The World Series of Poker just concluded in Las Vegas. The winner of the $8.4 million first place prize was Ryan Riess a 23 year old professional player from Michigan. There were 6,352 entrants who paid $10,000 each to participate in the world’s biggest poker game.

Poker is a fitting metaphor for people who invest their retirement assets in the world’s biggest casino – Wall Street. No one can predict the next card and no one can predict the future performance of the stock market. Poker and investing retirement assets are a combination of skill and luck. And, both are forms of playing the odds. What are the odds you can beat your opponent’s hand? What are the odds the stock market will go up in the next 30 days?

Why is this a retirement issue? Wall Street invests trillions of dollars of retirement assets in 401(k) plans, IRAs, and personal accounts. Its companies are extraordinarily adept at convincing investors to give them control of their retirement futures. You win if you retire when you want to, live the way you want during retirement, and have financial security late in life. You lose if you have to defer your retirement date, reduce your standard of living during retirement, and run out of money late in life.

The Skilled Professional

For years I have told investors if you are going to play in Wall Street’s poker game you want a professional playing for you. It is no accident that a professional won the World Series of Poker. And, I believe Ryan Riess was the seventh winner in a row who was in his 20’s. It takes skill and stamina to stay in the game.

A professional represents more skill and less luck when he plays. He has spent years memorizing the odds and playing millions of hands of poker to hone his skills. And, he probably had coaches to accelerate his learning curve.

The Lucky Amateur

Defying the odds an amateur came in second at the World Series. But, let’s call Jay Farber a gifted amateur. He lives in Las Vegas, he plays a lot of poker, and he has coaches. So he did not walk in off the street and plunk down his $10,000 with no chance of winning. He had some serious skills and was an aggressive risk taker.

Most amateurs have more luck than skill. When luck does prevail, it usually lasts a short period of time. Skill almost always wins over longer time periods.

Your Biggest Retirement Risk

When you play in the Wall Street casino you have the option of going it alone by conducting your own research and making your own decisions. Or, you can hire a professional to play for you. In affect, you put up the $10,000, the professional plays for you, and you split the winnings. If there are no winnings you suffer 100% of the losses.

75% of Wall Street’s financial advisors are amateurs. They are salesmen who are paid big commissions to sell investment and insurance products. They do not have the experience or training of the 25% who are real professionals.

Your problem is how you do identify the real financial experts who can help you achieve your goals for a secure, comfortable retirement.  Salesmen are adept at convincing you they are real experts.

Wall Street makes billions because it controls the casino, the professionals, and the amateurs. It deliberately blurs distinctions between pros and amateurs so the amateurs can sell Wall Street products. It knows you do not want to buy from amateurs.

There are consequences when you invest retirement assets in the Wall Street casino. Your biggest financial risk is the quality of the financial advisor who plays for you. Make sure you select a professional who is a real expert – more skill than luck.