I found myself dining during the recent Pershing conference next to a gentleman who is an executive at a Midwestern broker/dealer. This mid-size B/D has been around for some time and, while successful, is nevertheless struggling to switch from a transactional culture to a consultative one. Sounded like an interesting story; I was vaguely familiar with the company but wasn't aware of its history or its changing culture or how particularly well suited the firm seemed to be for the coming boomer retirement binge. But this sophisticated, experienced executive then told me he assumed we wouldn't be interested in his firm's story because it doesn't advertise in the magazine.
"You mean you think we only write stories about advertisers?" I asked. "Well," he said, "yes." I convince him that it's not true, that our editorial space is not for sale in the magazine or on the Web, and that his company's story is certainly worthy of further investigation on our part. I tell him funny stories about folks from companies who want to order reprints of an article that is written about them, and they request that we change a couple of words--maybe a paragraph at the beginning needs to be excised, they say, or perhaps we could place the "mention" of said company in a more prominent position in the article. I say no. The Investment Advisor reprints sales manager, who reports to the publisher, to whom I do not report, may not be too happy. But that's the way we do business, and the sales manager knows that those reprints are only valuable if our readers consider our editorial to be untainted by giving special consideration to advertisers. If we lose our credibility with you, the advertisers won't want to advertise. Our responsibility is to you, the reader, not to the advertiser.
You do business the same way, I hope. You're not for sale, nor will you allow your principles to be compromised by the companies with whom you partner. I wonder, though, if you have broader responsibilities. Former IA Staff Editor Megan Robert relates one planner effort under way through the FPA's Washington chapter in her Soapbox on page 104: providing advice to wounded soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen.
I wonder, too, if you're being called to educate consumers at large on how to plan for their retirements. The Boston College Center for Retirement Research announced last month that it had developed a new National Retirement Risk Index (NRRI) that found nearly 45% of U.S. households are currently at risk of being unable to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living in retirement.
Alicia Munnell, director of the Center, said she was under no illusion that this one index's findings would change Americans' savings and work behavior, but that the Center wanted to serve as a "catalyst for change." Just working two more years before retiring or saving an additional 3% can substantially improve the odds of financial security for retirees, she argued, but still Munnell called for a "national retirement income policy" to address the challenge. More on the index can be found at www.bc.edu/crr/nrri.shtml. Are you serving as a "catalyst for change"? Are you involved in setting a "national retirement income policy"? Should you be?