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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Industry alert: Go inside the advisor mind

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Beginning with our August issue, we’ll debut a new column, “Inside the Boomer Mind,” written by Matt Thornhill, founder of The Boomer Project.

We spoke with Thornhill recently to hear what he’s learned about advisors and how they’ve been working with boomers. (As Thornhill explains, the oldest boomers are already, technically, seniors, and that number is growing by the day.)

“Consequently, in January 2009, our firm, the Boomer Project, conducted new research of financial services professionals to learn how advisors and agents are working with boomers to do financial planning,” Thornhill says. “The research was sponsored by the Partnership for Retirement Education and Planning (PREP), an unprecedented coalition of 11 non-profit organizations, including founding partners the Million Dollar Round Table, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the Society of Financial Service Professionals, representing more than 200,000 financial advisors.

“The research reported that 77 percent of advisors said the current economic downturn has had a significant impact on their boomer clients, more than any other generation. Not surprisingly, 73 percent of advisors also said the downturn has made their boomer clients more focused on financial planning.

“Advisors also told us that boomers have neglected planning because they do not fully understand the value (cited by 78 percent of respondents) and are embarrassed that they have not accumulated more assets (mentioned by 70 percent of respondents). The total number of respondents surveyed was 600, which results in a margin of error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% confidence level.

“One interesting aspect of the research is that advisors who consider themselves ‘experts’ at financial and retirement planning and take a comprehensive look at their clients’ financial, family and life goals appear to better serve their clients. They also are typically more successful in their business than those who do not focus on either types of planning.

“Advisors who identified themselves as ‘planning experts’ reported their typical client had twice the total assets as advisors who were more focused on individual product sales. The self-reported ‘planning experts’ were not significantly different than ‘non-planners’ in years of experience, size of firm, job function or type of products they offer. But ‘planning experts’ who approach client relationships with a longer-term planning focus had three times the assets under management and reported 40 percent higher annual revenue than the ‘non-planners’.

“From other research, we know 77 percent of baby boomers have not received retirement planning advice from an advisor. That research also indicates that 88 percent of boomers claim to trust only themselves with financial matters and money management, followed by friends and family at 49 percent and agents at 13 percent.

“With a simultaneous decline in employment, home values and investments, boomers in their late 50s and early 60s who have not prepared enough for their future are being affected the most. Now more than ever is the time for financial advisors to help our country’s 76 million boomers better prepare for their financial future.”


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