This year, Senior Market Advisor, part of LifeHealthPro.com, decided to do its first-ever Industry Survey to gauge the current attitude of advisors and others in the business of marketing insurance products to seniors as well as their outlook for the future. We also asked what gives their client sleepless nights. What did we find?
We found a lot of worried people, that’s for sure. Worried about stock market volatility that leaves retirement accounts flush one day and down in the dumps the next. Worried about legislation that could make an advisor’s job ever harder or make the products they sell less attractive. Worried about the next presidential election and what that will mean to the economy.
Perhaps owing to the erratic times we live in, products that offer safety (albeit with less upside potential) and guaranteed income are proving best-sellers right now. Indeed, of the nearly 200 respondents, 40.7 percent said annuities and 30.8 percent said life insurance were their top sales success stories currently. Garnering a number of write-in votes were Medicare Supplement contractsa sign that more and more baby boomers are hitting age 65.
Such safety-first options are proving popular because in a turbulent economy, they represent a comfort zone, a place where money may not grow tremendously, but principal is nevertheless protected.
And it’s that unpredictable economy that is keeping advisors up at night; 36.6 percent of advisors said so. Lead generation took second place (30.2 percent) followed by industry legislation (15.7 percent).
It’s no surprise, therefore, that with the economy top of mind nearly 70 percent said economic policies will be the deciding factor when they go into the voting booth in 2012. When asked who they would vote for in the upcoming presidential election, 60 percent pointed to the Republican candidate, while nearly a quarter (23.2 percent) said “other” and 17.3 percent favored President Obama.
Reading over the comments, it’s clear there is a deep dissatisfaction about what is going on in Washington, D.C. and skepticism over whether anyone can do the job. “Undecided as of now. Whoever I think will screw up the least,” said one respondent.
What they are looking for in a presidential candidate? Said one: “Someone who will follow the constitution, make our government smaller, bring back and encourage jobs in the U.S. and quit running up the national debt.”
Though the GOP may be overwhelming favored by advisors, not all took a conservative slant, however. One respondent stated the country would be benefit by “having a system where taxes are paid proportionally on income.”
Clients worried, too
If advisors and industry insiders are worried, so, too, are their clients. When asked what their clients biggest fears are, a clear majority answered the economy (64.1 percent), seconded by health care (52.4 percent). Rounding out the list were outliving their money (51.8 percent); the government (45.3 percent); and having to work longer than they planned (43.5 percent).
The response by advisors to those concerns is to be, well, an advisor. A majoritynearly 70 percentagreed they have taken on more of a teaching and coaching role with clients (and their employees) since Wall Street had its epic financial breakdown. This invariably brings the discussion to so-called “safe” products.
“Now, as seems common when the market collapses, prospects and clients may be looking for safer alternativesfixed/indexed annuities,” said one survey participant. “The market volatility and the low interest rates at the bank leave room for an educational/advising role to commence with existing clients.”
Seniors vs. boomers
As more baby boomers enter retirement age, advisors have had to adjust their strategies accordingly. Roughly 73 percent conceded that their business has been impacted as the oldest of the baby boomer generation graduates to the senior class. (Interestingly, when asked if they customized their sales and marketing approaches between senior and boomer clients/prospects, most51.8 percentsaid no.)
“It has changed our marketing and services,” declared one respondent. “The boomers tend to leave a larger portion of their portfolio at risk with B/Ds [broker-dealers]. When they move some of those funds to FIA or other insurance products the B/Ds tend to slack off on their services to these clients. So, we have become securities licensed to move the entire portfolio under one roof to increase service and monitoring of the portfolio.”