For many financial services professionals, the “baby boomers” provide both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity we’ll face in our careers. Some advisors are even in denial claiming to “only work with seniors.” The fact of the matter is, the oldest of the boomer generation is turning 62 years old this year. Jack Marion recently did a study claiming that the average age of an indexed annuity buyer is…you guessed it… 62.
No matter what your feelings are on the Fixed Indexed Annuity itself, the point is that the baby boomers have arrived in the retirement market. If you are marketing your financial services firm to the public in any fashion, you are reaching this demographic. I have had the opportunity to train and speak to thousands of advisors on this topic over the years, and there are four key factors an advisor needs to understand to be successful with the baby boomer market.
- Situation – How does your view of the situation compare to your audience’s view?
- Awareness – What is the audience’s level of awareness of the situation? Yours?
- Marketing – How do I create a compelling message and what medium do I use?
- Education & Acquisition – How do I get the prospect to see things the S.A.M.E. way I see them?
The SITUATION we face is based on understanding the evolution of the baby boomer generation. We need to understand this relative to the 65+ senior market which we have all been focused on for the past couple decades. They are different populations.
Until now, the population we have been referring to as “seniors” (i.e., parents of boomers) grew up in a time of defined pension plans. For them, the normal experience was working for a company for a long time, combined with limited exposure to a volatile stock market. Their children, the boomers, have often switched jobs, if not careers, multiple times in their lives.
The boomers look at the financial world very differently from their parents. They are accustomed to portable retirement plans like IRAs and 401(k)s. Inside those 401(k)s and IRAs were largely mutual funds, which they selected with little or no help from financial professionals schooled in the art of asset allocation. Many of them have built sizable retirement accounts and are very comfortable with market volatility. They understand the market goes up, the market goes down– as it has their whole lives. As advisors, some of the startling market lessons you illustrate may not be as effective. One thing they often don’t understand is that much of their account growth has really been no accomplishment of their own. What many boomers have experienced is the benefit of dollar cost averaging over a long period of time. Their deposits were added on a monthly basis in down, up, and flat markets forcing them to invest in one of the soundest ways possible.
Our AWARNESS of their history is one factor; our awareness of their future is another. American Express issued results from a study back in 2005 titled, “Affluent Boomers Who Seek Financial Advice are More Likely to Reach Retirement Visions.”
“The survey found that a majority of affluent boomers are planning for a retirement far different from the one chosen by their parents. According to the survey, boomers see their retirement as a time for “learning and self-discovery” (85%), for “reinventing oneself” (65%) and for a “new beginning” (51%). About nine in 10 (88%) see it as a new phase of personal growth and development. Also, six in 10 say they plan to work because they want to, not because they have to. This is in stark contrast to the 57% who say their parents did not work at all in retirement.
“With greater expected longevity, Boomers can’t help but redefine retirement as they’ve redefined major life events every step of the way,” said Rusty Field, vice president of Financial Education and Planning Services. “They are interested in reinventing themselves, starting a new business or career, and going back to school to learn new skills or travel. And they are increasingly reassessing their future role in the workplace by extending their careers or downshifting.”
If we agree that the boomer generation has different goals and objectives from their parents, then we must agree the MARKETING message has to be portrayed in a different manner.
Baby boomers see wealth as a means, not an end– a means of achieving what they want out of life. They are looking for advisors, not salespeople. Does that mean you shouldn’t make a living from sales? Absolutely not. The problem is you’ll need to find a way to incorporate real planning and strategies into your product recommendations. The product is part of a solution, not just something you pitch.
You have seen a big push on income planning, Roth IRA conversions, and arbitrage using unwanted RMDs and withdrawals. Marketing messages like these that help boomers solve planning issues will be twice as effective as some of the messages used with seniors today.
Your marketing can’t be more of the same schlock people have been hearing all their lives. If a marketing medium is proven, chances are good that it’s also saturated. You’ll need to implement progressive mediums such as video, web presence, and email. You might be thinking, “Not yet.” My advice is to run your practice so you stay two steps ahead of the curve, and three steps ahead of your local competition.
Education and Acquisition
Once you start getting more boomers into your office, the EDUCATION and ACQUISITION begins. One of the things many agents are doing is getting their Series 65 and becoming investment advisors. You have a choice to form an Independent RIA or join an existing RIA. This gives you a huge positioning advantage in terms of how you are viewed by your clients and prospects.
Providing a real investment review is a great place to start. As we agreed, most average retirees hold mutual funds but don’t really understand them. Morningstar is a simple, third party resource that can help you not only educate your prospects, but illustrate how much in fees they might be paying with their current advisor. The benefit of the third party resource is that they expect you to tell them they have bad investments, but they don’t expect an unbiased third party to agree with you. I’m not talking about getting into hour-long Monte Carlo simulations. Simply highlight a few areas for them to consider that will improve performance while lowering internal fees.
People, as a whole, are often more open to recommendations after real value has been provided. They often do not forget who added that value. You will increase your sales by 50% when you figure out how to say, “You’re doing fine, but I think there might be a better way of doing this,” rather than, “You have made poor decisions.”
It’s important to tie each of these concepts together. You must hit on all cylinders: Understand their Situation, demonstrate Awareness, use appropriate Marketing and Messaging, and finally Educate and Acquire. If you skip a step along the way to acquisition, your numbers won’t be what they should be.