Have you noticed? The baby boom kids, a.k.a. the “me generation,” have aged into Botox-shot sexagenarians with bad backs and bum knees.
But to most boomers, chronological age is just a number and retirement is strictly for the elderly, a life stage with which they do not yet identify.
So what’s a retirement planning advisor to do?
Seek out these potential clients because they need all the financial advice they can get. Myriad challenges and questions face older adults when it comes to the reality of retirement—even if that now means working part-time, developing a second career or volunteering for the Peace Corps.
To be sure, seniors are postponing retirement—largely because of the slow economy and lower investment earnings—and are fearful their money won’t last through old age. Advisors need to help boomers with decisions like when to begin claiming Social Security benefits, when to stop working and the best investments to meet their goals.
How to prospect for retirement accounts? Read how five smart financial advisors are using powerful techniques to acquire new clients they’re guiding to comfortable retirements.
Bill Krebs, senior vice president-investments and branch manager; Piedmont Wealth Advisors of Raymond James; Greensboro, N.C.; practice’s AUM: about $160 million
“You need to come out of the rain! There are other ways to grow your book,” Bill Krebs recently told a young wirehouse FA making 500 cold calls a day.
Krebs was alluding to LinkedIn—and he has become a grand master at leveraging it. The advisor, 60, is so passionate about LinkedIn that he even coaches clients and center-of-influence CPAs and attorneys on how to use the social media service to maximum effect.
“It’s a gift to advisors. If you’re not doing anything on LinkedIn, you’re missing the boat,” says Krebs, who left Merrill Lynch two years ago to join Raymond James.
Four years into using the service, the FA, who has about 600 connections, generates a third of new clients via LinkedIn.
“It acts as a relationship accelerator and creates a bridge of trust,” he says.
Krebs searches primarily for prospects with whom he shares a common background, such as “military officer,” “Eagle Scout” or “business owner.” With a premium feature, he’s alerted whenever a new executive joins a large local company. Such folks, in transition, present a prime opportunity.
One prospect-turned-client, for instance, was invested in three different 401(k) plans. “He’d been at multiple companies and needed to consolidate to get his act together before retiring,” Krebs recalls.
Once armed with information collected on LinkedIn, the advisor connects with people—either directly or through a mutual LinkedIn contact—that he perceives to be close to retirement. “Invariably,” he says, “I’ll get a face-to-face meeting.”
Coaching accountant and attorney colleagues has brought significant referrals. Recently Krebs sent a copy of LinkedIn for Dummies to a lawyer client who’d been laid off. Then he showed him, one-on-one, how to use the service. “I’m helping people expand their business,” Krebs says. “They see me as a trusted advisor.”
Lisa Kent, senior vice president-investments, wealth management advisor; The Kent Team; Bank of America-Merrill Lynch; Princeton, N.J.; AUM: $250 million ($277 million, team total)
Though she insists the way to a prospect’s heart is not through his or her stomach, Lisa Kent always serves a luscious chocolate fondue at her small prospecting events. In the center of the table, the communal dessert—with fruit and cake for dipping—is a conversational touchstone.
“It’s not about the food—we’re selling knowledge. But fondue is fun. That’s when we have a Q&A and people let their hair down. It fosters communication and the best opportunity for sharing,” the retirement specialist says.
Kent, 55, has been conducting seminars all of her 32 years with Merrill Lynch, as long as she’s been an advisor. For the last five, retirement events have been her main source of new clients. She holds six large seminars annually, which are open to the public, and eight small gatherings for existing clients and their guests.
At a time when many advisors have lost faith in the seminar approach, Kent is clearly proving it can work. She owes her success partly to running numerous events each year and a finely tuned process.
The FA puts major emphasis on follow-up, especially a “Seminar Response Sheet” on which attendees pose investment questions. Contact information and all the rest go into her database; out go invites to future seminars and her quarterly newsletter.
Right after each seminar, the team follows up with a phone call. “You can’t expect [attendees] to call you,” Kent says. “That’s maybe why some folks have less success with seminars. I tell people, ‘Please expect to hear from us within the next 48 hours to set up a mutually convenient meeting.’ So I go in with the assumption that if they come and I’ve bought them dinner, they’ll sit down with me. If they don’t become clients, at least they’ll have a warm, fuzzy feeling about Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.”
A person-to-person tack works best for engaging retirement clients, she says. “My experience has been that with baby boomers, making eye contact is very important.”
Dana Anspach, principal; Sensible Money; Scottsdale, Ariz.; AUM: about $55 million; hourly fee $100-$200
Dana Anspach’s prospecting strategy is two-pronged: passive and aggressive.
Aggressively approaching online publications is what the retirement specialist, 42, did to land a pair of notable writing perches: “RetireMentor” on the Wall Street Journal‘s MarketWatch and “Money Over 55” guide on About.com.