Most financial professionals specialize in financial, retirement, insurance, and estate planning. In doing so, they usually utilize a holistic planning process designed to review and optimize all areas of a client’s financial needs.
However, studies reveal that the most “successful” financial professionals choose to specialize in a particular niche. In other words, they focus the majority of time, energy, and resources on a target market, with the goal of establishing themselves as the “go-to” expert for a particular product or service.
Some of the most common niches in our industry are wealth and investment management; life, disability, and/or long-term care insurance; retirement planning; and estate and legacy planning
How to find your end of life planning niche
Ask your client: “Have you adequately prepared yourself and your family for your eventual death?”
This may be an unpleasant question, but nonetheless it is one you and your client should be able to answer. The reason why is because one day, we will all die. Death is something we cannot predict, postpone, or avoid. I once heard someone say, “God promises us eternity, but He never promises us tomorrow.”
Every financial services professional knows for certain their clients are guaranteed to face this extremely difficult situation, either directly or indirectly, at some point in their future. We also know this guaranteed event is accompanied by extremely difficult emotional and financial decisions.
If you think about it, nearly every person we know has either personally experienced a death; knows someone who has lost a loved one; or knows someone who died at an unexpected age or in an unexpected way, which nobody could have anticipated.
However, almost nobody we know can answer this question: “If a death had occurred in your family last night…what would you be doing right now?”
Every financial professional has a unique opportunity right now to serve an exponentially growing niche of individuals and families. Every day there are families who are seeking the professional services and guidance you can potentially offer. And by doing so, you can serve a niche that has little to no competition.
This unique opportunity will add value to clients and your practice, and allow you to become the credible, go-to professional that so many families are searching for.
The bad news is our industry has yet to offer the comprehensive training and education needed to become more comfortable, confident, and better equipped to professionally serve “the death conversation.” The good news is that I am fully confident this will change in the coming years. Soon, financial professionals will open up a world of opportunity as they gain access to the necessary training, tools and resources to help them step out of their comfort zone — and step into a new niche to serve more clients.
“The death conversation” is a good thing
A recent survey from The Washington Post revealed that more than 90 percent of people believe it is a good idea to have “the death conversation,” and also believe it is a good idea to document their final plans and preferences in advance. However, less than 10 percent have actually had this conversation, much less proactively started making any formalized end of life plan.
I have personally experienced the loss of a close loved one, so I fully understand why people don’t like to talk about death or dying, and I also understand why it is largely considered a taboo topic. In addition, I know some cultures consider this conversation to be unacceptable, offensive, bad karma, and even prohibited.
However, the large majority of Americans identify as Christians. Throughout the Bible there are countless Scriptures for Christians to learn and understand that our human life on earth is a brief and temporary home. We also learn through Scripture that, as a result of our faith and love for God, our human death is a transition from a life on earth to an eternal life with God. This eternal life with God will be filled with life, peace, rest, righteousness, love, and joy, all of which far surpasses our human knowledge and understanding.
Therefore, the death conversation for Christians should not be something that is uncomfortable or feared. Rather, talking about death should be something Christians not only accept, but also openly embrace and look forward to.
Why talking about death is trending
Mark my words: In the coming years “the death conversation” will be a standard and routine part of our job in this industry. In fact, just over the past several years, I have watched death talk grow into a much more common and acceptable topic.
Below are a few examples to support this explosive trend:
- The Social Security Administration is increasingly educating Americans and seniors about pre-planning and pre-funding funeral arrangements.
- Most long-term care facilities require advanced funeral and cemetery arrangements before allowing admission.
- Death Cafés and Death Dinner Parties are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. and other countries.
When you factor in the aging population of baby boomers, the advent of the Internet and the explosion of technology, the trend of talking about death is in the early stages of exponential growth curve.
Are you a “death planner”?
When you hear the words death planner you probably think of a funeral director. Most funeral directors will readily accept and acknowledge the fact that they are death planners.
On the contrary, most financial professionals would cringe at the thought of being referred to as a death planner. But, like it or not, many financial professionals are death planners. Some of the most common death-planning products and strategies in the financial services industry are life insurance, long-term care, and estate planning.
Life insurance is a product primarily designed to replace income in the event of an unexpected death. Long-term care insurance is a product primarily designed to help fund a person’s medical and non-medical needs for an extended period of time prior to death. Estate planning is a strategy primarily designed to provide the proper and timely distribution of personal and/or family wealth upon death.
When a financial services professional sells a term, whole life, or long-term care insurance policy, or an estate attorney creates a traditional will or living trust, the harsh reality is they are planning for death. In other words, the value offered from their professional products and services is accomplished by putting a plan in place for death.
The primary objective of these “death plans” is to minimize the significant emotional and financial damages and losses associated with death. Like it or not, many financial professionals are actually “death planners.”
It’s only too soon … until it’s too late
As you know by now I firmly believe the financial services industry needs to help us become trained, educated, and well-versed to assist our clients regarding the following four facts:
Death is a guaranteed event which we cannot predict, avoid or postpone.
When a death occurs, there are approximately 150 difficult decisions that need to be made within a 24-48 hour period.
Dying is expensive, and these costs will only grow over time. The average cost of a traditional funeral today is $15,000-$20,000.
When faced with planning a funeral, most families are largely unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and unprepared. Clearly this is not a good scenario for someone to make important emotional and financial decisions.
I cannot stress enough how important it is for every financial professional to begin to accept death, embrace “the death conversation” and start adding this unique and growing niche to you practice, all of which are guaranteed to help your clients and their families make a difficult situation easier.
It is time for change in our industry, and my prayer is that I help make a small contribution toward something that is so large and important.
I leave you with this important parting thought. The most common statement I hear when it comes to end of life planning is, “I don’t need to do this now. It’s too soon.” Well, I can assure you from my own personal experience and years of extensive work in the death care industry, it’s only too soon until it’s too late.