Cats or dogs? Conservative or Liberal? Investments or annuities? What is it about us that causes otherwise reasonable people to take a position on an extreme? When did it become so difficult for us to use the word: and? Is it possible that the reason the answer is so challenging is because we are asking the wrong question? Is it possible that the answer is annuities AND investments?
Whether choosing a pet, a political party, or an advisory model, the decisions we make will have material effects on our actions and outcomes. Our clients deserve us taking the extra time to ask some tough questions.
In the case of financial products, dually licensed advisors appear to have been able to cross the either/or chasm, that place where absolutes gasp for air and extremists dare not reside. For those who have done their research and have invested the time into truly understanding the attributes of both risk-based investments and guaranteed annuities, it is a rich and fertile land where sound and flexible retirement plans win the hearts and minds of discerning clients. But why is it so rare to find an advisor who truly embraces both product categories wholeheartedly?
Of course there is no single, easy answer. Allow me to highlight three reasons why the advisor community may be so polarized.
1. One approach is to simply follow the money. Which pays the advisor the highest fee, investments or annuities? That must be why he is selling that product or strategy versus the other, right? As René Descartes theorized centuries ago: “Man is incapable of understanding any argument that interferes with his revenue.” Thus, an advisor who is paid by his firm to sell stocks will sell them with vigor and close his mind to seemingly-competing options (like annuities) that do not support his revenue model and advancement. Likewise, an annuity salesperson is held to a premium production standard that may cause her to argue that stocks are too risky and should be avoided at all costs.
Can it really be that simple? After all, an argument that annuities earn huge commissions for the advisors who offer them fails to note that it is generally a one-time fee, a single harvest. The same assets placed into a fee-based investment portfolio will pay a smaller annual fee, but will pay it to the advisor year after year. Certainly, there must be more to the story than simply following the money then.