As the financial planning world continues its journey into the digital age, marketing and growing a financial planning practice faces new challenges. Some firms suffer as methods no longer work the way they once did, while others struggle to implement new strategies like blogging and social media without any clear strategy or understanding of how to do it successfully. Yet through it all, recent marketing research on advisory firms has shown a new category of marketing that has quietly emerged as the marketing method with the greatest growth on an absolute and relative basis: online search, where the firm attracts clients through Google, Bing, other search engines, and social media sharing. While the rise of online search is still in a nascent phase, its prospects are bright as the world goes digital. Accordingly, the best firms are beginning to take the key actions now that will be necessary for success, from better defining target clientele, to creating relevant content and distributing it, to beefing up the raw aesthetic quality of their websites so they leave a good impression – so that in the future, they won’t have to find new clients, because the new clients will find them!Read More…
Despite a growing body of research suggesting that most retirees would benefit by delaying the onset of Social Security payments, the majority who are eligible still elect to begin receiving them as early as possible. In no small part, this appears to be attributable to a “take the money and run” mentality from retirees, who simply don’t see the value of delaying as being worth the risk of foregoing benefits. And without a doubt, there is a material risk that the retiree will not live to the so-called “breakeven point” where the delay in benefits is worthwhile.
However, what most retirees fail to recognize is that while there is a risk to delaying benefits and never fully recovering them, the upside for living past the breakeven point isn’t just that the money is made back; it’s that the retiree can make exponentially more. And in fact, these asymmetric results – where the retiree only risks a little by delaying, but stands to gain far more in the long run – are further magnified in situations where the client lives dramatically past life expectancy, experiences high inflation, and/or gets unfavorable portfolio returns – which are, in fact, three of the greatest risks to almost every retiree.
As a result, the reality is that delaying Social Security benefits may actually be one of the best triple-hedges available to any retiree – simultaneously protecting against poor returns, high inflation, and longevity!
Over the past few years, the Department of Labor has been working to bring transparency of fees and pricing to qualified plans, culminating in new regulations going into effect this year that will require new disclosures of direct and indirect compensation of service providers to the plan and the plan participants. While generally targeted at the segment of qualified plan consultants and advisors who regularly work with qualified plans, the reality is that any financial planner who has even just one qualified plan may be subject to the new rules – a fact that many are unaware of.
Yet with the new 408(b)(2) rules set to go into effect in just 2.5 months, financial planners who provide any consulting, investment advisory, or other services have very little time to get up to speed on drafting and preparing the appropriate disclosures, or deciding whether to just walk away from their qualified plan clients. The decision may vary from firm to firm, but inaction is no excuse – especially since if the disclosures aren’t provided in a proper and timely manner, the plan fiduciary will actually be required by the Department of Labor to fire the advisor!Read More…
Enjoy the current installment of "weekend reading for financial planners" – this week’s edition highlights two good technical articles; the first is from the Journal of Financial Planning on how the decision to delay Social Security isn’t just about increasing benefits, but extending the overall longevity of the client portfolio as well; and the second is from Morningstar Advisor about the continued growth of alternative investments in portfolios. From there, we look at an interview with the CFP Board’s new Director of Investigations as it steps up enforcement, and a review of the highlights from this week’s Tiburon CEO Summit. We also look at three articles focused on the current state of practices, from the plight of the solo advisor, the changing focus of RIAs, and how to enhance the long-term value of your practice. We wrap up with a great article about how to craft an effective blog for your firm, an interesting perspective on the evolution of the variable annuity business, and a striking article from the Harvard Business Review blog that makes the point that ultimately, the best businesses are defined not by the products or services they sell, but the beliefs that guide the firm, its culture, what it delivers, and how it delivers it. Enjoy the reading! 752NXY7TM54P
Long-term care can be extremely expensive for many clients, with costs that are potentially catastrophic to their financial well being. Accordingly, planners commonly recommend long-term care insurance to help manage the risk.
Yet as long-term care insurance costs continue to rise, the insurance itself becomes increasingly difficult to afford, forcing clients to make trade-off decisions about which policy options to select, such as whether to buy a long-thin policy (long benefit duration with small daily benefits) or a short-fat policy (short benefit duration with larger daily benefits).
Historically, clients who could afford to do so have leaned in the direction of long-thin policies with lifetime benefits, to address the ever-present fear of an extremely long duration health care event, even though the reality is that most claims only last a few years. More recently, though, the direction has shifted, due to everything from the rise of state partnership programs to the increasingly expensive cost of lifetime benefits. Are short-fat policies now the way to go for long-term care?
For retirees who fear the impact of a market downturn on their spending, an increasingly popular strategy is just to hold several years of cash in a reserve account to accomplish near-term spending goals. As the logic goes, if there are years of spending money already available, the portfolio can avoid selling equities in a down market to raise the required cash, and clients don’t have to sweat where their retirement income distributions will come from while waiting for the markets to recover.
Yet the mathematics of rebalancing reveals in the truth, even clients following a standard rebalancing strategy don’t sell equities in down markets, rendering the cash reserve strategy potentially moot. On the other hand, some benefits still remain – although aside from an indirect short-term tactical bet, the most significant impact of a cash reserve strategy may be more mental than real.
Nonetheless, is the cash reserve bucket strategy still a viable option for retirees? Or is it just another bucket strategy mirage?Read More…