Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

Whenever I meet someone…

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I always ask my prospects and clients lots of questions when I meet with them. It quickly brings into focus the things we need to discuss.

One of my favorite questions to ask everyone is, “Can you win by not losing?” I don’t let them answer. I continue, “Before you answer, may I ask you another question? Did you lose some money during the last downturns?” 

 “Some money” is the important way to phrase that question. Why? Because it is a general enough question that people will answer it. It isn’t too personal; it isn’t too specific. People won’t get defensive. If you ask, “How much did you lose?” or “Have you been unsuccessful at saving for retirement?” then they become defensive. Now you have an adversarial relationship. That is certainly not your goal.

I bet when I have asked that question 5,000 times, 4,950 times the person answered, “Yes, I did lose some money.” I then ask, “Would you like to know strategies that will prevent you from losing money ever again?” Of course, they always say yes.

I continue with my prospect by asking, “May I share something with you?” I always ask for permission. This gets them invested. They keep saying yes.

Tell a story

I tell them this story: “If you had $100,000 in the stock market in September of 2007, when the Dow Jones was at its highest, and then lost 50 percent by March of 2009, your $100,000 was worth only $50,000. Since then, the stock has recovered by about 90 percent. Ninety percent of $50,000 is $45,000, so you are back to $95,000 five years later.” 

Statistics verify this example. Our country’s net worth was $66 trillion in 2007. It fell to $49 trillion in the first quarter of 2009. It is currently $62.9 trillion. So the time value of that money has been lost for almost five years.

At this point, most agents and financial professionals make their biggest mistake. They assume that the prospect or client understands what you just talked about. This is where the sale is lost. We assume they know how bad that is. We assume they know about time value of money. They do not. Instead, they are thinking that they have dodged a bullet.

Build financial foundations

Then I ask, “Do you know that if you had given me that $100,000 in September of 2007 and we earned only 3 percent per year, you would have now had almost $116,000. Which would you rather have?” I ask them, “Can the $95,000 lose value again? Do you realize mine will be worth over $119,000 one year from now?”

We must build financial foundations based on guarantees for our clients. So ask a few great questions and watch your sales soar.

Help your clients understand the time value of money.

Van Mueller, LUTCF, ( is an insurance agent, professional writer and speaker and Senior Market Advisor’s 2010 Advisor of the year. Responses and questions can be sent to [email protected]