the staff saying ‘I understand this for the first time,'” she said. “It was very positive. His presentation is very objective. It gives people a great deal of assurance.”==========================================To learn moreFor more information on Mentor Investing’s retirement-plan investing program, call 827-5591.==========================================Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colo.


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