Money Missteps to Avoid in Retirement

frank_randallFrank Randall, AIF®, Regional Director, Retirement Plan Services

 “Good decisions come from experience,

and experience comes from bad decisions.”

By the time you feel ready enough to retire, you have likely had your fair share of blunders along the way. Now seasoned with experience, the realization that mistakes are inevitable, and having the ability to recover can make the difference between success and failure.

Here are some of the most common missteps in retirement:

  • Focusing on the wrong factors. Many people decide to retire when they reach a certain age, job fluctuations or business cycles. While these factors may have influence, your emotional readiness, savings, debt, future budget and income plan to sustain your desired lifestyle must also be considered.
  • Overlooking the importance of your Social Security election. Some experts say the difference between a good Social Security benefit election and a poor one could equate to more than $100,000 in income.[1] The biggest decision retirees face concerning Social Security is when to start collecting. Just because you can start receiving benefits at age 62 doesn’t necessarily mean you should. If you delay your election until age 70, you may receive 32% more in payments so it may make sense to delay receipt of benefits as long as you can meet your expense obligations.
  • Underestimating the cost of retirement. Most people estimate retirement expenses to be around 85% of after-tax working income. In reality, however, many retirees experience lifestyle sticker-shock as the realities of retirement. One common problem retirees have when budgeting for retirement expenses is that they overlook items like inflation, future taxes, health care, home and car maintenance, and the financial dependence of their loved ones (e.g., sandwich generation costs).
  • Retiring with too much debt. A simple rule of thumb is to pay off as much debt as possible during your earning years. Otherwise, debt repayment will cause a strain on your retirement savings.
  • Failing to come up with an income strategy. Saving is only part of the retirement planning process. You also have to think about spending and decide where and in what order to tap investments. When thinking about cash flow needs throughout retirement, one must also consider how retirement funds can continue to generate growth. An effective way to solve retirement income needs is to have a liquid cash reserve account tied to your portfolio.  The reserve is tapped to deliver a “paycheck” to help you meet predictable expenses. The cash withdrawn is replenished by investments in dividend- and income-producing securities.
  • Dialing too far back on investment risk. As many workers near retirement, they become fixated on cash needs, thus dialing back risk and becoming more conservative in their investments. Unfortunately, the returns generated by ultra-conservative investments may not keep pace with inflation and future tax liabilities. Because retirement can last upwards of 20 years, retirees must set both preservation and growth investment objectives.
  • Not validating the assumptions made during the retirement planning process. You make certain assumptions about investment performance, expenses, and retirement age when you initially create your projected retirement plan. At least annually, you should reconcile your projections against reality. Are you spending more and earning less than anticipated? If so, you may have to make changes, either to your plan or your lifestyle.
  • Providing financial support to adult children. Over the last decade, the number of adult children who live with their parents has risen 15% to a historic high of 36%. Providing financial support to anyone, particularly an adult child, is stressful. It could strain retirement savings and ultimately could create long-term financial dependency in your child.
  • Going it alone. While your financial mission in retirement may seem straightforward—don’t outlive your money—the decisions you make along the way can be complicated. An experienced financial advisor can give you piece of mind for many reasons. An advisor can help you manage your retirement portfolio to meet your preservation and growth objectives, help you establish an income strategy that is matched to your spending needs, and track your spending versus assumptions. If a crisis arises, a trusted financial advisor will already know your financial history and can help make decisions that are in your best interests. Similarly, it is extremely helpful to have a trusted advisor relationship solidified in the event your cognitive abilities decline and you need help with decisions.

[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-great-new-tool-for-deciding-when-to-take-social-security/

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Eight Signs You Are Ready to Retire

Roddy MarinoRoddy Marino, CIMA, Executive Vice President
National Accounts & Distribution

New England Patriots quarterback is famous, and infamous, for a number of things both on and off the football field. His stance on retirement, however, is a personal favorite. When asked when he will retire, the then 37-year old quarterback said, “When I suck.”

Brady has the benefit of stats, sacks and millions of armchair quarterbacks to tell him when it’s time for him to hang up his cleats, but the decision to retire isn’t as clear for most Americans.

According to a survey conducted by Ameriprise Financial, nearly half of retirees (47%) felt ready to retire, but approached it with mixed emotions. 25% of the people surveyed said they could hardly wait for retirement, but nearly as many (21%) felt uncertain or felt that they were just not ready.[1]

If you are among the group of pre-retirees who feel uncertainty, here are eight signs that will help you decide if the time is right for you to consider retirement:

  1. shutterstock_447538888You are emotionally ready. Choosing when to retire has as much to do with emotions as it does finances. The transition from a full-time job that, for many, shaped their identity, to life with less structure can be scary. According to the Ameriprise study, losing connections with colleagues (37%), getting used to a different routine (32%), and finding purposeful ways to pass the time (22%) pose the greatest challenge for the newly-retired. Despite these challenges, 65%say they fell into their new routine fairly quickly, and half (52%) report to having less time on their hands than they would have thought.
  2. You’ve paid down your debt. Debt represents a key barometer in retirement readiness. If possible, you will want to keep working until your high-interest credit card debt, personal loans or auto loans have been satisfied—or you have a plan to retire such debt.
  3. You have an emergency fund. It’s important to plan in advance for how you will address emergencies, big and small, in retirement. The same survey revealed that 90% of Americans have endured at least one setback that harmed their retirement savings. Setbacks vary from caring for adult children, to college expenses stretching over six years instead of four. Others include loss of a job, assisted living expenses, and disappointing stock performance. As the survey indicates, unexpected life events cost the retirement accounts of the respondents $117,000 on average. An emergency fund can serve to prevent you from having to resort to retirement savings during hard financial times.
  4. You know what it’s going to cost. Some people believe they will enjoy a significant decrease in post-retirement expenses; however, that may not be the case. Instead, many retirees experience trade-off in expenses. For example, instead of daily commute costs, retirees may take longer trips thereby canceling out any savings in transportation expenses. Most retirees’ expenses follow a U-shaped pattern. For the first few years, the expenses mimic pre-retirement expenses, then as the retiree settles in, expenses dip only to rise as health care costs kick in.
  5. You know how you will create income. Much of retirement planning involves asset accumulation, but it is equally important to figure out what assets to tap, and in what order. Your income plan should include a decision on when you will elect to receive Social Security benefits. It should also take into consideration all sources of income including fixed, immediate, and indexed annuity strategies, pensions, and even your house. It should also address the timing as to when and you will withdraw income from all potential sources.
  6. Your children have their financial lives in order. Family dynamics play a significant role in shaping one’s retirement experience, yet are often overlooked during the planning process. Many retirees do not anticipate or underestimate the financial toll associated with providing financial support to their adult children. If you are thinking of retiring and still have a financially dependent child, consider establishing parameters for the arrangement, set expectations, and deepen the child’s understanding and appreciation of what is at stake for you.
  7. You have prioritized your health. When it comes to determining retirement well-being, health is typically more important than wealth. Retirees in better health have the added peace of mind that comes from financial security. They tend to enjoy retirement more, feel fulfilled and are not as prone to negative emotions as their less healthy counterparts.[2] For most, health care costs top the retirement expenses charts so your ability to pay for medical care you will eventually need should be a key consideration. Healthy habits and preventive medical treatment before retirement can help to serve as a cost-containment measurement as well as a lifestyle booster.
  8. shutterstock_128132981Someone you trust can help you make your financial decisions. A trusted advisor is invaluable throughout your retirement journey. He or she can help you manage your retirement portfolio to meet your preservation and growth objectives, help you establish an income strategy matched to your spending needs, and track your spending versus assumptions. If a crisis arises, a trusted financial advisor will already know your financial history and can help make decisions that are in your best interests. Similarly, it is extremely helpful to have a trusted advisor relationship solidified in the event your cognitive abilities decline, and you need help with decisions.

[1] Ameriprise Study: First Wave of Baby Boomers Say Health and Emotional Preparation Are Keys to a Successful Retirement, 2/3/15: http://newsroom.ameriprise.com/news/ameriprise-study-first-wave-baby-boomers-say-health-and-emotional-preparation-are-keys-to-successful-retirement.htm

[2] Health, Wealth and Happiness in Retirement, MassMutual. 3/25/15

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Prevent Social Media from Leading Thieves to Your Doorstep

John_SolomonJohn Solomon, Executive Vice President, Wealth Advisory

As the class divide widens, modesty has become increasingly important to the wealthy. A recent study indicates nearly nine out of every ten wealthy individuals (89%) believe in the concept of stealth wealth–the idea of keeping their level of wealth under the social radar.[1]

While there are plenty of statistics to support the stealth wealth movement as an aspirational lifestyle, many wealthy Americans unwittingly leave digital breadcrumbs that could reveal their riches.

If you want to fly under the radar, you and your children need to be cognizant of how the use of social media could put the family’s reputation, and even its physical security, at risk. After all, your children don’t have to use the hashtag #RichKidsofInstagram to paint a picture of their lifestyle. Simply by posting pictures, checking in at trendy locations, or tweeting family adventures could draw unwanted attention.

Consider taking these steps to protect your family’s privacy on social media:

  • Talk to your entire family about the importance of exercising discretion on the web. It’s helpful to identify and create guidelines for the appropriate and inappropriate uses of social for everyone, regardless of age.
  • Establish an alert with Google to notify you whenever your name or your children’s names are mentioned on the Web.
  • Follow and monitor your children’s social media accounts as well as your extended family’s accounts. Many extended family members may post pictures of their favorite Aunt and Uncle’s summer home, and a seemingly harmless caption could lead na’er-do-well’s to your door.
  • Have different user names/passwords for each account.
  • Regularly change and be more creative with passwords. If you are like most people, you use a password you can remember … like your dog’s name. Savvy hackers, however, troll social media sites for pictures of your pets and captions that reveal their names – which often provide fruitful password clues.

Now, managing your online presence is potentially time consuming that you neither have the time nor inclination to pursue; however, there is help. Services and applications exist to help you keep private information off the web, while also offering online reputation management services. The fact that there are so many resources available in social media protection and management is a testament to how important you must take it.

[1] New Elite: Inside the Minds of the Truly Wealthy, Jim Taylor, Doug Harrison and Stephen Kraus, p. 57

The Brinker Capital Wealth Advisory team delivers service and support to meet the unique wealth management needs of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth investors, family offices, institutions, and endowments. The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Five Answers for the Voices in Your Head

Crosby_2015Dr. Daniel Crosby, Executive Director, The Center for Outcomes

Many investors are waking up this morning to the unsettling realization that trading was halted in China last night after another precipitous market drop. When paired with rumors of hydrogen bomb testing in North Korea, the recent acts of domestic terrorism and a long-in-the-tooth bull market, it can all be a little frightening and overwhelming.

It’s at a time like this that it’s best to temper the catastrophic voices in our head with some research-based truths about how financial markets work.

For each of the rash, fear-induced common thoughts below (in bold), we have countered with a dose of realism:

“It’s been a good run, but it’s time to get out.”
From 1926 to 1997, the worst market outcome at any one year was pretty scary, -43.3%; but consider how time changes the equation—the worst return of any 25-year period was 5.9% annualized. Take it from the Rolling Stones: “Time is on my side, yes it is.”

“I can’t just stand here!”
In his book, What Investors Really Want, behavioral economist Meir Statman cites research from Sweden showing that the heaviest traders lose 4% of their account value each year. Across 19 major stock exchanges, investors who made frequent changes trailed buy-and-hold investors by 1.5% a year. Your New Year’s resolution may be to be more active in 2016, but that shouldn’t apply to the market.

“If I time this just right…”
As Ben Carlson relates in A Wealth of Common Sense, “A study performed by the Federal Reserve…looked at mutual fund inflows and outflows over nearly 30 years from 1984 to 2012. Predictably, they found that most investors poured money into the markets after large gains and pulled money out after sustaining losses—a buy high, sell low debacle of a strategy.” Everyone knows to buy low and sell high, but very few put it into practice. Will you?

“I don’t want to bother my advisor.”
Vanguard’s Advisor’s Alpha study did an excellent job of quantifying the value added (in basis points) of many of the common activities performed by an advisor, and the results may surprise you. They found that the greatest value provided by an advisor was behavioral coaching, which added 150 bps per year, far greater than any other activity. At times like this is why investors have advisors so don’t be afraid to call them for advice and support.

“THIS IS THE END OF THE WORLD!”
Since 1928, the U.S. economy has been in recession about 20% of the time and has still managed to compound wealth at a dramatic clip. What’s more, we have never gone more than ten years at any time without at least one recession. Now, we are not currently in a recession, but you could expect between 10 and 15 in your lifetime. The sooner you can reconcile yourself to the inevitability of volatility, the faster you will be able to take advantage of all the good that markets do.

Brinker Capital understands that investing for the long-term can be daunting, especially during a time like this, but we are focused on providing investment solutions, like the Personal Benchmark program, that help investors manage the emotions of investing to achieve their unique financial goals.

For more of what not to do during times of market volatility, click here.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Reach Out in Good Times and Bad

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

It’s no secret that clients like to hear from their advisors. In fact, failure to communicate is one of the top five reasons why clients become dissatisfied with their advisor. According to a Spectrum study, 40% of clients said they consider leaving when the advisor makes them do all the work (make all the calls).[1]

A recent study by Pershing, however, shows that advisors do make the calls—when they have bad news. Here are some of the key findings when it came to communication choices.

  • 58% of the advisors contacted clients during market downturns, yet only 39% reached out to discuss market gains.
  • 68% of advisors reached out to clients when personal investments declined, while only 53% initiated contact with the client in instances when personal investments increased in value.[2]

Bergin_Reach Out in Good Times and Bad_6.19.14How News is Delivered
The telephone is the most frequently used communication vehicle for both good and bad investment performance news. A quarter of the advisors surveyed used email and face-to-face meetings to communicate market losses, while 58% of the advisors picked up the phone. The only type of communication that happened more frequently in person than any other message was in the area of education. 52% of advisors said that they scheduled face-to-face meetings to educate clients while 48% did so over the telephone.

“No News is Good News” Applies Better to Weather than Client Relationships
Communication work is fundamentally about two things: trust and relationships. Good communication can strengthen relationships and deepen trust while poor communication can have the opposite effect. The “no news is good news” approach many advisors seem to take is problematic for a few reasons. It robs the advisor of the opportunity to score relationship-building points. It also increases the risk of clients feeling neglected. Finally, it makes it more difficult for the advisor to identify opportunities proactively because they become somewhat out-of-touch with what is happening in their clients’ lives.

[1] http://www.onwallstreet.com/gallery/ows/client-switching-advisor-top-five-reasons-2681390-1.html

[2] The Second Annual Study of Advisory Success: A New Age of Client Communications and Client Expectations, Pershing.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only.

How Behavioral Finance Can Help You Set and Keep Financial Goals

Dr. Daniel CrosbyDr. Daniel Crosby, President, IncBlot Behavioral Finance

If you’re ever having trouble sleeping, spend some time researching financial goal setting online and you’re sure to be snoozing in no time. It’s not that the advice you’ll find is bad per se, it’s just that it is fundamentally disconnected from an understanding of how people behave. Most resources will give you some great meat-and-potatoes stuff about setting specific, attainable and timely goals. You will nod your head, go home, and forget all about it, doing what you’ve always done before.

If financial goal setting is to be truly successful, it must account for the way in which people behave, including the really stupid stuff we all do from time to time. What’s more, it must be infused with elements that make it motivational, because let’s face it, you’d probably rather get a root canal than lay out a spreadsheet with some dry figures about Set Your Goalsyour savings goals. To help in this important step, we’ve mixed some best practices in financial planning with some truths about human nature that will add a little, dare we say it, excitement into your financial planning process. After all, your financial goals are only as good as your resolve to adhere to them is strong.

The next time you go to set a financial goal, consider the following:

Plan for the Worst – Cook College performed a study in which people were asked to rate the likelihood that a number of positive events (e.g., win the lottery, marry for life) and negative events (e.g., die of cancer, get divorced) would impact their lives. What they found was that participants overestimated the likelihood of positive events by 15% and underestimated the probability of negative events by 20%.

What this tells us is that we tend to personalize the positive and delegate the dangerous. We think, “I might win the lottery, she might die of cancer. We might live happily ever after, they might get divorced.” We understand that bad things happen, but in service of living a happy life, we tend to think about those things in the abstract. A solid financial plan cannot assume that everything will be wine and roses as far as the eye can see.

Picture Yourself at 90 – One of the reasons that we tend to under prepare for the future is that we value comfort now more than we do in the future. Simply put, the further out an event is, the less valuable we esteem it to be. Let’s say I offered you $100 today or $110 tomorrow. Odds are, you’d use a little bit of self-restraint and go for the extra ten dollars. What if I changed my offer to $100 today or $110 in a month? If you are like most people, you’d take the $100 today rather than wait the extra 30 days. The official term for this devaluation over time is “hyperbolic discounting” and it can have disastrous consequences for managing wealth over a lifetime.

Crosby_BeFi_Help_Set_Goals_2After all, if today’s needs and today’s dollars always perceived as more valuable than tomorrow’s wealth and wants, we’ll make hay while the sun shines. While this can be fun in the moment, your older self is not going to be too happy eating Top Ramen every night. One of the ways to decrease our tendency toward hyperbolic discounting is to make the future more vivid. Researchers at New York University did this by using a computer simulation to age peoples’ faces and found that “manipulating exposure to visual representations of one’s future self leads to lower discounting of future rewards and higher contributions to saving accounts.” Basically, if you can picture yourself wrinkly, you’re more likely to save. Making your own future vivid might include having conversations about your future with your partner, speaking with aging relatives or simply introspecting about your financial future.

Bake In Motivation – Daniel Pink’s seminal work, “Drive” is a concise treatise on what he believes are the three pillars of human motivation – mastery, autonomy and purpose. By including each of these three pillars in the financial goal setting process, you “bake in” motivation, thereby increasing the likelihood of meeting those aspirations. Mastery is all about fluency with the language of finance. While you may never be Warren Buffett, achieving mastery is the first step toward staying motivated. We procrastinate what we don’t like or don’t understand. Once you are facile in the language of numbers, you’ll stop putting your finances on the back burner.

The word “autonomy” is derived from the Greek word “autonomia”, the literal translation of which is “one who gives oneself their own law.” Being autonomous does not mean going it alone. What it does mean is having enough of an understanding of financial best practices that you can select financial professionals whose goals and approaches mimic your own. Finally, and most importantly, is purpose. One of the biggest culprits in bad financial planning is disconnecting the process from the things that matter most to the person making the decisions. Coco Chanel said it best when she said, “The best things in life are free; the second best are very expensive.” Financial solvency facilitates all manner of good, from charitable giving to family vacations to funding an education. If your financial goals are intimately connected to things that matter most to you, saving will cease to be a chore and begin to be a joy.

Views expressed are for illustrative purposes only. The information was created and supplied by Dr. Daniel Crosby of IncBlot Behavioral Finance, an unaffiliated third party. Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor

Why Some Fizzle, While Others Go Viral

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

Have you ever wondered why a silly email gets passed around the office, yet you can’t get a client to forward an interesting article you wrote to a colleague? Does it frustrate you that sports fails get millions of views, yet you’ve only had two people view your LinkedIn profile in the last 20 days? Ever wonder why your tweets don’t get favored, shared or retweeted?

The New Yorker’s recent article, “The Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, and Maybe Infuriate You,” takes a stab at solving these mysteries.

The article, which cites studies conducted by two Wharton professors, reveals the common characteristics of widely shared stories. These stories or messages typically evoke an emotion from the reader, with happy pieces faring better than sad. They also create a social currency and make the viewer feel “in the know.”

Shareable stories also typically have memory-inducing triggers. They are easy to pass along because they can be found and retrieved.

Gone ViralThe final predictor of whether a story will go viral is the quality of the content itself. The Holderness family rivaled Santa himself in spreading holiday greetings because their “Christmas Jammies” YouTube video was so well done. Otherwise, over 13 million people would not have invested the 218 seconds to watch.

So before you make your next LinkedIn post or tweet something on Twitter, make sure the content you are providing is relatable to your followers and will elicit a response. Then you can begin the journey of becoming a social media influencer and setting yourself a part from the crowd.

12 Holiday Card Musts

Sue BerginSue Bergin, @smbergin

You probably covered holiday cards in Client Communication 101. The holidays provide an opportunity to show clients you are thinking of them, and appreciate the role they play in your life. It’s important not to approach this as a “bah-humbug” type of task

Even though it may be a tedious task to undertake during the year-end crush, holiday cards are an important marketing and brand-building tool.

Here are a dozen things to consider when selecting your card:

  1. Display-worthy. Your holiday card is one of the most on-display items you’ll send to your client. After all, no matter how satisfying their investment performance, they won’t tape a recent statement to the wall. Yet, business owners hang the holiday cards in their lobbies. Company employees display them on their desks or in their cubicles. Retail clients put them along a mantelpiece, place them on bookshelves, and some even win a coveted spot on the refrigerator door. Keep the display aspect in mind when selecting your card. For example, horizontally-oriented cards tend to fall over more easily than their vertical counterparts. If it keeps falling down, it is a nuisance and will end up in the trash faster than a fruitcake.12.3.13_Bergin_HolidayCards
  2. New year, new card. Even if you have a stockpile of cards left from past years, fight the urge to use them. If you absolutely can’t resist, then only send last year’s card to new clients. Current clients just might remember, and reusing a card sends one of two messages: you are too cheap to buy new ones, or you are lazy.
  3. Awareness. Unless you know for certain of the religious holidays your clients celebrate, stick with a “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” message.
  4. Quality. There are a tremendous number of low-cost, do-it-yourself options out there. Use them cautiously. Make sure the output reflects your professional standards.
  5. Test the system. If you are using an automated system, make sure it works. Build enough time into your process so that you can generate test cards to make sure the process works (quality check addresses, salutations, signatures, postage, etc.).
  6. Destination. In most instances, you’ll want to send the card to your clients’ homes. Exceptions can be made for centers of influence and corporate clients and contacts.
  7. Old-school charms. Modern conveniences like electronic signatures and address labels hint of a mass-mailing campaign. They may seem impersonal. Take the time to hand sign each card. For bonus points, write a personal sentiment.
  8. Respect the sanctity of the time. If your standard practice is to ask for referrals every time you communicate in writing with clients, consider taking a break on the holiday card. You don’t want to leave the impression that you’re simply trying to drum up business.
  9. Timing. The later the card, the more competition it has for your clients’ attention and display space. To stand out, start early.
  10. Spice it up. Anyone can pick up store-bought cards, or pull from the standard greetings in the online templates. The result is a forgettable and insincere greeting. Be creative and design something distinctive. Take the time to select a design and message that reflects your brand.
  11. Be inclusive. Forget about selectivity. Dive deep into your CRM. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of a game of card tag whereby you scramble to get a card in the mail for someone who has sent one to you.
  12. Get personal. This is an opportunity to connect with clients on a personal level. Give details about favorite holiday memories or the traditions you hold dear.

12.3.13_Bergin_HolidayCards_1

Social Media Strategies: Yield to Client Preferences

Sue Bergin@SueBergin

Every investor has his or her unique communication and learning style.  Some prefer face-to-face meetings, while a quick text message will suffice for others.  Some investors are highly analytical and need to understand the data behind their investment philosophy while others take a “just give me the bottom line” approach.

Most successful advisors have become adept at assessing the communication and learning styles of their clients and adapting accordingly.  When it comes to a social media strategy, advisors should use a similar approach.

10.15.13_Men are From LinkedInAccording to the recent survey[1] sponsored by MassMutual and conducted by Brightwork Partners, “women are from Facebook, men are from LinkedIn,” various demographic groups are congregating around their social media channel of choice.  Consider these stats:

  • 70% of women routinely use Facebook vs. 59% of men
  • 57% of survey respondents over the age of 50 use Facebook
  • 32% of men use LinkedIn, compared to 15% of women
  • 17% of men versus 10% of women rely on Twitter as an information source
  • 36% of LinkedIn users have household incomes that exceed $100,000
  • 15% of LinkedIn users have household incomes of $50,000 or less
  • Survey respondents in their 30s are 14% more likely to use social media for retirement and investment education than their older counterparts
  • 80% of Pinterest’s 70 million users are women[2]

MassMutual’s study is the latest in a line of research that demonstrates the role social media can play in educating clients.  From a tactical perspective, it is helpful to note that a Tweet, Facebook post, LinkedIn message or Pinterest post will reach only the audience following that channel.

From a practical standpoint, you may want to synchronize your social media messages.  So, for example, if you sync your Twitter and LinkedIn files, LinkedIn contacts will see your Twitter updates and vice versa.  Keep in mind that some content is more appropriate for certain channels over others.  For example, tweets can only accommodate 140 characters but Facebook posts may be more extensive. Pinterest is most appropriate for visual content, like the inspiring image below originally pinned by ForexRin.

10.15.13_Men are From LinkedIn_1In the end, social media is about listening and engaging with your clients.  Services like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and GoGoStat can help monitor and track your social media engagement so that you will know which channels are most valuable to your practice.

Show and Tell: Five Points to Make with Prospects

Sue Bergin@SueBergin

The best storytellers are the ones that have mastered the art of “show, don’t tell.” Their ghost stories, for example, have descriptions of settings and physical manifestations of emotions. Sentences like “it was a scary place,” serve only to punctuate what the reader or listener already concluded.

The same can be said of advisors. Telling someone that you can help them achieve their financial goals does not make nearly as big of an impact as when you show them how.

The following are five areas where it is important to show clients why you are the best choice.

Five Points to Make with Prospects:

  1. How you will organize their financial lives. While most clients don’t come out and admit it, their financial lives are chaotic. They may not know how many assets they truly have and how they can put them all to work to increase purchasing power. The first step for advisors is to show clients the before and after. Explain to them what they currently have now versus what their potential growth may look like. Demonstrate how you will make them feel more in control of their financial lives. It could be something as simple as taking out your iPad and showing them the client portal of wealth management tools.
  2. 6.11.13_Bergin_Show&TellHow you will help them make good investment decisions. The term “good investment decisions” is too opaque to resonate with clients. Instead, walk clients through the process used to create an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). Talk to the client about how an IPS helps to guide future decisions. In the recent Brinker Barometer, we learned that 72% of advisors use a written IPS to help clients make non-emotional investment decisions when the market is in flux. The IPS is tangible proof of a disciplined process that will benefit the client.
  3. What you do to ensure that clients get the best advice and service possible. Marketing-darling phrases like independent, objective and unbiased, fall flat. Instead, describe the process that you go through to ensure that your recommendations are appropriate for the need you are trying to solve.
  4. You have been there, done that. Your experience does not speak for itself. You have to give it a voice. If you just say, “I have been an advisor 22 years,” you miss the opportunity to highlight what you have seen throughout your career. It is more impressive to learn that you have helped others thrive in all market climates than to know that you’ve been at this for a while.
  5. You appreciate their business. It’s easy to say “I value your business,” but to convey that message through action takes a concerted effort. Personal touches such as the just-checking-in phone calls, handwritten notes, and occasional invitations to social events let clients know that their business and their well-being matter to you.