PHILADELPHIA—One way that James P. Ruth attracts baby boomers to his firm and the retirement services it offers is by providing a brief concept guide on immediate annuities.
In fact, his Gaithersburg, Md., financial advisory firm offers numerous concept guides on retirement topics of interest to boomers, he told a focus session here at the annual meeting of Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT).
Other guides cover topics such as Social Security retirement benefits, Social Security solvency, five-bucket retirement income strategy, Medicaid planning, immediate annuities, wealth and retirement websites, reverse equity mortgages, key financial facts, and more.
All these guides are one-page documents, all are produced in-house and all address retirement in one way or another.
The Immediate Annuity Guide is a popular piece, the registered representative said, noting that the guide illustrates the advantages of guaranteed lifetime income at various ages. For instance, page one illustrates a single annuitant while the flip side shows joint annuitants.
“We show annuity values for ages 65, 70, 75, 80, and 85,” Ruth said.
“The whole focus is on educating clients, prospects and centers of influence about the interaction between annuity certain periods, distribution rates and guaranteed lifetime income.”
A windfall if…
The baby boomer generation will deliver windfall profits to MDRT members, Ruth predicted, citing the generation’s size (nearly 80 million), growing retirements (10,000-plus daily), expected inheritances ($41 trillion total) and retirement worries (Social Security, inflation, health care, longevity, etc.).
But to be successful in the market, advisors need to differentiate their practice and “position themselves directly in the path of the boomer retirement tsunami,” Ruth, who is president of Potomac Financial Group, said.
This requires being more than an expert on financial products offered by insurance and investment companies, he said. “You also have to be an expert on planning strategies and how to integrate them into a long-term retirement plan.”
That’s where the one-page guides come in.
Advisors, he said, must be able to do three things exceptionally well: have a great story to tell, have someone to whom to tell it, and deliver the goods (which is “the right products at the right time in coordination with other financial assets.”)
To have a great story to tell, he said his firm developed those concept guides. They “demonstrate that we not only understand the concerns of boomers, but we also offer many of the solutions that will dispel their fears about retirement.”
The documents have several other advantages for the firm as well:
· Because all documents at the firm are produced in Microsoft Word or Excel, they are easy to write, produce and distribute. All have either been approved by the compliance department of the firm’s broker-dealer or by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Ruth pointed out.
· The guides “prominently display our brand and help position us as the go-to retirement advisors among clients, prospects, centers of influence and the press,” he said.
· The guides focus on the advisory firm, not the providers. Some investment firms and insurance companies do produce similar pieces, Ruth allowed. But he said the problem for advisors is that the name of the insurance or investment company appears on those pieces, so they position the company, not the advisor, as the expert.
· The guides differentiate the advisory firm. “To really capture this market, all the focus has to be on you and the services you bring to the table,” Ruth said. “Creating branded concept guides is easy to do, and it sets you apart from all the other advisors offering retirement.”
· They help promote the firm. “It doesn't matter how good you are if no one knows it,” Ruth said. “These guides help spread the word.”
Make them effective
To be effective, the concept guides must address some of the key retirement concerns of baby boomers, he cautioned.
“What is the common thread that virtually all boomers share?” he asked. “It's simply this: A desire to retire comfortably, but a haunting, stomach-churning fear that their nest egg won't last as long as they do. That's it. If you address that one concern, you'll catch the wave.”
The concept pieces “also have to be ‘sticky’ so that recipients find them hard to throw away,” Ruth said. “In other words, they have to be good enough to save.”
As for producing the guides, the key is to “create it once, use it often, and make sure it's suitable for multiple audiences, such as clients, prospects, CIOs and the press,” he said.
His own firm uses its Social Security Guide for, among other things, “lunch and learn” programs for certified public accountants, attorneys and service clubs (Rotary, etc.) and for joint sponsorships of one-hour continuing education program for CPAs. The firm also mails out the guides to centers of influence and uses the guides as handouts during speaking engagements.
As noted earlier, Ruth said the Immediate Annuity Guide is popular. But which guide is the most popular?
Answer: The Social Security Guide.
Most Americans don't understand Social Security retirement benefits and strategies, Ruth observed, and most attorneys and CPAs don't fully understand those things either. So his firm uses its Social Security Guide to explain benefits and strategies for maxing client and spousal benefits for a lifetime of guaranteed income.
It demonstrates, he said, not only “our expertise, but also our indispensability to clients and prospects for helping them make the right decisions regarding retirement income for the rest of their life. And it doesn't hurt that our picture and contact information is branded on the document either.”
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