How to Plan for the Transition of Our Financial Caretaking
For seniors, arranging to entrust financial affairs to someone else is an important part of preparing for old age. Once you have chosen a surrogate and dealt with some of the details laid out in last week's column, one question remains. How will the transition occur?
Here are some suggestions, based on the work of Carolyn McClanahan, MD, CFP.
A good first step is to simplify your finances. For example, consolidate checking, savings, and retirement accounts. Reduce check-writing by using credit cards wherever possible and paying off the balances every month. Reduce credit cards to three: one to use in public, one only for automatic bill paying, and one for other online purchases. Not only does this simplify record-keeping, but it minimizes the disruption when one is stolen (Believe me, it happens. It's happened to me several times.) As McClanahan points out, "The easier it is, the longer independence can be maintained."
Your surrogate needs to know about all your assets. Not only does this include common liquid assets like bank accounts and securities held in taxable and retirement accounts, it also means more obscure liquid assets. Some examples include variable and fixed annuities, structured notes, collectibles, mineral rights, and cash value life insurance.
3. Provide access.
It’s helpful to have the person who will take control of your finances begin by periodically monitoring your accounts. This will require them to have access to your financial records. If your affairs are relatively simple and your surrogate is local, you can authorize them to access your accounts and receive statements. Another good way to share information, especially if your surrogate lives at a distance, is through a secure online access site where you can share relevant and up-to-date information. Almost every financial planner offers a "client portal," and so do popular sites like Dropbox and Sharefile.
McClanahan recommends that your surrogate start with just observing the monthly financial activities. This can mean receiving duplicates of the bills or periodically logging into investment sites. Alerts could be set on various accounts if spending exceeds a certain limit. There are several money management sites, like quicken.com and mint.com, that can also give a surrogate online access to monthly statements and spending alerts.
The activity of the surrogate can eventually be increased to attending annual meetings with your insurance agent, investment adviser, attorney, and accountant. If you have a financial advisor, it would be helpful to bring your surrogate into your quarterly or annual updates. This way the surrogate can begin to build a relationship with the advisor, which will greatly smooth the transition to the surrogate working conjointly with the advisor in making all your investment decisions.
The surrogate can gradually begin to assist with the monthly bill paying. Eventually, this would culminate in the person taking over all financial decision-making and responsibilities like purchases, bill paying, taxes, and investment decisions.
6. Monitor the surrogate.
Having a system of checks and balances by appointing someone to monitor the surrogate may help you be more comfortable allowing a surrogate to take over your finances. The monitor might be another family member. It might also be your attorney, accountant, or financial planner, whose fiduciary responsibility would be to you.
Planning for the transition of our financial caretaking is one more aspect of preparing for old age that we are reluctant to even think about. Yet without it, we must eventually accept options imposed on us by family or the court. This planning is crucial in order to take care of yourself and your finances in the ways you choose.
Capturing the Attention of Millennials: Be Relevant and Digital
I know Gen Y are stereotyped as being transient, digital natives who are impossible to capture, but that is just the world we live in today. Technology has caused a proliferation of advancements and the financial services industry is (or should be) feeling the pressure. We have seen the rise of the robos, fee compression, virtual advisors, and various regulatory changes, all culminating to challenge financial advisors to find ways to cut through the noise to demonstrate their value.
Developing an effective marketing and lead generation process that’s tailored to millennials is vital for two key reasons:
- It’s the only way you’re ever going to capture their attention
- It’s the only way your business can remain profitable serving this demographic
Let’s be honest; there is a bit of an over-hype and obsession with millennials right now (don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously a fan). Nearly every business is starting to ask itself, “How do we capture this next generation?” And they’re spending tons of time and resources devoted to this one demographic. So think about all the different emails, social media and digital advertising you’re competing with, even beyond just the financial services industry. Whatever you put out there will have to be niche to their needs in order to capture their attention – and will have to feel authentic if you want to build enough trust to get them to engage.
As you begin to assess your ability (or desire) to serve younger investors, the question about profitability will inevitably come up. The traditional marketing advisors do today for their HNW investors is just not an effective or profitable way to target millennials. No COIs, business networking, client events, newsletters – that takes up way too much of your time. Instead, you should take a more scalable approach using digital marketing and messaging that actually resonates with your intended target market. Serving millennials should not be a loss leader; that’s exactly why segmenting and tailoring your marketing will be vital with this demographic.
Bringing it back to our friends Marg, Chip and Drew
In order to assess what type of marketing will effectively capture the attention of our three millennial personas, we need to answer these questions:
- What are their aspirations?
- What are their problems?
- When is the best time (in their lives) to capture their attention?
Marg seems to be more reactive and short-sighted, only seeking advice when there’s a triggering event causing her stress. Chip and Drew tend to have relatively similar characteristics, which you’ll notice quite a bit throughout our research. Aside from income, assets and debt levels, Chip and Drew tend to have the same needs and preferences. This means that you can take a relatively similar marketing approach in terms of messaging, but you’ll need a slightly different approach for each party later on, when we get into fees and service models.
Chip and Drew tend to be a little more financially mature than Marg; they look at longer-term goals and aspirations. The only exception would be that, when it comes to how these three define financial success, they all answered, “Having enough savings to retire when I want” as their top choice.
With the goal of tailoring your marketing messaging and approach to effectively engage these different segments, here are our recommended approaches.
Marketing to Marg
Topical blog posts and social media are the way to go. Even though Marg might not be ready for or in need of your professional advice quite yet, you can still find scalable, automated ways to prospect her (with the long-term goal of eventually capturing her once she becomes more like Chip and Drew). The key is to identify those triggers that cause Marg to seek help and find a way to insert yourself into the picture through digital marketing.
Writing a blog with topical posts that address key questions or issues that Marg might Google or research in her time of need is a great starting point. Think of blog titles like: A 5-Step Guide to Building a Budget, What to Do When You Have Credit Card Debt, and How to Improve Your Credit Score. Even though blogging might feel like it takes a lot of initial effort putting together the content, once it’s written, it can be leveraged in so many ways that you can actually realize a return on that investment of your time.
One blog post can be broken down into 10-20 different social media posts, posted on many different social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), and can be used for months after the blog goes live. And, over time, that content will accumulate and improve your website’s visibility in search engines (that’s search engine optimization) to increase visitors and visits from people like Marg.
Marketing to Chip and Drew
Build a targeted marketing campaign focused on life event planning. Retirement is still a very important issue when it comes to emerging wealth prospects like Chip and Drew. Not only do they define financial success as the ability to retire when they want, they also cite retirement planning as the top financial issue they want more help with. However, big life events are the key trigger for Chip and Drew to take action on their finances. And so the key to capturing these millennials is by striking at the peak of their interest – when these life events happen.
But before you can market messaging and content specifically focused on life events like marriage, first-home purchase, first child, and change of career, you have to first address any potential branding issues. If you’re serious about wanting to engage this group, your brand and website cannot be hyper-focused on traditional financial advisor themes like retirement, investing and wealth management. Expand your current brand or create a separate brand geared to this demographic that focuses on financial planning for life events (which can still include retirement as one key component). Then build topical messaging and content that plays to each life event, like “3 Financial Musts After Having Your First Child.”
If you’re fully committed, you could even take it a step further by implementing marketing that specifically targets millennials going through specific life events. For example, you could pay to promote social media posts or ads that only target millennials between the ages of 28-30, the average age most millennials are getting married . Maybe you purchase ads on blogs or other websites like The Knot for newlyweds or The Bump for new parents. You could also identify social influencers who blog or speak about life events and other topics affecting your target market and look for cross-promotional opportunities. The more targeted your marketing and content, the more likely you are to cut through the noise and capture millennial attention.
This brings me to a key point
Marg, Chip and Drew are not niches; they are merely personas representing 3 key segments within the millennial cohort. However, niche marketing is a very powerful tool that should not be overlooked when discussing effective ways to market to Gen Y. The more niche your content and targeted your advertising approach, the more effective your marketing will become in grabbing their attention. Case in point: A 33-year-old dentist is much more likely to click on something titled “Dos and Don’ts of Tackling Debt from Dentistry School” than a generic title like “Dos and Don’ts of Tackling Student Loans.” You want millennials to feel your content to is talking specifically to them – and that you’re a resource who understands the needs and issues of people just like them.
To those advisors who still aren’t really interested in serving millennials, but are using this series as an opportunity to review industry trends – this niche thing is not just for millennials; it can be an effective marketing tactic to use with all generations of all ages. There are so many changes going on right now in financial services that can confusion among investors and muddle your value proposition as a financial advisor. Recent technical innovation has caused a proliferation of many different business models in our industry. You’ve always competed with DIY platforms, but now (whether you like it or not), you’re being compared to robo and virtual advisors who likely spend a lot more on digital marketing and targeting than your traditional advisor. That’s why niche marketing can play a key role in helping you to cut through this noise and grab the attention of potential prospects (no matter what age they might be).
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