Casey Snyder, Erika Luczynski and Tom Sedoric


Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of though

—John F. Kennedy


The myriad choices we make over a lifetime regarding our finances, education, health, family, social life, and career often have a cumulative and profound impact on our financial security and our ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor. In an era of uncertain, and likely lower, financial returns and renewed political risk throughout the western world, it’s vitally important to recognize how economic, political, environmental, and social policies have a much greater impact on our lives than ever before. 

What we know is this: we are in uncharted territory. This ‘new world’ is ripe with new opportunities, new risks, and new challenges. It is no secret that Americans are living longer, and according to a recent Harvard study, many are living with a higher quality of life for the majority of their years in retirement. While this is an ambiguous advancement for society, what does it mean for people who depend on benefit programs like pensions, many of which are already severely underfunded? Healthcare costs are projected to skyrocket upwards – while these innovative advancements in modern medicine are extending lives, who will be able to afford them? (The defunding of the EPA could answer both of these questions in relatively short order, however!) 

As planners, we are not in the business of prognostication. We don’t pretend to know where the markets are headed, nor how the political landscape will shape new regulations. What we do recognize, however, is that there has never been a more vital time to think critically to better serve the growing list of families we represent.

What exactly is critical thinking? Reduced to its core, critical thinking refers to using objective, often counter-intuitive analysis and evaluation to make an informed judgment. In a world dominated by social media, short attention spans, and instant feedback, this is quickly becoming a lost art. 

University of Oregon IT researcher Kelly Brown wrote recently that the societal move away from “deep reading may have left us unable or unwilling” to apply skeptical filters on information choices. In short, we drown in a pool of information and stimulation daily - even hourly - and often surround ourselves with digital networks that tend to think and react the same way we do. 

In light of this, here are some of the topics we discuss at The Sedoric Group on a daily basis, and the critical thinking (CT) we’re applying to challenge ourselves and, ultimately, better serve our clients and the community. 


Topic: Increased Longevity and Lifespan 

Present Risk: Underfunded benefit programs (pensions and Social Security) 

CT Application: Within our clients’ plans, benefits programs are modeled conservatively in the future and with reduced purchasing power over time, and in some cases, as if they won’t exist. Sadly, the severity of underfunding and overstated return assumptions still utilized by benefits programs will inevitably mean even promised benefits may not be provided. 


Topic: Availability of innovative Healthcare solutions 

Present Risk: Unaffordability due to skyrocketing healthcare costs

CT Application: Project and Practice. In an exercise used with clients to estimate retirement spending, most clients grossly underestimate what their healthcare and dental costs will be in retirement. We test and retest these assumptions and adjust savings goals accordingly, to ensure wise healthcare choices are made in preparation of these increasing costs. 


Topic: Necessity of Higher Education to be Employable

Present Risk: Increasing education costs have created $1.4T in outstanding student loans and have contributed to 'failure to launch.'

CT Application: When it comes to education, the importance of value — not prestige — is emphasized to clients and their children. This means better utilizing alternatives - including community college, in-state and trade programs — particularly for core education. Also, TSG is actively engaged with local colleges to develop financial literacy programs for students. 


Topic: Subpar household savings rates

Present Risk: 'Keeping up with the Jones's' - Living a lifestyle we can't afford

CT Application: Current development of a program that aims to recognize and celebrate prudent financial behavior amongst our clients, in a movement to change the way society rewards poor decisions, particularly via social media. (New Ferrari? Like!) 


Topic: Ongoing divisive political environment

Present Risk: Inability of elected officials to make decisions without their own self-interest or that of their constituents

CT Application: Active engagement in promoting civics education and financial literacy within our community and online, including lead sponsorship of NHPR’s ‘Civics 101’ podcast which has surpassed 1M downloads. A good citizen is an informed citizen. 


27 years ago, Tom wrote “The Myth of Deferral” (updated in 2014) to warn savers of the unspoken risks of 401k plans and potential financial limitations of them. Unfortunately, much of what we believed might happen, has: Recently, even some of the early architects of 401k plans have expressed disappointment in what they created, acknowledging that these plans have ultimately helped Wall Street ‘cash in,’ while fees and taxes eroded participants’ long term returns.

We feel the same responsibility today, but with a far greater scope. Using critical thinking allows us to better assess our clients’ balance sheets in order to identify their risks, highlight their opportunities, and optimize and educate on accumulation and distribution strategies as they prepare for the future. 

As Albert Einstein so eloquently stated, "No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. We need to see the world anew." Asking tough questions and thinking critically is not just our responsibility as fiduciaries, it is our duty to our clients and to our society.


This information has been obtained from sources deemed to be reliable but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The views expressed are those of Tom Sedoric – Partner, Executive Managing Director and Wealth Manager and D. Casey Snyder, CFP® - Partner, Senior Vice President and Wealth Manager and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. Steward Partners Global Advisory LLC and The Sedoric Group maintain a separate professional business relationship with, and our registered professionals offer securities through, Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Steward Partners Investment Advisory LLC. 2985754