Columbia financial adviser James Wilson remembers the judge who asked him for a box of tissues before an initial consultation.
Tearfully, the judge admitted to Wilson, who owns Columbia-based financial planning service J.E. Wilson Advisors, that he was embarrassed about not preparing financially for retirement.
Wilson said it was the only time a man cried in his office.
"He knew he was going to tell me his story, and it was awful," Wilson said. "He couldn't tell anybody because he was this respected member of the judiciary. He was a mess. And I kept thinking, 'I've got to tell him something that is positive. I've got to send him on his way (so) that he could take a step or two or three.' "
Wilson said the judge who ended up not being in as dire financial straits he feared isn't alone in his situation.
"It's a very, very typical thing we see. I wish we didn't," he said.
Tim Goldman, Mutual of Omaha Advisors financial adviser and sales director, said people failing to plan for retirement is a problem that spans all industries.
Goldman said that while professionals and executives can be quite intelligent, that doesn't mean they're educated in personal financial literacy.
"It doesn't matter if you make $30,000 or $300,000, the vast majority of people don't know that kind of stuff," he said. "There's a large percentage of people that don't plan. There's more who don't than who do."
Wilson said people waiting until later in life to think about a financial plan is an increasing trend.
"We've been seeing that for a few years as we're seeing initial prospective clients that are older and older, and it's very discomforting," he said.
Wilson said people often think it's too late to take any financial planning steps. He tries to help those clients, like the judge, focus on what can be done going forward, not what hasn't been done so far.
"Get started," Wilson said. "If you can break through this inertia that holds people back from getting started, anything you do will be positive. If you're not saving, save. If you're saving not enough, save more. If you're living in too big of a house, don't live in too big of a house."
Even those who've taken steps, such establishing insurance policies or retirement plans early in their careers, may find out what they have is not enough to cover them when they eventually retire. People who are used to living a lifestyle that requires $250,000 a year will have to save millions to maintain that same lifestyle in...