There's plenty of information regarding retirement planning and financial matters available to consumers today. With convenient access to so many different topics and multiple perspectives, consumers can thoroughly educate themselves.
However, as with any topic, the information and the knowledge might be there — but clients will only stick around if you help them apply this knowledge.
For instance, consider all the information and options available to someone who wants to get in the best shape of their life. And yet, so many people are unhappy with their fitness results.
Because people still need someone to help synthesize information, sift through what’s relevant to them, AND share their expertise on what works.
We pay for someone to guide us towards results.
It’s no different in financial services -- in fact, consumers have stated they would leave a financial professional if certain services weren't provided.
Understanding what clients and prospective clients want
So where do you start when it comes to providing the services and results your clients and prospective clients are looking for?
You may have quite a few “value-adds” in your financial services business, but serving clients really boils down to helping them alleviate a problem in their financial life.
Most prospects you meet via your seminars or other prospecting programs, are looking to make similar key decisions that help them:
- accumulate money for retirement
- NOT outlive that retirement savings
- pay for their children’s college expenses without bankrupting their retirement
- save on taxes
- reduce debt
- maximize Social Security
According to a recent Morningstar report, The Value of Advice: What Investors Think, What Advisors Think, and How Everyone Can Get on the Same Page, investors’ top four values in working with a financial professional are to help them reach their financial goals, have relevant skills and knowledge, communicate and explain financial concepts well, and help maximize returns. What this report also showed was that advisors who were surveyed thought, of 15 value propositions clients value, maximizing returns would be #14.
This points to a huge discrepancy in where a financial professional’s perceived value is.
What we can take from this is that what we might think prospects want and what they actually want can often be two different things. It can make a lot of sense to listen to what clients say they want from you … to get in the door. Then as you build that relationship … possibly also introduce new concepts or ways of looking at their financial situation.
What makes clients leave their financial professional?
A recent ThinkAdvisor article referred to a Nationwide survey “suggesting that the ability to counsel clients about Social Security may be a major factor in determining whether financial professionals keep, or lose, clients nearing retirement age.” The survey found that "76% of the advised near retirees said they are somewhat or extremely likely to switch financial professionals to maximize Social Security benefits."
Were you aware of this? Many financial professionals may not grasp the importance prospects place on solving this particular problem. And therefore, could be missing out on a tremendous opportunity.
Because the truth is, near retirees are making these decisions on their own and in some cases, regretting their decisions. In a recent study by MassMutual, “nearly 4 out of 10 respondents (38%) wished they filed later.” They might have filed for Social Security early because of unforeseen circumstances like a health emergency, but regardless of the reasons, in almost all cases it points to a need for additional guidance on optimal Social Security claiming strategies.
Meeting a demand of clients and prospective clients
If you aren’t having conversations about Social Security benefits with your clients and prospects, data suggests it might behoove you to add this to the income planning services you offer.
You're likely to get retirees' attention when you let them know that if they're choosing a potentially less optimal strategy on a decision like this -- say, claiming retirement benefits at the earliest age possible — 62 — and taking a permanently reduced benefit, they'll generally be getting 75 percent of what they're entitled to based on their earnings record.
But imagine not only being able to grab their attention with this surprising fact but be the financial professional they choose to help them solve this problem.
Providing prospective clients comprehensive value on Social Security claiming strategies starts with understanding the basics:
- Retiree benefits
- Spousal and dependent benefits
- Survivor benefits
- Divorce benefits
You’ll also need to be familiar with the Social Security Statement, ask to see your client’s, and know how various entries could affect their future benefits.
Once you’ve gathered all the necessary data, show them multiple scenarios and the possible impact to determine which would maximize their Social Security benefits. There are many industry tools that can help you illustrate these hypotheticals for your clients.
As a financial professional, you are in an ideal situation to help clients navigate this decision. They can’t turn to the Social Security Administration for advice because they aren’t allowed to give it. Plus, the SSA only looks for the highest monthly benefit on the day a client files.
You may want to help them look at strategies preferable down the road.
Clients most likely would have no way to play out different scenarios on their own. This makes you and your expertise an extremely valuable resource for clients.