Where to Start if You Don’t Have a Retirement Plan Yet
When it comes to retirement and planning, I’ve heard them all:
“I love what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
“I’ll never have enough money to retire, so I’ll work until I die.”
“I have no hobbies, so I might as well work.”
“I’d be bored outta my skull if I didn’t work.”
“Ha, why should I plan? Man plans, and God laughs.”
“I have children to raise and aging parents to worry about. Retirement? Ha!”
The statements go on and on, all of which recite the same underlying messages that cover important issues. As you think about your retirement plan, consider the following:
- Very few people actively devote time to consider their life in retirement. Basic questions like the “where,” “when,” “how” and “why” need to be clearly considered.
- You can’t predict the future. Unless you consider what life might hold for you, there’s no way to even quantify how much you might need to sustain your financial needs or desires.
- Retirement may not be a choice. Physical health, mental health, and the type of job and economic considerations play a significant role in your life plan.
- We are controlled by fear. Fear plays a significant role in trying to “pin down” something in the future. The sentiment here is, it’s better to do what you know than to face something for which you are untrained and untested.
- For many, their job is how they define themselves. They are Executives, Bakers, Lawyers, Plumbers, Doctors, Salesmen, Architects—their occupations become who they are. When facing retirement, that identity becomes lost; they’re just, Barbara, Sal, Mark or Felice. Their status becomes reduced, at least in their own minds.
Of course, there’s resistance to approaching the process of mapping out a period of life that could be years or decades away. Your life is immensely complicated and filled beyond capacity in the present. It seems that endless responsibilities and actions need to be taken in just one day: Work, putting dinner on the table, getting enough sleep, and maybe catching up on life’s daily tasks.
Then come the broader, but still essential life responsibilities: Addressing immediate needs of family, managing the current state of your finances, taking care of your health. And only then come the pure pleasures and rewards: Maybe getting in a vacation here or there, catching up with friends. So thinking about, what may seem like, an arbitrary time in the future, feels as untouchable as some distant solar system.
The fact is, it’s never too early to start thinking about it–just like saving for retirement; the earlier the better. When considering your retirement plan, here are some topics to consider and discuss with the stakeholders in your life:
- What are some things you’ve always dreamed of doing or being? Don’t be afraid to be creative; let it go. Write down all those ideas. Is it further education? Working in a bookstore? Writing a book? Teaching a class? Painting? Building furniture? Running a marathon? Be bold!
- Which of your goal activities or endeavors have a financial cost, and which ones are relatively dollar neutral? If your goal is to buy an island or a small nation, you might need to rethink that idea; unless that’s your driving desire. You never know what you’re going to find on eBay! Write a clear list of the expensive, less expensive, and dollar neutral items.
- What variables might derail your plans? Poor health, change in employment, severe economic decline or assumptions that are just too aggressive—the variables can be countless. It’s important, however, to consider as many as occur to you.
- What does your current lifestyle look like today and how might it change when the paycheck ends? This question leads to the idea of having a written and well-conceived financial plan that is built on conservative assumptions, realistic outcomes, and as many potential disruptions as possible.
The fact is, if you are fortunate enough to live long enough to have choices about your life, you want to be sure of the following:
- Whether or not retirement is your choice, it is vital that you’ve discovered what can give your life meaning and reason to get out of bed in the morning.
- Studies have shown that people who are active, engaged and have purpose lead healthier, happier, and longer lives.
- Being forward-thinking provides focus and incentivizes our actions today to make choices that benefit us over the whole of our lives.
We don’t know is what our futures hold. We don’t even know what the stock market is going to do tomorrow. But tomorrow always comes, and the best way to approach it is with an open mind and a willingness to tackle some of the challenges and opportunities that will provide us with the highest level of security and satisfaction.
Solving Your Biggest Client Issue May Be at Your Fingertips
Written by: Shileen Weber
When the American Funds’ Capital Group asked 400 advisors last year to name the biggest issues they face in their businesses, it wasn’t the DOL, market uncertainty or the economy that sat in the center of the idea cloud of answers.
It was client issues.
At a time when regulatory concerns and market turbulence would seem to be at all-time highs, the advisors who answered the survey were most concerned about servicing their clients as well as ways to find new ones and grow their businesses.
It’s one of the ironies of the business, that the things most people find so hard to manage – creating financial plans, managing assets and staying ahead of events – are what advisors find to be the easiest parts of the business. Marketing - the business of selling themselves – can be the area advisors find the hardest elements to master.
In this age of instant communication, it can be even more intimidating to market your practice, especially to younger clients for whom many traditional methods like newsletters, postcards and phone calls don’t work anymore. For them, email is the preferred way to get information, and, if it’s important, they are more likely to respond to texts, not phone calls.
But, it doesn’t have to be that hard. The digital age gives you access to ideas and content of all kinds you can use to touch your clients in a way that positions you as a valuable resource. The key is to keep it simple, stick to some basics and create consistent outreach that clients and potential clients are interested in and will appreciate you sharing with them.
Here is a common-sense approach you can take that will not require you to hire an expensive agency or take valuable time away from managing your clients’ assets and running your business.
Content is King
Create a content calendar for the year: Think about reasons to touch a client 13 times during the year – that can be once a month and on their birthday. (The common rule of sales is that it takes at least 7-13 touches to make a connection.) The number is limited and keeps you from inundating the clients who likely already feel inundated with content. You can take the seasonal approach – tax planning in the fall, January for account review content, college financing in the spring – and supplement it with topical events during the year. Creating a calendar will help you stick to a plan. Here’s one resource for a content calendar.
Review what content is already available to you: Basically, this means finding the resources you already have and determining what pieces will be most valuable to your clients. Start first by checking out content your broker-dealer already generates that you can personalize. Many firms have economists who write regularly about the market. That’s content you can pass along to keep clients up-to-date they would not have access to anywhere else. In addition to your broker-dealer, mutual funds, your clearing firm, and money managers are all excellent sources of informative and even analytical content.
Personalize the content you use: Add your name, the client’s name or some way to avoid making it feel like canned content that you are using just to check the outreach box. See what capabilities your email program may have to help you.
The birthday strategy: One advisor used clients’ birthdays in a new way. Instead of the card or lunch date, the advisor asked the client’s spouse for a list of friends he could invite to a birthday lunch and made it a memorable event that was also a soft approach to getting referrals.
Become a curator of good content: What your review will show you is that you don’t have to generate the content yourself. You can point clients to pieces you find insightful. You are likely already doing this every day just to keep yourself informed. The next step is to compile it and send out the very best pieces to your clients, again, with a note with your own thoughts about why you found it valuable.
Find out what is working and do more of it: Use your client interactions, in-person and online, to find out what types of content clients liked and any they didn’t. You can use tracking on your emails to see how many were opened as a measurement tool, but the personal interactions tend to provide more insight than raw data.
Be disciplined about your execution: Get help from an office assistant or schedule the time each month to do the content development and outreach. As any good strategy, if you make it a habit, it won’t seem so hard.
Most importantly, be yourself and be personal: You may want to regularly get personal by talking about your family and hobbies. The ultimate is if you can provide content that is personal to your clients, not just about their investments – they get that from their statements, apps and online portals. Think alma maters, hobbies, children and parents.
Of course, as a disclaimer, you have to make sure all content and communications are complying with regulations and the rules of your own broker-dealer.
The process of creating a plan will get you thinking about your clients in a new way. That exercise alone can re-energize your business and get you seeing marketing opportunities in places you may never have seen them before.
Shileen Weber is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at GWG Holdings. She was previously Director of Online Strategy and Client Experience at RBC Wealth Management, where they placed first in two JD Power and Associates U.S. Full Service Investor Satisfaction Study (2011 and 2013).
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