It will be the best-or worst-experience in your professional life.
The world has changed, and of course financial planning has to change with it. Fifty years ago, there were far more general practitioner physicians than specialists. Today it seems like there is a specialist for every known disease. Heck, I can't even get my Toyota worked on except by the Toyota specialist. Even the mechanics have gone down the specialist track. However, in the financial industry, the general practitioner still rules.
In my town of Rochester, there is a financial company that has a billboard that reads, "We specialize in retirement planning, college planning, tax planning, investment planning, insurance planning ..." What is the definition of specialize?
I've found that the most successful people in the industry specialize. They could be specializing in stock options, college planning, the 401(k) market, or in any number of niches. But they are known as the experts when it comes to their specialty.
The specialty that has gained exponentially in the last ten years is the Senior Market specialty. Not the Estate Planning specialty that has enjoyed prominence for decades, but the middle-income, ma and pa retiree market. It only makes sense as the growth of this market is supported by several factors including demographics, net worth and, most importantly for me, the social factors.
It's the social factor that makes this market so appealing. People age 55 to 75 grew up with a different set of rules. Cheating was not the norm. Honor meant something. Debt was not king. You saved and bought only after you had enough money. A shake of the hand was all that you needed to seal a deal. You didn't need a 100-page contract.
If you deal with people in this market segment honorably, honestly and empathetically, they will come. If you deal with them on an intellectual basis, telling them that you have a better product, service, etc. than they have right now, they will not come.
We all have access to the same products. If we concentrate on products, then we are in the commodities business. That is a bad business to be in because the person with the cheapest price always wins. Very rarely are decisions made for commodity purchases on the personality or ability of the advisor. Cheap corn is cheaper than expensive corn no matter who is selling it.
Seniors, as a group, do not like change. If you offer them a better product, they will take advantage of it but they are very likely to take it back to their current advisor to implement. Changing products is easy. Changing advisors is hard. That requires them to leave somebody who has done work for them. That is generally not the honorable thing to do. They do not want to tell their current advisor that they are leaving. They are embarrassed.
Their honor and desire to do what is right can work for you or against you. You need to help them re-frame their thinking. In other words to get them to think outside of the box, not just about their advisors but about their goals in general.
Are their goals the same as when they were working and had children at home? You might be amazed at how many retirees still view themselves as 40 years old and have their finances set up accordingly. They still are trying to get the highest return possible when what they really want is to keep the comfortable retirement for which they worked so hard. At 40, they needed as much growth as possible to ensure they had enough to retire on when they got to their chosen retirement age.
However when they choose to retire, the first thing they need to look at is if they have enough money to retire. If they do not, they should not retire. If they do, then their goal has changed from growth to some growth but more importantly not to loose the chunk of money they accumulated that ensured their comfortable retirement in the first place. Growth cannot help as much as loss can hurt them. You need to help them re-frame their thinking about their investment goals.
They need to work with someone who only works with people who are retired: a retirement specialist. Why? I work exclusively with advisors in the top five percent of all advisors in the senior market. Many of them initially tried to work with both the senior market as well as their general practices. They found it just too difficult to switch the mind set from growth to protection and back to growth again at the flip of the switch.
They found themselves recommending great growth products to seniors, not because the seniors needed them, but simply because they were great growth products. As the most recent bear market proved, this is a dangerous mistake to make but an easy one to do.
They also found that they could not honestly look a senior in the eye and say, "I only work with seniors. That is my one and only concern and specialty." Unless that really was the case.