While the vast majority of financial advisors believe they should educate clients about how Social Security will factor into their retirement finances, many are uncertain about how they should go about doing this — and they don’t realize that such knowledge can be an entry point for new lead generation.
So says PlanMyBenefit.com President and co-founder Seth Stewart, who is in the business of training a nationwide network of financial advisors to become Social Security counselors. The advisor program, available through PlanMyBenefit’s sister site pmbplanner.com, offers five 30-minute online modules, approved for CE credits in some states, along with a “maximization” calculator and FINRA-reviewed marketing materials. A total of 123 FA firms and independents in 40 states currently are members, according to Stewart.
“Most Americans spend more time planning a vacation than they do in planning one of the largest financial decisions of their lives: when to elect Social Security,” Stewart said Tuesday in New York during an interview with ThinkAdvisor. “We spend a lot of time educating advisors. It’s a disservice to your clients not to coordinate benefits.”
Stewart (left) pointed to a November 2011 Financial Literacy Center working paper, prepared for the Social Security Administration, which finds that nearly nine out of 10 professional financial advisors believe that it is their role to educate clients about Social Security, even though only 22% describe themselves as very knowledgeable about the topic.
PMB members have access to the Jeffersonville, Ind.-based firm’s prospect origination program, offered on a “pay as you go” system as a supplement to the workshops or separately.
New leads are generated on a daily basis, and some potential clients have already completed a first appointment fact finder. “Unlike other lead programs, our prospects are requesting to meet with an advisor that understands Social Security,” according to PMB’s marketing materials.
The end result for clients is thousands of dollars in additional Social Security payments, said Stewart, who admits to waking up in the middle of the night thinking about ideas for coordinating retirement income planning strategies that include Social Security, 401(k)s, IRAs, pensions and personal savings.
“I’ve spent hours and hours on the ssa.gov site,” Stewart said. “By not coordinating Social Security benefits, advisors could be costing their clients more than $100,000 over a lifetime in some cases.”
Currently, he added, he is urging advisors to look into Roth conversions over the course of three to five years to maximize clients’ tax brackets. “Unless you think taxes will be reduced in the future, it’s a no-brainer to convert.”
Read law professors William Byrnes and Robert Bloink on Time Is Running Out for Social Security’s File and Suspend—Cash In Now at ThinkAdvisor.