3 Reasons Alternative Investments May Be Your New Key to Success in Changing Times
For some, recent headlines have been unwelcome harbingers of changing tides in the advisory business, many of which are rooted in the DOL fiduciary rule.
News has finally been trickling out about how the new rules will actually impact “business as usual” for commission-based firms, and major brokerages have announced huge policy changes as a result. Some are opting to maintain commissions for retirement accounts. Others are shifting to a 100% fee-based environment. Some are even taking commission IRAs off the menu completely and banning the use of mutual funds in IRAs altogether. Another fallout is that broker-dealers and product distributors are already dramatically reducing the numbers of products available to advisors, and some are eliminating all commission-based products.
It’s a radical transformation that’s bound to impact not only your business model and how you work with your clients—but also your ability to compete in a playing field where an unprecedented number of advisors are abandoning the stability of working for a large wirehouse and opening up shop as independent advisors. As the industry as we know it continues to shift, there are three big questions to answer: How can you adapt your business model to deliver solutions that support your clients’ needs; how can you set yourself apart from your competition; and, on top of it all, how can you ensure the profitability and sustainability of your practice?
The answers are not simple, and while there’s no single solution, many advisors are finding that there is one approach that can help address —at least to some degree—all three challenges: Alternative investments. Here’s why alternative investments may be an answer you’ve been looking for:
1: Alternatives can help you stand out in a crowded playing field.
Whether you are battling brokerage firms, the “guy down the street,” or robo-advisors, one way to stand out from the crowd is to deliver clear, tangible value to your clients. First, alternative investments are an important diversification tool within your clients’ portfolios. Second, they’re simply not on the menu at most larger brokerage firms—or on robo-advisor platforms. Plus, many of the advisors you compete against may shy away from the research required to analyze and select appropriate alternatives. If you’re willing to do your homework, alternatives may just be the differentiator you’ve been looking for.
2: Alternatives are well suited to today’s market environment.
Low interest rates, high volatility, and an aging bull market have many investors wondering if it’s time to rethink a passive, equities-based approach to retirement planning—especially if higher yields are needed to reach their investment objectives. Because alternatives are positioned to generate returns in rising and falling market environments, a more active approach to portfolio management that leverages alternatives has the potential to help increase returns. Plus, when combined with multiple asset classes such as stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities, alternatives may help provide the all-important diversification element that your client’s portfolios require.
3: Alternatives can open the door to conversations with your clients.
The days are gone when you could “set and forget” your client relationships—much less your clients’ portfolios. Alternatives offer a great reason to reach out to existing clients and have a new conversation. And initiating that conversation is one of the most important actions you can take to re-establish yourself as your clients’ trusted advisor. It can assure them that lower-cost or even free investment advice that they may be considering does not provide the guidance they need to achieve their goals.
For tips on talking to your clients about alternative investments, please read my colleague Jason Plucinak’s article, “3 Tips for Talking to Clients about Alternative Investments.”
Of course, alternative investments aren’t the only answer to managing the storm of change across the industry, but by including alternatives into your client portfolios, you may be able to create the portfolio return and the client differentiation you need to stand out in a ever more crowded playing field. Now is the time to research the options, determine which alternatives make the most sense, and then start the conversation with your clients. Your clients will value your active guidance and, ultimately, your proven dedication to helping them achieve their investment goals. That, in the end, is every advisor’s key to success.
Are Your Clients Failing to Plan for the Costs of Long-Term Care?
Written by: Matthew Paine
It’s been a tough few years in my family. My mother has been battling cancer for what feels like forever, and while she’s been managing her health with diet and exercise for some time, a few months ago everything changed. Her cancer had become aggressive, and chemo, which she had dreaded, was suddenly the only real option. My mother is in her late 70s, so the already brutal side effects of chemo resulted in a prolonged hospital stay that is currently at four weeks and counting. The good news is that she’s mentally strong, and she’s battling like a lion.
My dad is another story. Suffering from early-onset dementia, his ability to understand what’s happening and why my mother isn’t at home shifts from day to day. Because he’s unable to drive or care for himself (at least predictably), my siblings and I have been juggling taking care of him ourselves. It’s not an easy task, especially with jobs, children, and lives of our own to manage as well.
Like many families, none of us—my mother, my father, my siblings or myself—saw our current dilemma coming our way. Clearly we should have. My mother hasn’t been in top health for years. My dad’s condition is sure to get worse. And even if both of them were in perfect health, their age alone should have driven us to communicate better, earlier, and smarter. Despite being in the financial services industry myself, I haven’t been involved in my parents’ finances. I know they saved well for retirement, but I don’t know where they stand financially today. I don’t know what or how much insurance coverage they have. I have no idea how they plan to pay for their long-term care—or if there even is a plan.
The situation is forcing our family to get personal—and fast. Despite being careful about nearly every other aspect of our family’s financial lives, this one slipped through the cracks. We failed to plan.
Just like cancer and dementia, this failure to plan is an epidemic. And it’s only getting worse. To help your clients battle this epidemic, it’s vital that planning for long-term care become an intrinsic part of your retirement planning process. Here’s why:
Retirement planning alone isn’t sufficient.
We’ve all seen it. A client has a great retirement plan in place, and suddenly life throws an unexpected curveball. The later in life your clients get, the more likely that curveball will be the need for long-term care. According to the National Center on Caregiving, the number of people needing long-term care will hit a shocking 27 million by 2050. And according to the AARP, one in four people age 45 and over are not prepared financially if they suddenly required long-term care for an indefinite period of time. That statistic alone tells us that our efforts at planning are failing.
Long-term care costs are escalating rapidly.
According to a 2016 survey from Genworth Financial, a private nursing home room costs just over $92,000—about $7,698 a month—which is 19% more than it cost for the same care in 2011. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, lost income and benefits over a caregiver's lifetime is estimated to range from a total of $283,716 for men to $324,044 for women, or an average of $303,880—and less than 10% of that care is expected to be covered by private insurance.
Medicaid isn’t the answer.
Many people assume that public programs are the answer to long-term care, but in the case of Medicaid, a program designed to assist the poor, it is a last resort. First, while nearly everyone over age 65 has Medicare coverage, that program doesn’t cover long-term stays. That means that many people who need that coverage are forced to spend down their assets until they qualify for Medicaid. How poor must a patient be to receive benefits? In order to be eligible for Medicaid benefits, a nursing home resident may have no more than $2,000 in "countable" assets, and the patient’s spouse—called the "community spouse"—is limited to one half of the couple's joint assets up to $119,220 (in 2016) in "countable" assets. The result: even a couple who has spent a lifetime saving for a comfortable retirement can be forced to draw down nearly all of their assets before qualifying for Medicaid.
Once on Medicaid, long-term care patients lose the one thing many seniors care about most: choice. As a recipient of public assistance, patients rarely have a say in where they receive care. Whether that means being placed far from family, in a less-than-desirable facility, or even in a facility that lacks certain types of care (such as a dementia unit or other specialized care), the patient is at the whim of the state.
The good news is that even for those who feel there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, there are options that can help seniors who are struggling to pay for their post-retirement care to not only cover those rising expenses, but to do so in a way that gives them the freedom of choice. A Veteran myself, I know that VA Benefits are highly underutilized—including long-term care benefits. You can learn more about these benefits here. As well, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)’s July report Private Market Options for Financing Long-Term Care Services offers a variety of options for helping finance long-term care needs. Included in that list is the use of life insurance policies to help to fund long-term care expenses—an approach that is supported by GWG Life’s LifeCare Xchange Program.
In my own situation, I know there’s a high likelihood that my dad will eventually require skilled nursing care. I hope that as my siblings and I begin to dig into the details of my parents’ estate, we’ll find that they have indeed planned for long-term care. If that’s not the case, I’m comforted to know there are options available to help ensure Dad is not only in a facility that can meet his specialized needs, but that his new home is where our family chooses for him to be. Life may throw its curveballs, but at least Dad’s care will count as a home run.
Matthew Paine is Senior Vice President at GWG Holdings. Mr. Paine started his financial services career with AXA Advisors, developing marketing strategies for the North Central Region and building his personal practice. Since 2008, he has lead sales teams in raising capital in various assets classes ranging from the Life Insurance Secondary Market, Multi-Family Real Estate, Conservation Easements, and MBS Hedge Funds/Fund of Funds. Mr. Paine has a BA in Marketing/Management from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and holds FINRA Series 7, 24 and Series 63 licenses through Emerson Equity, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC.
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