After months and months of worsening economic news, America’s seniors still have a cautious optimism about their financial futures. Learn how a talented advisor can help them find the light at the end of the tunnel.
Editor’s note: This annual survey was once again conducted for Senior Market Advisor by The Boomer Project and its associated partner, the Southeastern Institute for Research. The Boomer Project is a Richmond, Va.-based marketing research and consulting company focusing on baby boomers and marketing, started in 2003 by Matt Thornhill.
2009′s study was taken among 308 adults aged 60 and older, of which 71 percent were between 60 and 69–a group which includes the first wave of retiring baby boomers, who are now facing a whole new set of unexpected economic challenges. The results came from across the entire country, from a predominantly affluent survey group (68 percent say their assets, minus their home, exceed $100,000) who are, for the most part, already retired or moving into retirement.
Those looking back on 2009 from some imaginary future perch will probably remember it as a time of economic challenge and turmoil, a sentiment that gripped the country in a way that hasn’t been felt since the Great Depression.
With America’s ongoing financial crises as a backdrop, this year’s Senior Survey addressed the attitudes and beliefs of a generation facing some unusually poignant challenges. After working their entire lifetimes and preparing for a comfortable retirement, many seniors are now finding their nest eggs depleted and their plans derailed. Like everyone else in the United States, they’re emotional about their financial plight; many will have to start saving all over again despite having saved their whole lives.
As our survey discovered, in the midst of all of that fear and confusion, there are some encouraging signs–seniors remain more than cautiously optimistic about the future, and a large percentage of those who took part say they still feel confident they will still be able to enjoy a comfortable retirement.
Most importantly, the survey shows a tremendous opportunity for advisors: More than 60 percent of affluent seniors (approximately 2.6 million people) are heading into retirement without the help and guidance of a financial professional, preferring their own judgment or that of a relative to a skilled advisor. According to Thornhill, that may be the biggest takeaway of all. What follows are the Boomer Project’s key findings, and some of the ways you can integrate their research into building your business.
Overcoming the advisor gap
While 68 percent of respondents report net worth over $100,000, only four out of 10 report using financial advisors to help them with financial matters–a call to action if there ever was one. As a side note, women are more likely than men (47 percent of women, versus 36 percent of men) to have a professional financial planner.
Among that remaining 40 percent who do seek financial advice, Thornhill says that just as many respondents entrust their financial affairs to friends and family members as they do to accredited financial professionals, again presenting a major opportunity for advisors.
Build on trust, honesty and clarity
This year’s survey results show that women are an increasingly important part of the senior market, yet they are more skeptical and demanding when it comes to seeking advice from professionals. Thornhill’s recommendation? “Anyone wanting to build their business with seniors should develop skills, expertise and even personnel who can relate to senior women,” he says.
Advisors hoping to reach the entire senior market need to pay attention to several key attributes, measured in the survey. According to participants, terms including “honesty,” “trustworthy” and “knowledgeable” ranked as the most important attributes seniors seek in a financial professional, followed by “acting in my best interest,” “understanding my needs and goals” and “giving good, objective advice.”
When it comes to actually accomplishing those goals and living up to those attributes, those surveyed exposed a credibility “gap” and often gave their financial professionals less positive marks for their performance.
“The gaps between perceived ‘importance’ and actual ‘performance’ are significant, and suggest opportunities for advisors to improve,” Thornhill says. “Any improvement will result in more business from existing clients and more referrals from other clients.”
The easiest of these to improve on is honesty, he adds. “Advisors should admit mistakes, or weaknesses, if for no other reason than to demonstrate honesty. It is clearly the most important attribute and advisors are underperforming in delivering it.”