From the January 2007 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Back to School

Over the years I've heard many financial advisors decry the insufficient training they received in the nuts and bolts of financial planning. All too often, brokerage firms handed their rookies a lengthy cold-call list and some marketing literature supplied by product manufacturers, and were told to smile and dial. It is only in recent years that firms have (to some extent) gotten behind the CFP mark or other education initiatives as a way to upgrade the skills of their financial advisors.

This movement, if it is a movement, cannot come soon enough because of the well-known demographic surge in retiring boomers now underway. With a non-trivial $20 trillion in play, true expertise in retirement income planning is now needed more than ever. What makes this impending distribution in retirement assets non-trivial, by the way, is not that it is numbered in the trillions of dollars but that your clients' livelihoods depend on it.

I know I am not breaking any news in telling you that the Golden Age (for advisors) of the Golden Years (for clients) is upon us. That is the dominant subject of every brokerage firm conference over the past several years and much has been written about it in trade and consumer publications. However, much of what is said is clich?, and will do little to help advisors help their clients.

But we are breaking some news in this month's cover story ("Confessions of a VA Critic") warning that the main danger involving annuities is not that they are a rip-off as the media usually portray them, but that the benefits are so generous that advisors must be on guard about the financial strength of the guarantor. Now that these VAs and competing products offer so much more value than they used to in terms of living benefits, inflation protection and various guarantees, financial advisors have their work cut out for them sifting through the plethora of options.

We hope to help you with this analysis through a new monthly department (which our cover story kicks off) called Retirement Income University. Taught by Prof. Moshe Milevsky, a skilled communicator and one of the world's leading authorities on retirement-related finance issues, the objective of the monthly series is to build both practical and conceptual knowledge of retirement planning.

The syllabus for future months includes the "retirement risk zone;" the impact of income taxes; longevity and mortality expectations; retirees' inflation rate (as distinct from the CPI for the general population); pensions; long-term care needs; insurance; products; and strategies. And in this current issue, be sure to also read our Q&A with Wealth2k's David Macchia ("Income Opportunity") and David Drucker's review of three retirement income planning software tools ("Guiding Clients to Retirement Income Safety") to further stimulate your thinking on this crucial topic.

The long lag in the flowering of financial planning is an unfortunate fault of our industry. But with the hour so late and the need so great, we believe a "degree" from Retirement Income University will exponentially increase your value to your clients.

Gil Weinreich

EDITOR

gweinreich@researchmag.com

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