What worries financial advisors the most? It’s not a seesaw stock market that can lift a retirement account one minute or devastate it the next. It’s not talk about new industry regulation that may very well impact their licensing requirements and how they conduct business.
Those concerns are present, to be sure. In Senior Market Advisor’s 2013 Advisor Survey, the economy (26 percent) and industry legislation (20 percent) ranked in the top three headaches that leave advisors counting sheep at night. (Lead generation was sandwiched in the middle at 25 percent.)
Yet when Senior Market Advisor reached out to a trio of advisors who took the survey to learn more about the daily trevails they face, we found their concerns were far from the halls of Capitol Hill or the hustle and bustle of Wall Street. Instead, their challenge is on a more personal, Main Street level: getting clients to meet with them, gaining their trust and then constructing a financial plan that will see them through retirement.
“A good dilemma”
Stefanos Loisou, principal of Financial Strategies for Life in Middleton, Mass. and Port Charlotte, Fla., says the industry has millions of potential clients who need the financial planning services advisors can provide. Doesn’t sound like a problem, right?
It is when you consider the difficulty of trying to reach all those prospects with that message. “That is a dilemma,” he says. “It’s a good dilemma, but it’s a dilemma.”
For his part, Loisou hosts a radio program on financial issues and conducts workshops. Yet he maintains the financial advisory industry as a whole must do a better job of relating what it has to offer to the general public, that it can provide an antidote to their greatest fear — outliving their income in retirement. “We can’t help them with their health, although we can remove a little bit of stress if we provide more financial security,” he says. “We have in our industry the unique strategies and platforms that, in fact, provide that guaranteed paycheck in retirement, that income they can never outlive.”
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So, once you get those prospects through your door, what’s the next step? Anthony A. Saccaro, ChFC, financial planner at Providence Financial & Insurance Services Inc., in Woodland Hills, Calif., says it’s “gaining trust from clients.” Not an easy task when they are bombarded with negative press about a few bad-apple advisors. Because of that, prospects and clients “are very leery of making any changes. Overcoming that is probably the biggest challenge.”
It can be done by building a brand-name in the community, Saccaro says. He does this through writing articles and getting quoted in publications like Forbes. That way, potential clients can see “you are not a fly by night,” he says.
Having a good reputation within the public means prospects seek you out, not the other way around, Saccaro says. “Everything that we do is designed to attract clients, not chase clients. When we do brand awareness and when people realize who we are, we get a lot of unsolicited referrals.”
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“They have to have a plan”
Then comes the hard part, the painstaking work of mapping out a financial plan that guides them from their working lives to a comfortable retirement. That’s become even more of a challenge nowadays, as thousands of baby boomers are on the verge of entering their golden years, says James R. Veal, CEO and founder of JRV Wealth Management Group, LLC, in Philadelphia.
A number of clients he counsels harbor an unrealistic goal of when they can retire, Veal says. They may think they can retire at 62 as their parents and grandparents did, but for some, that may not be possible. Working beyond age 62 has become a real possibility for a vast number of baby boomers.
Therefore, Veal sits with every client to get a picture of his or her current financial status, in order to approximate when the client can actually retire. How much is in the 401(k)? Are there adequate savings? Will Social Security be enough?
“They have to have a plan,” he says. “I need to know exactly where you are now and where you are going to be in the future.” Many clients may not have had those conversations with an advisor, he says.
“And a lot of times in our business, we concentrate more on asset gathering,” Veal says. “But we really have to look at the preservation and distribution of income as well. That, I believe, right now is the biggest challenge — making sure our clients retire at a comfortable level.”