This year’s Senior Survey revealed the impacts of a year’s worth of national health care debate and continued economic downturn. Seniors are confused and concerned, but as the web-savvy baby boomer generation moves into the retired ranks, advisors will also find new challenges in offering their services to new clients. Learn more about what attributes (and approaches) today’s seniors are looking for as they navigate the still-perilous financial waters.
After several consecutive years of economic freefall in the United States, there have been plenty of signs that optimism is slowly returning. But when it comes to the feelings, hopes and desires of America’s seniors, we are clearly not out of the woods yet.
2010′s edition of the annual SMA Senior Survey has revealed a group of older Americans that say that they do not see their financial circumstances improving in a timely fashion. And after many months of divisive national debate over health care reform, most of the seniors surveyed by the Boomer Project say that their own health and health care issues are top of mind.
But there’s a major disconnect.
Too many of them are going at it alone, with no professional financial-planning advice, and their needs are not being met. Many of them concede that they’d be interested in using your services and your knowledge, but you need to earn their trust–more than 50 percent say that traditional seminars, direct mail and even e-mail marketing do little to interest them in seeking your help.
What does this mean to you?
By continuing to reinforce your role as a highly informed and trusted advisor, you can help bridge that gap and help build more confidence in your retired or soon-to-be-retired clientele (or at least get them to talk to you in the first place, which many seniors admitted is not happening at present). Here, in the words of 300 seniors from across the country, is a snapshot of what they’re looking for in an advisor and the kind of advice they’d like to receive. As an added bonus, we’ve also featured the input of several industry experts on the best methods of earning that trust.
A crisis of confidence
In a number that’s actually dropped since our 2009 survey, only 33 percent of those contacted this year say they seek the advice of others when it comes to their finances. Asked who they trust with their finances, 78 percent say they choose to do things themselves, 50 percent say they accept guidance from their family and friends and only 47 percent say they’d turn to a financial advisor. “I will not give my money to someone that I know nothing about,” one senior commented. “We are bombarded with data from financial institutions every hour of every day, and I just turn it off and don’t listen, unless it’s Sam Waterston or some other readily identifiable celebrity.”
Or, more damningly, “I can lose money just as fast as a financial planner. In other words, I don’t believe they have any more knowledge than I do.” Of those seniors who do seek out advice with their
finances, 37 percent say they’d contact financial advisors, 33 percent have contacted CFP designees, 20 percent turn to their family and friends and just 7 percent go to insurance agents or brokers for help. Those who have used advisors say that they’ve had great results; clearly these are the kind of clients you need to seek referrals from. “He has known my family and my needs and will tell me what he thinks, and so far he has told me about good investments … I trust him,” one senior said. “I have had a financial planner handling my financial matters, stocks and life insurance for the past 35 years and he has never steered me wrong yet.”
In a major disconnect revealed by the survey, while health is now their primary concern, versus wealth (when asked, 91 percent say they favored health over wealth), seniors rather adamantly say they do not want to discuss health care issues with their financial advisor. In fact, 68 percent said they do not (and do not want to) talk about the issue whatsoever.
Those who have opened up to (or are at least open to talking with) their advisor say that discussions about long term care insurance and the actual financial impact of new health care legislation would be the most important conversations–subjects an advisor could graciously broach with new clients, if the benefits are explained clearly. “I’m interested in Social Security, interest rates, stock market issues, health care, Medicare, Medicaid and how we get the best interest rate return,” one senior said.
“What can I do to help myself in spite of my illness? Could I stay in my own home? Would they listen and carefully consider my opinions? Who will be able to help me if my husband dies before me?” another asked. “I just want to know that the person I have been dealing with in regards to that LTCI policy will be there to aid me when needed.”
Trust is key
What is it that seniors are looking for in an advisor, or what is it about the regular methods of sales and marketing of your services that frequently distances seniors from actually engaging with your services? Our respondents had plenty of opinions on both.
While a full 55 percent who do not already have an advisor say there’s absolutely nothing you could do to earn their business, the remainder were clear in stating the attributes they are looking for: trust, knowledge, loyalty, good listening skills, honesty and integrity. “I want someone who is interested in what I think and why I think that way; I want someone to honestly say, ‘I don’t know,’ if that is the case, but then contact me with the answers,” one senior said.
And with a web-savvy, baby boomer group of potential prospects out there, advisors have to be aware of the way they approach potential customers. “I’ve spent most of my life in sales and do not want to deal with a salesman face to face,” one respondent said.
“If the benefits of the product or service can’t be adequately explained in a letter, I would not be interested in pursuing a conversation … if I was, I would contact him with any questions I had.” “I’d prefer to get information from an advisor, and then I would have time to go through what is sent and evaluate it,” another added. “I can go through it at my own leisure, without the pressure of a sales call via phone or in person. I delete unsolicited e-mails and I don’t read Internet financial ads.”
In another key finding, among those already with advisors, particularly seniors aged 60-69, many say they feel there’s a serious imbalance in their relationship. Nearly two-thirds say they really want their advisor to know them better, but just a third feel their advisor really does know them well. Seniors aged 70-plus tended to have a more positive view of the relationship, but still only 55 percent admitted their advisor knew them well. Clearly, for the business relationship to blossom, a personal relationship has to be fostered and developed.
Making the grade
On average, seniors surveyed this year graded their personal financial situation as a “C” on a traditional letter grade scale, but graded their personal health situation as a “C+”. Asked about the state of the economy, more than half responded negatively, and a full 53 percent say they think it could be more than a decade before the national economy improves.