How to Offer Valuable Advice Through a Beneficiary Audit Service

How to Offer Valuable Advice Through a Beneficiary Audit Service

When was the last time a client or prospect walked into your office and asked for an estate plan?

The reason why people don’t ask for one is that they need a deeper clarity around their specific goals for their estate. Instead, ask this question. “Did you know about our beneficiary audit service?

“The typical answer is no, what is that about. “Would it be valuable to do a beneficiary audit, to summarize on one page all your beneficiaries and the benefits they will receive, and make sure all beneficiaries are correct and coordinated with your will? If we could summarize this information on one page, would that be valuable to you?

Show them the “missing” beneficiary

When you do a beneficiary audit, people are usually surprised by the amount each beneficiary gets, but even more surprised how much one of the largest beneficiaries gets, which is the government, in different forms of taxation. This will show you and your client, potential blind spots in their planning, and open up opportunities for long conversations on planning and advice. Don’t talk about solutions, or product, talk about strategies. Strategy, according to Wikipedia, is a high-level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. Ask your clients and prospects if a beneficiary audit service would be valuable to them? What is the cost of the service, besides your time? This is part of the fundamental role of an advisor of the future, which is talking about advice and goals, not products. Right away it is valuable advice for the client or prospect, and this is a service you can consider charging for ( depending on compliance and regulations, always check with your branch manager or compliance officer before proceeding)

Help get your clients and prospects organized

I had a client come in and I offered the beneficiary audit service. The first thing we needed was a list of all the documents I needed. This helped the client first find the documents and second get organized. Even before we met, we helped the client to think about what it is they want to accomplish. Once they brought in their documents, I then asked the goals questions as it related to their estate ( which I will post in a future article) It helps open up a discussion of their estate, by offering your beneficiary audit service, and helps your client and prospect get deeper clarity around what they want for their estate as most people don’t know. This can also be called the estate clarity exercise or service, but I like beneficiary audit, as most people would find it more valuable getting their documents and beneficiaries in order, than talking about their estate.

Pictures on paper

Now I had a net worth snapshot, an estate summary and a picture of what they wanted for their estate. I put it all down on one page and asked a simple, but not an easy question. Is this what you want to have happened for your beneficiaries? This is not the time to show your fancy estate planning software, or printing off a 20-page document to show people how to maximize their estate. This is to show your strength in taking something extremely complex and making it simple on one page. This is just a summary and discussion document. I said to the clients, “ because this is a summary for discussion purposes, is this what you thought it would look like?” or “ what comes to mind when you see this document?” They have it roughly mapped out in their mind, and now it is on paper, summarized on one page in front of them. It shows them who will get what, and also shows them the tax liability. They are not thinking of the accuracy of all the detailed numbers, they are thinking what most wealthy people think. How do I mitigate taxes for my estate? Or is this the right path for me, my spouse and my family? Then you can ask the critical question in the process. “How do you feel about your plan for your beneficiaries?”.

It all comes down to planning and advice

Clients love planning and advice, but the challenge they have is how do they value it?

What does it cost?

What will I get?

Putting a price tag on peace of mind is like pricing out the value of your best friend. It is intangible, yet we all try to put a tangible value on advice. The financial services industry does it every day. The better question to ask, once you have done several beneficiary audits, is “ What is the value of our beneficiary audit service to you?” When I asked a client this question, they asked, extremely valuable how much do I owe you for this? Now you know it is a valuable service to offer clients and prospects. Start asking the question” Would it be valuable to do a beneficiary audit, to summarize on one page all your beneficiaries and the benefits they will receive, and make sure all beneficiaries are correct and coordinated with your will? If we could summarize this information on one page, would that be valuable to you?

Grant Hicks
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Grant Hicks, CIM, published author, professional speaker, coach and practice management consultant. He is the founder and National Director of Practice Management, with 2 ... Click for full bio

This Is the Best We Can Get With a Booming Job Market? Something Just Isn’t Right

This Is the Best We Can Get With a Booming Job Market? Something Just Isn’t Right

While big job gains are making all the headlines, we see credit card delinquencies at a level last seen in the depths of the Financial Crisis and retail sales contracting over the past three months. This is the best we can get with a booming job market? Something here just isn’t adding up.

The week started off strong out of the gate on Monday in the wake of Friday’s post-payroll rally, but the momentum quickly faded, leaving the S&P 500 down four consecutive days as of Thursday’s close. If it closes in the red again Friday, it will be the longest losing streak in over 16 months going back October 31st, 2016. We dug into the details of the recent data and in this week’s edition, we point out some things that are just not adding up.

Wednesday the Industrials sector fell below its 50-day moving average with Boeing (BA) leading the decline as the weakest performer in the Dow, also falling below its 50-day moving average. In the Materials sector Century Aluminum (CENX) fell below its 50-day moving average to lead metals lower. DowDupont (DWDP) also failed to rise above its 50-day moving average. Thursday the Dow Transports sector followed Industrials, falling below its 50-day moving average and finding resistance at its late February peak.

The strongest performing S&P 500 sector over the past five days has been Utilities, followed by Real Estate – not exactly typical bull market leaders. After having experienced one of the strongest starts to a year, the S&P 500 is up less than 3% from December’s close and ended Thursday below its 50-day moving average. Technology has been the only sector to reach a new record high, but its technical indicators are starting to weaken, so this one looks to be over-extended. By Thursday’s open the percent of stocks in the S&P 500 trading above their 50-day moving average was down to 43% with over 22% of stocks in oversold territory and 21% in overbought.


US 10-year Treasury yield broke above its 100-month moving average in November of last year for the first time since July 2007 and hasn’t looked back. That being said, while the yield for the 10-year recently peaked on February 21st at just shy of 3% and has fallen roughly 12 basis points since then, the S&P 500 hasn’t been able to make much progress.

Related: The Tortoise Economy vs. The Market Hare

Meanwhile, no one seems to be talking about how we are seeing flattening in the yield curve.

The Consumer

February Retail Sales were weaker than expected, declining for the third consecutive month, the longest such streak in three years. Then again, the month-over-month change in average hourly earnings for all employees has been either flat or negative in 6 of the past 7 months and in the fourth quarter of 2017, consumers racked up credit card debt at the fastest pace in 30 years - bad for consumer spending, but rather confirming for our Cash-strapped Consumer investing theme. Most concerning is that credit card delinquencies at smaller banks have reach levels not seen since the depths of the Great Recession.

Corporate America

Homebuilder sentiment, after reaching the highest level since 1999 this past December, has now declined for 3 consecutive months, but even so, it still remains at nearly the highest levels since the financial crisis. Meanwhile, the NAHB Housing Market Index has fallen 17% from the January 22nd high and its most recent report found a significant downturn in traffic, perhaps due to rising mortgage rates as the 30-year fixed rate has reached the highest level in over 4 years. Perhaps the weakness has something to do with the aforementioned lack of wage growth as the ratio of the average new home price to per capita income has again reached the prior peak of 7.5x – people just can’t afford it.

We’ve been warning of the dangers of exuberant expectations for a while here at Tematica. The General Business Conditions Average for manufacturing from the Philadelphia & New York Fed this week illustrated just why we have. The two saw a small uptick in March after having been weakening in recent months. However, the outlook portion, which had been looking better in the past is now showing some weakness. For example, CapEx expectations 6-months out fell in March from the highest levels on record in February.  Expectations around Shipments also dropped, having been at the second-highest levels of the current expansion. After having reached extreme levels in November, New Order expectations also declined. When sentiment expectations reach new highs, tough to continue to rise significantly from there.

Related: Trump, Putin and Powell: Markets Get Blindsided

While Friday’s job report got the markets all excited, perhaps the reason that enthusiasm has cooled is folks are realizing that the 50k gain in retail jobs isn’t syncing up with the -4.4% SAAR decline in retail sales over the past three months. Then there is what we are hearing from the horses’ mouth. Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT) both issued weak guidance, as did Kroger (KR) who also suffered from shrinking margins. A tight and tightening job market is unlikely to help with that. Costco (COST) missed on EPS, as did Dollar Tree Stores (DLTR), who also missed on EPS and gave weaker guidance. Big Lots (BIG) saw a decline in same-store sales. At the other end of the spectrum, the 70k gain in construction is in conflict with rising mortgage rates, traffic and declining pending home sales, while the 31k gain in manufacturing has to face a dollar that is no longer declining, high costs on tariff-related goods and potentially some sort of trade war.


As I mentioned above, while real retail sales fell -4.4% SAAR over the past three months, Core Consumer Prices rose 3.1% SAAR and Wednesday’s Producer Price Index (PPI) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also showed rising inflation pressures. Core PPI (yoy) has reached its highest levels since 2011 with the annualized 3-month trend having gone from 1.5% last summer, to 2.7% at the end of 2017 to 3.4% based on the latest data.

Import prices for February rose 0.4%, taking the year-over-year trend up to 3.5% from 3.4%. Recall that last summer this was around 1%. Ex-fuel the pace rose to 2.1% from 1.8% previously and 0.8% over the summer.

The bottom line this week is that we are no longer in the easy peasy 2017 world of hyper-low volatility and relentlessly rising indices with a VIX that has found a new normal more than 50% above last year’s average. The wind up is the major market indices haven’t been able to commit to a sustained direction. The hope and promises of 2017 have been priced in, leaving us with a, “So now what?” which is reflected in the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow forecast falling from 5.4% on February 1st to a measly 1.8% on March 16th – talk about a serious fade.

What has us really concerned is that at a time when big job gains are making all the headlines we see credit card delinquencies at the level last seen in the depths of the Financial Crisis and retail sales contracting at a 4.4% annual rate over the past three months. This is the best we can get with a booming job market? Something here just isn’t right

Lenore Elle Hawkins
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Lenore Hawkins serves as the Chief Macro Strategist for Tematica Research. With over 20 years of experience in finance, strategic planning, risk management, asset valuation an ... Click for full bio