Good journalism not only educates and informs, it challenges the reader to rethink previously held beliefs. The best journalism leads the reader to change their behavior, based on insights from wise people who’ve done their research and connected the dots between facts that aren’t immediately obvious.
Many pieces in this issue of Investment Advisor meet those prerequisites, I’d argue, but three in particular stand out: Ben Warwick’s cover story, Olivia Mellan’s feature and Mark Tibergien’s column on older advisors.
As is an editor’s standard practice, I assigned the story on alternatives investing to Warwick based on what I considered an interesting angle: Some studies I’d seen suggested that even sophisticated HNW investors still didn’t understand what alternatives were. He had a few ideas of his own based on his personal insights and experiences. Then he talked to a number of advisors, and the story took a different turn. In the journalism business we have a saying that you should always “let the reporting lead you.” That is, you may have what you think is a good angle for a story, a good thesis, but you have to test that thesis by doing research, including talking to experts in the field. The experts in this case are your peers, who shared how they evaluate and use alternatives for clients; Warwick will be writing more on how and why advisors use alts for clients during August on ThinkAdvisor.com.
I also asked Mellan and her partner-in-writing Sherry Christie to arrange interviews with Katty Kay and Claire Shipman for another feature. I read the two high-profile journalists’ cover story in The Atlantic on women and confidence and thought they might be able to add to the growing body of knowledge on women as clients and advisors. Mellan and Christie delivered, exploring not just what’s behind women’s curious lack of confidence but how it can be fixed.
As for Tibergien, he wrote in his monthly column that he’s hearing about many “60- and 70-year-olds who are struggling with the question of when and how to exit” their advisory firms. Their reasons for “dithering” may be valid, he admitted, but he wrote that those arguments “seem out of harmony with the way most advisors live their lives and serve their clients. By dint of their profession, advisors often challenge others to face reality and make hard decisions.” If you are one of those advisors, are you challenging yourself in the same way you challenge your clients?
I promised three really good stories, but here’s a bonus. In July, I spent several hours poring over a June 2014 report from the Census Bureau, “65+ in the United States: 2010,” which turned into a news story on ThinkAdvisor.com. I think every advisor should read the report to understand better their current retirement age clients and their future ones. Here are some of the surprising findings.
- Since 2000, the percentage of the older population using the Internet rose from 14.3% to 44.8%, and the Internet usage gap between the young and old continues to shrink. Oh, and 40% of these “older” people are doing their banking online.
- Over the past 50 years, there’s been a sharp decline in the percentage of both men and women over 65 who were widowed. A major reason is the significant rise in divorce among the younger old, those aged 65–74.
- Finally, the “older dependency ratio”—that of the over-65 population to that of the working population aged 20–64—will continue to increase over the next 20 years at least, meaning there will be fewer workers to support the retired.
I’d argue that these three pieces of data alone will affect how you plan for, and understand, your current and future clients. Remember to thank the Founding Fathers for deciding to do a census every 10 years.