A cold shoulder (Image: Thinkstock)

If clients ages 50 and older are backing away from you, you could start by checking your body odor.

The next thing to check might be whether you know much about strategies for collecting Social Security benefits.

(Related: The Math of Medicare Enrollment Delay Option for Working Clients)

Nationwide recently released survey data suggesting that the ability to counsel clients about Social Security may be a major factor in determining whether financial professionals keep, or lose, clients nearing retirement age.

The Nationwide Survey

A research unit affiliated with Nationwide has posted data on clients’ views of Social Security benefits claiming advice in a summary of results from a new online survey of 1,315 U.S. adults ages 50 and older. About half of the participants were classified as “affluent,” meaning that they had $250,000 or more in investable assets.

Some of the participants had been retired 10 or more years, some were more recent retirees, and some were still working.

The Data

The survey team found gaps in Social Security benefits knowledge: about a quarter, for example, said their Social Security payment has turned out to be lower than they had expected.

Only about 8% said their Social Security payments have been turned out to be more than expected.

Roughly one-third of the survey participants are working with some kind of financial professional.

For financial professionals, the key takeaway may be this: interest in Social Security benefits claiming strategies could put their current clients in play, without warning.

  • 37% of the near retirees with financial advisors said their advisors have provided advice about Social Security.
  • 34% of the advised clients expect to get information from their advisors about Social Security claiming strategies.
  • 76% of the advised near retirees said they are somewhat or extremely likely to switch financial professionals to maximize Social Security benefits.

What This Means for Financial Professionals

Tina Ambrozy, president of financial distribution at Nationwide, said in an interview in New York that she thinks many advisors’ slowness to start conversations about  Social Security benefits represents a missed income planning opportunity.

“Social Security income is part of that overall conversation,” Ambrozy said.

In some cases, she said, consumers may start taking Social Security benefits early, or make plans to do so, without understanding that taking benefits early will reduce their monthly Social Security benefits payments for their entire lives.

“Folks need to work with an advisor earlier,” Ambrozy said.

What This Means for Financial Services Companies and Distributors

Nationwide itself sees Social Security benefits analysis as a topic it can use to get financial professionals’ attention.

The company has created a Social Security 360 Analyzer tool that financial advisors can use to help clients understand their benefits filing options. The tool compares the results from various filing strategies, with a look at cash flows and possible income gaps.

The company has created separate pathways for appointed advisors and non-appointed advisors.

A non-appointed advisor can create a test account by providing a full name, a state, a firm name and an email address.

Resources

The Nationwide Social Security 360 Analyzer advisor signup page is available here.

— Read Medicare Posts $1.6 Billion Loss, on ThinkAdvisor.

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