Recently, my colleague Corey Dahl wrote about how the decline of Sears serves as a cautionary tale for the life insurance industry. In keeping with the retail theme, or more accurately, mature retailers struggling to stay relevant in today’s marketplace, J.C. Penney has just announced a new pricing policy that in essence slashes prices by about 40 percent and sets a regular schedule for sales. What a relief, I thought. Now I won’t get a mailbox fill of those annoying fliers announcing discounts, which usually arrived a day after the sale took place.
Will this new strategy lure more shoppers to J.C. Penney stores? Only time will tell.
But J.C. Penney’s new tactic also got me thinking about feesthe fees advisors charge for their services when selling financial products like annuities and life insurance as well as the fees included in products such as variable annuities.
Are those charges too high? Many commentators think so and warn against buying variable annuities for just that reason. Further, a sputtering economy has left many people with barely enough to buy basic necessities, let alone exotic financial products like annuities. So would lowering fees make them more palatable to the general public? If advisors lowered their charges, would they attract more middle-market retirees and pre-retirees?
LifeHealthPro.com and Senior Market Advisor recently did a survey of advisors. One of the questions put to the participants was whether they had changed their payment model (i.e., lowered fees, commissions) to bring in more clients. An overwhelming 88 percent said they had not.
Said one respondent: “Discounting your rates devalues you and the services you provide. I am worth what I am paid.”
Yet other comments hinted that commissions are being lowered by carriers: “Commissions are set by the carriers. They’ve been lowering them without any help on my part.”
Obviously, everyone wants to buy a product or service for the lowest possible price. Are fees for financial products like annuities too high? It depends on who’s buying and what they are actually purchasing. Each of us has our own mental threshold for what we will pay for a good or service.
We know in a general sense what certain items will cost us. We know a Lexus is going to cost a whole lot more than a Ford Focus. We know that before we make a decision as to which one we want to buy. When we sell our home, we know the realtor is going to get a percentage of the selling price.