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Wall Street Journal / Biz - Money

Exponential Technology Promises Fundamental Changes

WSJ Adviser Profile: Ric Edelman, founder and executive chairman of Edelman Financial Services, believes there is a lack of preparedness for the type of longevity that will come with advances in medicine, neuroscience and robotics. “The typical adviser is using outdated financial-planning software that assumes their clients will live to 90 or 95,” he says.

Ric Edelman

• Founder and executive chairman of Edelman Financial Services, Fairfax, Va.
• Education: B.A., Honorary Ph.D. Rowan University
• Professional Designations: Board Certified in Mutual Funds, Certified Fund Specialist, Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor, Certified Retirement Counselor, Qualified Financial Planner, Registered Financial Consultant

Mr. Edelman, on how financial advice and strategic games are alike: “It’s all the strategic anticipation of what will happen next.” Photo: Aaron Clamage

Background: Mr. Edelman, a best-selling author and a television and radio personality, began his career as a journalist covering financial issues in the 1980s. When Mr. Edelman and his wife hired a financial adviser who prompted them to lie on their mortgage application to qualify for a home loan, they were shocked. After their surprise ebbed, they felt inspired. “We thought, ‘If this guy can make a living as an adviser giving people harmful advice, could we make a living giving someone helpful advice?’ ” Mr. Edelman says. He and his wife launched their own firm in 1986.

His practice: Mr. Edelman’s practice currently serves over 34,000 clients, providing financial-planning services to anyone with at least $5,000 to invest. Mr. Edelman specializes in educating clients about how technology will affect their financial future. He says that rapidly advancing exponential technologies—such as robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence—will significantly increase the human life span, alter career paths, and put an end to traditional retirement.

The biggest challenge facing the advising industry: Mr. Edelman says most advisers aren’t prepared for this type of longevity that will come with advances in medicine, neuroscience and robotics. “The typical adviser is using outdated financial-planning software that assumes their clients will live to 90 or 95,” says Mr. Edelman. He says that this gap could put clients in serious financial jeopardy as they outlive their savings.

On helping clients prepare for change: Mr. Edelman takes a two-part approach to assisting his clients succeed financially in a rapidly changing world. The first step is exposing clients to information about exponential technologies and how it will affect their lives. The second is to provide them with investing opportunities that align with technological growth. Mr. Edelman has played a part in building such investment vehicles. In 2014, he worked with Morningstar and Blackrock to develop iShares Exponential Technologies ETF.

Advisers as career counselors: Mr. Edelman says that technology will eliminate many jobs, making it necessary for workers to be retrained in new industries. He says advisers will need to incorporate career counseling and planning into their practices and help clients plan to save money for additional education.

On games of strategy and advising: In his spare time, Mr. Edelman enjoys playing games of strategy such as pool, hearts and chess. His work and the games he enjoys are similar, he says. “It’s all the strategic anticipation of what will happen next.”

His proudest professional achievement… “Having been named by Barron’s 3 times as No. 1 independent financial adviser,” he says.

—Compiled by Lynn Shattuck

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