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Life Health > Annuities > Fixed Annuities

Are Your Clients as Comfortable With Risk as You Are?

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What You Need to Know

  • You know the market has its ups, and its downs.
  • Some clients cannot live with the downs.
  • You have a path to choose.

In the 2009-2010 NFC Championship Game, the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints were tied 28-28 late in the fourth quarter, with the Vikings close to field goal range. Vikings quarterback Brett Favre took the snap, rolled to his right, and saw about 30 yards of open field in front of him. Even though he had injured his leg in the third quarter, all Favre had to do was lurch forward for 10 yards, fall down, and have a first-and-10 inside field goal range.

Instead, Favre reverted to what has made him a legendary hero (and sometimes a goat) many times in his Hall of Fame career. He planted his foot and threw cross-field where Tracy Porter intercepted him at the 22-yard line. At that moment, Minnesota’s fine season, Favre’s great comeback, and Vikings fans’ hope for a Super Bowl were thrown away. The Saints ran out the clock and kicked a field goal on the first possession of overtime.

What happened? In a pressure situation, with everything on the line, instead of making the high percentage play, a superstar did what felt familiar and comfortable — not what was safe.

You see the analogy coming. Quarterbacking a football team and managing a client’s portfolio are wildly different activities. It is doubtful that we will ever achieve a “Brett Favre” status within our profession. Yet, a failure on our part to “read the field” could be more devastating to a family than the shock and disappointment felt by the players, coaches, and fans after that heart-breaking loss.

It is common in our profession to tell our clients that we will be their “quarterback.” If that’s the picture we are using for them, we must remember they are the head coach and team owner.

We have moments in our practices when our clients tell us they cannot handle any more risk (take the first down!). They say they do not want to lose another dime (just get me into a good field position!). It does not make any difference if you are convinced you can choose the stocks, funds, IPOs, REITs, or whatever will right their portfolio and make you look like a hero. Our clients may not be ready to take that step with you

During that game, there were millions of people watching. Some of those people were former NFL players. Some were Hall of Famers. Some were even Hall of Fame quarterbacks. But, when Favre planted his foot, there was no one on the planet more comfortable than he was. A lifetime of training, conditioning, practice, big games — even Super Bowls, had prepared him for that throw. It was the most comfortable thing in the world until Tracy Porter.

Our “team owners” know you have knowledge and experience they don’t have. But they made the money they have entrusted to you and are far less willing to accept the risks we consider common. The disappointment they have over a lost opportunity while “going for field position” will be nothing compared to the fury they feel if you try to “force a throw” they did not want you to make in the first place.

In plain English, our clients will never be comfortable with risk unless they understand the extent of that risk. Their comfort is the only one that matters.


Stephen Dybwad (Credit: Bill Broich)Stephen Dybwad is a retirement planner based in Nineveh, Indiana. He’s also the host of the Steve Dybwad Safe Money Radio Show.