Pricing decisions can be a super-challenging aspect of running an independent advisory — especially, it seems, for female advisors, notable for underpricing their services. For certified financial planner Dana Anspach, the choice was clear: Either raise prices or go out of business.
When she did increase them five years ago, one of her planners began to weep: “She was sure we’d never get clients again. But this has been nothing but positive and made a huge difference. We’ve experienced substantial growth,” Anspach tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.
A specialist in helping pre-retirees and retirees, the 25-year industry veteran, 49, credits her success in large part to a process she created centered on three client “retirement readiness tests.” She explains them in the interview.
Anspach’s RIA, Sensible Money, is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she and her team of six planners manage $250 million in assets for clients 55 and older in 26 states.
A number of them have transferred their accounts from large firms such as Wells Fargo and JPMorgan; other Anspach clients were employed by Fidelity before retiring.
She herself is no fan of wirehouse ways. As an FA with Merrill Lynch, she was dismayed to find it “a culture of sales.” That didn’t sync with her approach, and she exited the firm after only 2 1/2 years.
Armed with a bachelor of science in marketing from the University of Florida, she used her promotion and advertising savvy to help build a practice. That included coming up with a catchy slogan, “Start Squeezin’” — which she discusses in the interview — and displaying her retirement planning expertise on the internet by writing articles for About.com and MarketWatch, among others.
Then she authored a couple of books: “Control Your Retirement Destiny” (2nd edition-2016) and “Social Security Sense” (2016).
Early next year, The Great Courses will release her latest production, an audio-video-print course in “How to Plan the Perfect Retirement.”
Amid the pandemic, much of Anspach’s advice to clients is to stop focusing on “the here and now” — market volatility and coronavirus — and instead, look ahead five to 10 years by following the long-term financial plan she’d crafted for them.
The investment advisor, who holds the Retirement Management Advisor designation, started out in 1995 as a trainee with Waddell and Reed. Later, after leaving Merrill Lynch, she joined a CPA firm, within which she began building a financial advisory practice.
After five years, she bought the practice and merged it with another firm. In 2011, she went solo with Sensible Money.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed the Iowa-born Anspach, who was on the phone from Scottsdale. She talked about what retirees really want from their advisors and revealed a few of her favorite advertising outlets, such as Kiplinger.com and Facebook, which serve to funnel prospects to her website. The four to six retirement planning webinars she holds every year attract lots of FAs in addition to clients and prospects.
Here are highlights of our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: As a woman advisor in male-dominated financial services, have you met any resistance?
DANA ANSPACH: I haven’t experienced that. The only challenge I’ve encountered is a common one with women: They underprice their services. We realized that we either had to increase our pricing or we wouldn’t be profitable and would go out of business.
How did you proceed?
In around 2014, we did an analysis and found that we were significantly underpricing relative to other firms that specialize in retirement income planning and relative to the time it takes for tax planning. So in 2015, I said we would fairly price the way any other firm would.
Did you get pushback about the higher pricing?
No. But one of our advisors started crying when we announced our pricing change. She was sure we’d never get clients again. Instead, we’ve acquired higher quality clients and higher net worth clients. This has been nothing but positive for us. It’s made a huge difference. We’ve experienced substantial growth.
During the coronavirus pandemic, what’s the hardest thing about investing for your clients to get their heads around?
People have this overwhelming sense that this time is different and that they can decide what direction the market is going in. They think they need to do something with their money to protect it, like change their allocation or go to cash. They want to protect against a second decline or the upcoming election or a prolonged depression.
How does that strike you?
Well, if they’re sure the market is going back down and want to move to cash, that’s a bet versus following a long-term plan.
So what do you tell them?
Our underlying approach is that you shouldn’t change your investment allocation unless your goals and cash-flow needs have substantially changed. So we get people out of the here-and-now and to think instead in terms of five or 10 years out.
How do you do that?