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3 Communication Secrets From the 'Bucket Plan' Man

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Jason L. Smith, a financial professional trainer, has come out with a new book for consumers about the hot financial topic of the 2010s: income planning.

Smith, the chairman of Prosperity Capital Advisors, a Westlake, Ohio-based registered investment advisory firm, and Clarity2Prosperity, a is marketing The Bucket Plan: Protecting and Growing Your Assets for a Worry-Free Retirement.

The book outlines Smith’s approach to generating retirement income and protecting assets during retirement.

(Related: Annuities As an RMD Answer: Navigating Potential Pitfalls)

Smith has trademarked the term “Bucket Plan” to describe that strategy. You’ll have to talk to him before using that term in your own work.

But financial professionals who sell life insurance, annuities and other financial services products can learn something about how he tries to help consumers understand financial risk, and organize their thinking about financial risk.

Here are three takeaways about the Smith approach to explaining financial risk.

1. He creates a picture based on buckets.

Smith uses a cartoon to show consumer readers how to create one bucket for safe and liquid assets, a second for conservative assets that produce income, and a third for assets that can produce long-term growth and, possibly, create a legacy for heirs.

Of course, these buckets happen to coincide with assets that you might hope prime prospects come in with, or that you want to sell: cash in the bank; bonds and fixed annuities; and stocks, mutual funds, variable annuities, and assets such as real estate.

You might want to talk to your favorite intellectual property attorney before giving your own clients pictures of financial buckets, but maybe you could follow in his footsteps by using pictures of file folders, bowls or plates.

2. He names names.

One of the big problems with making financial services writing clear is that the English language is bad at handling big, poorly defined groups of people.

Once a writer starts talking about “retirement savers” as a class, or “consumers as a class,” the writer will get into a brutal fight with grammar problems, sexism and verbiosity.

Smith cuts through many writing knots by aiming his advice at two specific hypothetical clients: Jerry and Irene.

3. He includes pictures.

Another source of confusion in financial advice writing is trying to describe how this or that decision might affect financial asset inventories, or taxes.

Smith gets around that obstacle by including pictures of Jerry and Irene’s asset list worksheets and tax forms.

He doesn’t just say what their taxable interest might be; he shows what the taxable interest blank on their Form 1040 might look like before and after they take his advice.

— Read Brigitte Madrian’s Power of Suggestion — and How It Improved Retirement on ThinkAdvisor.

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