The Evolving Advisory Career

So, you want to be a Social Security Advisor

The marketing risks of being an ‘expert’

by Andy Robertson, CLTC

Andy Robertson, CLTC, president and founder of Capital Indemnity Group based in Mansfield, Massachusetts, has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. His firm created the Social Security Optimization program, encompassing retirement income planning strategies for independent producers and advisors. He also has a relationship with leading financial marketing organization, Dressander|BHC and its parent company, Futurity First Insurance Group. Connect with him by email: [email protected].

In the world of the “do-it-yourself” baby boomers, how do you stand out as a true retirement expert? The competition for the baby boomer market’s attention is fierce. Advisors know that Social Security advice is THE market to focus on if you want to generate unparalleled levels of activity. But to truly thrive in this arena, advisors need to offer something more than simply how to optimize a Social Security retirement filing strategy.

Making Social Security Simple

There’s a growing population of advisors who focus solely on this issue and as the market becomes more and more saturated, those advisors are heading down a path of no return, or more pointedly no ROI, if they continue with the flawed strategy of simplicity. On a weekly if not daily basis, the message being sent across all media outlets is that Social Security can be boiled down to “8 simple strategies” or “the 3 things you need to know to maximize your Social Security benefit.” Suggesting that you can boil down hundreds of potential filing strategies and 2,738 or so filing rules into a handful of ‘secrets’ is self-destructive and, more importantly, incorrect.

Make yourself a Retirement Income Strategist

Make no mistake about it, the plethora of calculators and report generators on the market today do not, and cannot, provide the real advice these clients need: advice founded in expertise on the interrelationship between Social Security as a foundational source of income coupled with a withdrawal strategy from other savings which creates a sustainable retirement income plan that can withstand the challenges of the Triple Threat: inflation, longevity and taxes. Simple? I think not.

Ask yourself, if it is really that simple, why do boomers need you? Why will they invest their time with “someone who just wants to sell them something” if they can simply read up on the internet all they need to know about Social Security and therefore, make their own plan based on the secrets being shared?

The answer is easy – expertise – one of the few things boomers place any real value on.
Success in Social Security advice as a client acquisition strategy begins with the ability of an advisor to withstand the initial onslaught of probing, technical questions invariably launched by this informed demographic. Assuming you aren’t smoked out during the initial one-on-one meeting – where the prospect’s primary goal is to leverage you as a free Social Security resource – you then have an unmatched opportunity to put your ‘world-class’ retirement planning skills on display.

While there are many software packages which offer calculators that simply provide a maximum Social Security payout over a stated period of time (life expectancy), few offer the turnkey approach needed to win over this challenging demographic. The combination of advisor training, analytical tools, sales process and ONGOING case design and technical support is unmatched in the industry and the hallmark of our program.

There’s a growing population of advisors who focus solely on this issue and as the market becomes more and more saturated, those advisors are heading down a path of no return, or more pointedly no ROI

Ironically, what makes the boomers so difficult to win over is an over-inflated sense of investing success thanks to their involvement in employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k)s. Many have little understanding of the “basis” they have in the current value of their employer-sponsored plan, nor do they recognize that most offer a ‘guaranteed return’ in the form of employer matching before they ever expose a penny to market volatility.

As a result, one of the most critical steps to positioning yourself effectively with this generation comes about when you explain that when they flip the switch from accumulation to income, the rules as they’ve come to know them, completely change. Investors in the accumulation phase with only the change in year-over-year value as their measuring stick for success need only generate enough performance to cover the annual fees to successfully accomplish their objective. But what about when they throw the switch for income, does their job and ability to succeed change? Absolutely.

Consider this, accumulation investors with annual fees totaling 1.5% need only generate a 1.5% return to achieve a flat market. Income investors with the same fee structure, but an annual income goal of 5%, need to generate 6.5% per year to maintain their account value. Anything less and you run the risk of being introduced to Dollar-Cost Averaging’s evil cousin – Dollar-Cost Ravaging! Simply put, a flat market from a client perspective moves from 1.5% to 6.5%, which means the advisor’s job, regardless of who it is, became more than four times more difficult overnight.

Building retirement plans that work

Enlightening boomers isn’t for the weak at heart, but once you have their attention by getting them to see the real value of Social Security expertise and Social Security planning, the job becomes a lot easier.

Thanks to the extreme compounding effects withdrawal rates and fees tend to have on market volatility, it’s very difficult to suggest one can manage market volatility and the erosion effects it has on a retirement portfolio over a 25-30 year retirement.

However, other risks that are just as detrimental as market volatility can be managed by an effective Social Security filing strategy. Managing the risks associated with the Triple Threat is the Holy Grail to building retirement income plans that work and, more importantly, having a Social Security marketing plan that converts suspects to prospects and prospects to clients.
The ability to trade an IRA dollar today for a tax-efficient, inflation adjusted, guaranteed Social Security retirement dollar tomorrow is the key to moving from a marketing program that generates a lot of activity and little productivity to one that becomes a catalyst for boomer client acquisition.

Where Social Security Planning Makes a Difference

Utilizing a Social Security marketing strategy that positions you as the free Social Security report and advice provider in your community is a non-starter. Social Security advice as a concept is an activity generation machine. Converting that activity into productivity is the test only an effective program can pass.

A planning process that focuses on achieving income goals, rather than a Social Security analysis, is the entrée to meaningful client interaction in this demographic. By positioning yourself as a retirement income expert that knows how to utilize Social Security as just one of many effective weapons in the battle to building a fortified retirement income plan gives advisors much greater odds of achieving conversion success.