Making Retirement Planning and Investing Education Accessible to All Americans

At SIFMA, we believe we must boost retirement savings, enable Americans to save more, promote financial literacy, and support a strong retail investor culture.

This National Financial Literacy Month, we spoke with Lee Thoresen, Sr. Counsel, Head of Regulatory and Transactional of RBC Wealth Management, about how individuals of all backgrounds and income levels should get started investing and the industry’s role in making retirement planning and investing education more accessible to all Americans.

How would you describe your role and responsibilities at RBC?

I have the privilege of leading an amazing group of attorneys and paralegals that provide expert legal and regulatory counsel to our corporate home office professionals as well as our esteemed team of financial advisors across the country. Together, we work hard to provide tailored wealth planning and retirement solutions to our clients. I also serve as a member of SIFMA’s Retirement and Savings Committee and Private Client Legal Committee.

Can you first discuss why retirement planning and investing are important?

I think everyone would agree that retirement planning and investing are key to financial well-being. I would also take it one step further to say that it is particularly important for more women and persons of color to engage in retirement planning.

Speaking from my experience as a woman and person of color working in the financial services sector, I understand too well the disparities in rates of retirement savings between segments of our society. Broadly speaking, white Americans have increased wealth through better-paying jobs and higher property values. Sadly, discriminatory lending practices and racist homeownership covenants put into place decades ago have resulted in generations of people of color missing on these basic opportunities to build wealth. While this history is not something that we can overcome in a day, a week or even a year, we can acknowledge it and move forward with actionable steps to make retirement planning and investment literacy more accessible to historically underserved communities.

What is the best explanation you could give for a first-time investor reviewing different retirement investment options? What factors are important to consider?

Just stepping back from this question a bit, I believe it is important to address the responsibility of the industry to make retirement planning and investing education more accessible to all Americans. There are great programs available, including the SIFMA Foundation’s own youth financial education programs, to underserved communities that are focused on financial literacy and planning. I would encourage more firms to get involved in their own communities as RBC Wealth Management has. I also encourage the nation’s private sector to ensure that all employees have access to a 401(k) retirement plan and, equally as important, learning opportunities for employees highlighting basic investing skills and workplace benefits.

But ultimately, my advice to a first-time investor would be to find a trusted investment professional that is willing to work with you and understand both your past circumstances and your future vision. On a personal note, even though I worked with financial advisors professionally, I was hesitant to ask someone for help with my own planning, thinking that I did not have enough wealth to justify professional investment advice. When I finally did reach out to someone, she was so welcoming and knowledgeable that I regretted not having done so earlier.

Are there specific resources on retirement planning you would recommend for investors to review or be familiar with?

While it seems there are numerous retirement planning resources available online, I would caution new investors to be selective on the information and resources you find online. Find an investment professional, referred by someone you trust, that can provide you with some first steps and additional resources.

Lee Thoresen is Sr. Counsel, Head of Regulatory and Transactional of RBC Wealth Management.

Learn more about how capital markets can enable families to invest in America and save toward a financially secure future here and the work of our SIFMA Foundation to foster youth financial education here.