The Great Facebook Crash of 2019

If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you survived the Great Facebook Crash of 2019. And thank goodness you did make it through the March 13 outage. Judging from the way many users reacted, one would think the Earth itself froze in orbit. Like any other website or social media network, Facebook is prone to the occasional outage. While most are brief, the most recent crash was the longest the platform has suffered in its 15-year history. For roughly 14 hours (even longer for some), millions of Facebookers were left stranded, unable to share memes, opine on current events, or post selfies.

Thankfully, the lights came back on at Facebook and, as it does after any crisis, life eventually returned to normal. For the casual user, the outage was little more than an annoyance. However, “annoying” probably isn’t strong enough a word to describe how the countless businesses that have come to rely on social media as their primary marketing vehicle were feeling that day.

Facebook, as a corporate entity, took a hit due to the outage. The next day saw the company’s stock drop by 1.5% and, according to some analysts who predict Facebook will earn $69 billion this year, the downtime cost them about $189 million. While that might be merely a drop in Facebook’s very large bucket, a full day without social engagement, advertising, and marketing can have a serious impact on small businesses. In fact, some companies have claimed the outage cost them thousands of dollars in lost revenue and opportunities. Those losses could continue as many businesses are working to recover from the sudden drop in organic engagement.

Hopefully, the outage was not nearly as damaging to your businesses as it was to others. Most independent agents and advisors run pages with more localized, niche audiences, so a day without sharing content or boosting posts probably wasn’t the end of the world for most. That said, the extended outage very well could have hindered any time-sensitive/specific campaigns, especially those meant to promote an upcoming seminar or workshop.

Beyond the irritations, interruptions, and potentially lost opportunities, the Great Facebook Crash of 2019 should teach us a very important lesson – don’t put all of your eggs into one basket. While Facebook is among the most effective digital marketing tools out there, it’s crucial that you diversify your efforts.

A well-rounded marketing strategy should incorporate a variety of methods to connect with your target market. LinkedIn and Twitter (where thousands went to complain about the Facebook outage) are both good ways to maintain a digital presence and keep your message out there. And while email might not be the best or quickest way to generate new leads, a well-organized and segmented list can allow you to get relevant content to multiple prospects at once.

Outages like this are not unheard of and should not give us any reason to be concerned over the future of Facebook. Despite the endless string of issues and controversies, Zuckerberg’s social media monster is not going away anytime soon, if at all. However, the recent crash was a stark reminder that a world where people lived, played, and ran successful marketing campaigns did exist before Facebook. That’s not to suggest you learn Morse Code or use smoke signals to promote your brand. But it does shine some light on the many digital mediums that have cropped up since (and probably because) Facebook came into existence. The digital landscape is a wide-open and full of opportunities to engage, connect, and convert. The question is, will you start exploring those opportunities now, or wait until the next Great Facebook Crash?

 

Rise of the Robo-Advisor

In the not so distant past, the notion a day would come when human workers would be replaced by robots was little more than fodder for sci-fi. Fast-forward to today and that notion has become a reality. Over the last few years, an increasing number of jobs – ranging from cashier to data analysis – are being taken over by automation and AI-driven machines. And we all remember that time when California voted a Terminator into the Governor’s office. Well, advisors, the robots are gunning for your jobs too.

Robo-advisors are a rapidly growing trend in the financial industry. These online, automated portfolio management systems have been touted as a more efficient (and cost-effective) alternative for those willing to take a more “hands-off” role in their personal assets. According to one estimate, robo-advisors, which use computer algorithms to automate investments and offer financial advice, will handle more than $450 billion in assets by 2021. As exaggerated a number as that may seem, the number of carriers incorporating digital asset management systems into their structure suggests otherwise. Vanguard has been using them since 2015 and others – Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and JP Chase to name a few – are following suit.

The rise of the robo-advisor begs the question many of you might not want to ask – Will robo-advisors put me out of work? The answer is no; despite their popularity, it’s highly doubtful that robo-advisors will send their human counterparts scrambling for a new career. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have at least some impact on your business.

A study published in February by MDRT found that 88% of the American adults surveyed said “technology should complement, not replace,” human financial advisors. The number of those who would prefer to work with a human over a robo-advisor was slightly higher (88%). You should also find solace in the fact that a mere 5% would be OK with their entire portfolios being managed by tech-based tools. Compare that to the 36% of those who “strongly disagree” with robo-advisors completely overtaking the role of human advisors.

So, fear not, advisors. If stats like this are encompassing the consumer base as a whole, your job is safe. That said, the rise of the robo-advisor does stress a few important points. The MDRT survey also found that an overwhelming number of people (roughly 95%) think that advisors should be tech-savvy and make updated tech-based tools a part of their practice.

This all goes back to one thing – trust. While a robo-advisor can accurately crunch numbers in a millisecond and provide the convenience of automation, they can’t replace the value of a face-to-face interaction. A trusted relationship with their advisor, along with human interaction, and ease of communication, far outweighed concerns about accuracy and cost.

This is why it’s critical that advisors keep one foot in the real world and the other in the digital landscape. As consumers, we’ve come to expect, and in many cases rely upon, tech-based tools, software, and other digital assets. Millennials in particular (who gave split opinions on robo-advisors) have been “digital” their entire lives. For them, an advisor who still hasn’t changed with the times would likely be seen as a relic still living in an era they never knew. And honestly, even those who have been around since the pre-digital days would probably also prefer to work with someone who is tapped into the newest tools.

While you should expect some competition as robo-advisors become more commonplace, try not to lose any sleep over it. After all, even “old-schoolers” out there can learn to navigate the digital world, make use of new tools, and utilize emerging tech in order to enhance the way you do business. And even if a robo-advisor can do all that (and more) in a faster and more cost-friendly manner, they’ll never be able to reach out with a handshake and a smile. If that day comes, then we can start to worry.

Should Advisors Become Redditors?

When it comes to online marketing, social media is one of the most powerful tools out there. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Nextdoor all present a wealth of opportunities to boost brand awareness, generate new leads, and stay connected with clients and prospects. One of the biggest benefits of social media is the ability for entrepreneurs to actively participate in conversations with their target market.

This level of engagement is your chance to showcase your expertise and financial wizardry to consumers using social media to seek out the advice and/or services of a knowledgeable professional. As any social media savvy advisor already knows, the time spent scanning these platforms for opportunities to connect with and educate prospects can pay off big in the end. That said, social media, especially Facebook, can be a crowded and competitive space. This is why advisors may want to include alternative avenues of engagement. There is one avenue in particular that has been gaining momentum as of late – Reddit.

Reddit is a forum-styled news aggregation and discussion board that launched in 2005. By 2018, it had become one of the most highly trafficked websites in the world, with more than 542 million “Redditors” (the majority of them falling under the Millennial demographic) logging in each month to post about an endless number of topics. While the site has somewhat of a questionable reputation due to the amount of explicit and controversial content, there are plenty of legitimate and productive conversations taking place within the hundreds of “safe-for-work” communities hosted by the site.

Reddit communities, known as “subreddits,” cover a wide range of topics, including several that fall under the wheelhouse of financial professionals. These subreddits are filled with posts from users with questions and concerns over personal finance, life insurance, investments, and other relevant topics. Advisors can build and foster relationships with Redditors by responding to these posts with credible and qualified answers.

Keep in mind that it might take a little time and effort for new users to learn how properly navigate the site and there are rules outlining what you can and can’t post. But once you become familiar with things, you’ll have access to dozens of finance-related subreddits that could benefit from your expertise. A few that you might want to explore include:

A relatively new addition to Reddit is the company’s push to bring in advertising revenue by allowing businesses to target specific communities and users. Much like Facebook, Reddit offers campaigns geared toward brand awareness, driving traffic to your website, conversions, and other methods of engagement. Advertisers can target audiences based on location, interest, within specific communities, and have the option to schedule the time and day they want their ad to run. You can also set a daily or lifetime budget or set up an impressions-based bid.

The value Reddit can provide for you as an advisor is largely based on how often, and well, you use the site. Some may find it worth the effort, while others might not. But due to the massive audience of younger consumers (Millennials) who actively participate in the site, it deserves some exploration. Like any digital medium, especially one as wide open as Reddit, tread carefully when posting or engaging with users.

Good luck and happy Redditing!

The “Holiday” Retirement Plan: Internet Myth or Golden Opportunity?

The “Holiday” Retirement Plan: Internet Myth or Golden Opportunity?

A Facebook post made in early February by a Texas man has thousands of people rethinking their retirement plans. The post, which went viral in less than a month with more than 121k shares at the time of this writing, offers an interesting strategy to cutting the costs involved with long-term care/assisted living and extending retirement income.

“No nursing home for us,” posted Terry Robinson. “We’ll be checking into a Holiday Inn!”

Robinson’s post compares the average cost for “nursing home care” to the daily rate of a room at the hotel chain. According to his math, that would be $188 a day to live out his retirement years in a nursing home, versus the $59.23 nightly rate at Holiday Inn (that number includes combined long-term stay, senior discounts and the added bonus of free breakfast). The savings would leave him with $128.77 a day “for lunch and dinner in any restaurant we want, or room service, laundry, gratuities and special TV movies.”

There’s also a spa, swimming pool, workout room, lounge, free toiletries, hotel staff “scrambling to help you” for a $5 daily tip, on-call maintenance, security, and a maid who can call “an ambulance… Or the undertaker” if/when necessary.

“They treat you like a customer, not a patient.”

The “Robinson Retirement Plan” even accounts for medical emergencies.

“If you fall and break a hip, Medicare will pay for the hip, and Holiday Inn will upgrade you to a suite for the rest of your life.”

OK, so that’s probably not the best healthcare plan out there. Otherwise, this sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? It’s safe to assume that we all want to live out our golden years in the lap of luxury, right? And who wouldn’t want the opportunity to travel from city to city with a furnished room waiting for us at each stop?

“What more could I ask for?”

For most of us, the holes in this “retirement plan” and obvious tongue-in-cheek tone of Robinson’s post – which can actually be traced back to a 15-year-old chain email that resurfaced again in 2016 – answers that question. However, there seems to be roughly 121,000 people out there who see some validity to this plan.

As advisors and agents, it’s up to you to reach these people and educate them about realistic long-term care plans and retirement strategies. Nothing against Holiday Inn, but it’s very unlikely that the hotel chain (or any other for that matter) is equipped to serve as a makeshift assisted living facility for an influx of retirees looking for ways to stretch out their income. And we don’t even need a calculator to see that the numbers here don’t add up.

In all seriousness, we have to assume that very few people genuinely believe this approach would work. That said, the post is spreading like wildfire and is making headlines in media outlets across the country. The post not only has people thinking about retirement, they’re actively engaged in the conversation. This sort of organic, top-of-mind awareness presents a great opportunity to connect with prospects and discuss retirement and LTC options that don’t involve a mint on their pillow every morning.

Legacy Financial Partners has a wealth of marketing collateral and consumer-facing materials that can help you make those connections. Our library covers everything from social media and drip email campaigns, to sales tips and advice on how to conduct flawless in-person appointments. You might also consider hosting a seminar or retirement workshop at a cost-friendly venue. I’ve heard Holiday Inn is nice.

Asked & Answered: A New Approach to Seminar Marketing

Most financial advisors are probably already aware that seminars are like any other marketing tactic – sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. However, if your efforts have been more “bust” than “boom” lately, it might be time to consider a different approach.

A low-to-no-cost, open-ended financial Q&A session can be a more practical and casual alternative to costly seminars and workshops. The concept is simple and, in many ways, works like any other seminar would. The difference here is in the content and attendee experience. Rather than deliver the traditional, pre-packaged presentation on one specific topic, this approach is your opportunity to personalize the event by covering subjects that are relevant to those in the room.

A Q&A seminar shouldn’t be structured as a wide-open free-for-all where attendees are welcome to bombard you with a series of random questions. That would be impossible to prepare for and could easily get out of hand. To keep things on topic and running smoothly, set up an online registration page that requires your guests to submit anywhere from 1 -3 questions when signing up for the event. This will make sure your final presentation covers a variety of topics but doesn’t go in too many directions at once. Use these questions to build a presentation customized specifically for your audience.

Obviously, you will want to leave certain details out of your final presentation and only include questions that are both relevant and appropriate for a public seminar. Use your own judgment here, but as a general rule, avoid the following:

  • Personal information
  • Stock / Investment Advice
  • Specific scenarios (someone’s complicated situation that would require a 1-on-1 appointment to properly address)

To address the third point listed above, you should expect the majority of questions submitted to pertain to the prospect’s specific situation. That said, because the goal here is to bring people from the seminar to your office, those questions will open the door for a follow-up conversation. A good approach would be to reframe the question in a way that still addresses the prospect’s concern but is also broad enough to apply to the audience as a whole. This creates an opportunity for you to approach them afterward about setting up an appointment. And by collecting everyone’s contact information, you have a new batch of prospects to place into a drip campaign.

As anyone who has given a seminar already knows, preparation is just one of the ingredients for success. But for a custom-tailored presentation such as this, the time and effort you spend preparing your material is probably the most important factor. Ideally, the inquiries you receive will be wide-ranging enough to deliver an hour’s worth of information on a variety of topics. However, it never hurts to have some additional content and/or topics of discussion ready to roll out just in case. And be prepared to tackle at least a handful of follow-up questions from the audience as you’re wrapping things up.

Beyond that, you can set up a Q&A session much like you would any other seminar. Take advantage of spaces that invite conversation (library room, upscale bar with a meeting room, gallery space). Just remember to keep things casual, low-pressure, and informative. Well, maybe not too informative. After all, any good performer knows that you have to leave the audience wanting more. Good luck!

 

 

Emotional Marketing – Why “Insure Your Love” Works

Happy Valentine’s Day! Over the last few weeks, most of you have probably come across the latest “Insure Your Love” life insurance awareness ads. This year’s LifeHappens.org Valentine’s Day campaign features a heartstring-pulling video of a young girl and her father reading a bedtime story titled “Life is for Living” (one of the central themes of the campaign). We won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it yet. But those who have already know that this one is a real tear-jerker.

Watch the video here:

There are two ways of looking at an ad like this. One is to question why anyone would want to put their audience through the emotional wringer with a video this sad? The other answers that question – because it works.

Marketing efforts that tap into real human emotions can be one of the most effective ways to capture consumer attention and leave a lasting impression. Do you remember the movie “Old Yeller?” Of course you do. And you also know why you’ll never forget watching the film. A boy and his dog. Love and loss. Life and death. These are all very real themes that every one of us can relate to in some way. And when we, as viewers, see these experiences unfold in front of us, we can’t help but to internalize them. This is why emotional marketing can be such a powerful tool.

Content aimed at eliciting an emotional reaction – be it sadness, happiness, fear, anger, nostalgia, etc. – can inspire people to take action. Often times, the more impactful the content, the more significant the action. We see this play out all the time on social media every time someone shares a meme, story, or video. Whether the content is funny, political, sad, or motivational in nature, it impacted that person enough that they wanted to share it with friends and family. If they hear a song or watch a show that hits close to home, they buy the album or binge watch the series. The point is, they take action.

This also applies to marketing and advertising. If your content makes an emotional connection with consumers, they are more likely to remember your brand, follow your social media channels, and/or take the time to look into your services. All of these are forms of engagement that can ultimately lead to you shaking hands with a new client.

Going back to the “Insure Your Love” ad, it’s easy to see why and how this type of content can be such an effective vehicle to promote the importance of life insurance. It puts us in front of a very real, and likely familiar, scenario, uses an endearing parent/child moment to draw us closer, and finally hits us with a heartbreaking surprise at the end. The emotional reaction is genuine, the impression left is long-lasting, and the message is powerful enough to inspire action.

While the “Insure Your Love” campaign is exclusive to February, the concept is evergreen. So, next time you’re brainstorming for your next marketing effort, think about those things that would inspire action on your behalf. Chances are, your prospects feel the same way.

Breathing New Life Into Your Marketing Plan

Drip email campaigns, direct mailers, seminars – these are among the most commonly used marketing strategies agents and advisors use to connect with new prospects. However, if you go to the same well too many times, it will eventually run dry. Using a variety of marketing approaches and content delivery platforms is the best way to enhance your overall strategy and keep things flowing if/when those wells do run dry.

Below are just a few underutilized and/or unique marketing activities that you should consider incorporating into your plan.

Social Media Groups

A strong social media presence is a necessity for any small business owner, including agents and advisors. Many of you have probably already benefited from your Facebook and LinkedIn pages, but might not be using these platforms to their full potential. Posting content on a regular basis and allocating a portion of your budget for ads and targeted posts is a good start, but there is more you can do.

Joining and having an active hand in relevant Facebook and/or LinkedIn groups expands your reach and connects you with consumers who don’t already follow your accounts. This could be as simple as sharing your Facebook posts in community-based groups or advertising your services in the Marketplace. Or, you could go the extra mile by contributing to conversations started by other group members. If you’re willing to invest the time and effort, this can be a great way to showcase your expertise and make new, valuable connections.

Podcast

Podcasting is an often overlooked, but potentially valuable, vehicle to promote your brand. Creating a podcast is as simple as sitting down and having a conversation. Of course, you want to take a few additional steps in the interest of professionalism, but you get the gist. For as little as $100, you can purchase a basic podcast setup that includes a decent microphone, headphones, an audio interface, and recording software (all of which are typically very user-friendly). Once you’re set up, grab a colleague or friend to “interview” you about the topic(s) you want to address. To keep things running smoothly, you should write a script, or at least a list of talking points, to follow during the conversation.

Celebrity Shout-Outs

Celebrity “shout-out” videos have become so popular, they’re almost too good to pass up. The last few years have seen a growing number of companies that offer short, personalized video messages from athletes, actors, musicians, reality TV stars and other C and D-listers. While only 10 – 20 seconds long, these videos can be a great way to capture people’s attention. The price you’ll pay will vary according to the celebrity, but most are reasonably affordable. Just keep in mind that these are primarily intended for personal messages and you may be charged more if the video is geared toward promoting your business. That said, for between $5 – $50, you can show some client appreciation with a personalized birthday message from a member of their favorite sports team. Yes, this is an off-the-wall and somewhat gimmicky approach. But, as star-struck as consumers can be, this is one gimmick that might just pay off in the end.

Experiment and Expand Your Horizons

A well-rounded marketing plan should have some flexibility. Leave yourself some wiggle room to incorporate fresh ideas and new approaches throughout the year. Remember, you are working in a very crowded marketplace and every inch of traction you can gain could be worth a mile in the end. You should always be willing to experiment and think outside of the box. When something works, keep doing it! When something doesn’t work, use it as an opportunity to evaluate, assess, and improve.

Are you looking for new sales and marketing ideas? Our 19 Sales Tips for 2019 guide will breathe new life into your marketing plan. Get in touch to request your complimentary copy today.

Six Tips To Fire Up Your Email Marketing Campaigns

“I wish email would die.”

Those five words are perhaps the most surprising (and ridiculous) I’ve ever heard come from a marketing expert. And yet they did. I was even more surprised a few minutes later when the same person went on to sing the praises of drip email campaigns. So, despite his personal disdain for the medium, as a professional, he couldn’t deny the marketing value of email. With more than 269 billion emails sent on a daily basis, his conflicted stance is understandable.

As inboxes become more inundated, email marketing efforts need to become more focused and more relevant in order to stand out. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet for a successful email campaign, but using the following tips could very well save your messages from getting lost in the wash.

Segmentation

Most, if not all, email services allow you to break your contact lists into different segments. This is a great way to make sure you’re getting the right message out to the right people. Compared to emails that go out to non-segmented lists, segmented emails result in nearly 15% more opens and 100% more clicks (Mailchimp).

Demographic segmentation – age, gender, geographic location, income, etc. – is one of the most commonly seen uses of this practice. However, advisors and agents should consider digging a little deeper and segment their lists according to the needs and interests of their prospects. For example, create a “Life Insurance” segment that includes only those who have expressed interest in that specific topic. This will keep non-relevant content out of their inbox and decrease the number of people who click “unsubscribe.”

Subject Lines

The subject line you use can make or break the email within the first few seconds of delivery. A strong and concise subject is the best way to pique the reader’s interest and get them to open the message. A good subject line will tease the content of your email, but avoid coming across as spam-y or sales-y. Subject lines that ask an open-ended question, focus on something of value, or speak to a specific need or curiosity will typically generate more opens than others. For example:

  • When You Can Actually Retire Vs. When You Want To Retire
  • Saving Versus Spending: Why You Might Be Doing Both Wrong
  • What You Need To Know About Retirement
  • Why Planning Your Legacy Now Is Important
  • How You Can Save Even With Debt
  • How Your Retirement May Change Next Year
  • One Big Thing Missing From Your Retirement Plan

Avoid using spam filter language (loan, free, mortgage, etc.), deceptive subject lines, exclamation points, and NEVER USE ALL CAPS!!!

Mobile

More than half of all emails are opened on mobile devices, and the majority of those who do open their messages on a smart device will delete emails that aren’t mobile friendly. So, if your email is not optimized for mobile, it might not be worth sending in the first place.

Most email platforms offer a variety of mobile-ready and responsive templates that will make sure yours is designed with smart devices in mind. Use them. You also want to make sure you preview and test your email on as many different devices as possible (computer, smart phone, tablet) to make sure it displays properly on all of them,

Content

If there’s one point that cannot be overstressed, it’s this – content is king. The copy you write from the body of your email should be clear-cut, well-crafted, and plainly outline your value proposition. Obviously, grammar is of the upmost importance, so make sure your proofread at least a few times. Ideally, you’ll want a fresh set of eyes to go over your content at least once or twice as well.

Aim for a good balance of text and images. Too much of the former can come across as bland and unappealing, while an image-heavy email can take longer to load, increasing the chances they’ll delete or ignore your message. You also want to direct their attention to your call-to-action and provide multiple, clickable links to the site you want your readers to land on.

Personalize

Personalized emails can increase both your click-through-rates and conversions. And like the aforementioned tips, your email platform likely has a feature that will automatically include the reader’s first name in both the subject line and greeting. This sort of personal touch will not only catch the reader’s eye, but it could also increase the sense of relevancy and emotional appeal.

Measure Your Results and Act Accordingly

Spend some time looking over the results of your previous email campaigns. Try to determine what it was about your “hits” that made them more successful than your “misses.” Was it the subject line? The time and day you sent the email? Even the design and placement of your links can affect how well your email campaign performs. By carefully going over the different variables at play, you can easily incorporate those things that worked into future campaigns.

Remembering Jack Bogle, the Father of Index Funds

Whether or not you’re familiar with his name, as a financial professional, you owe a debt of gratitude (and your career) to Jack Bogle. Born May 8, 1929, Bogle’s family was hit hard by the Great Depression. This experience would prove formative as he later went on to change the financial industry by creating the first index mutual fund available to consumers.

Not long after founding the Vanguard Group in 1974, a company that now handles nearly $5 trillion in assets, Bogle established the First Index Investment Trust, the first to be built around the S & P500. This introduced a low-cost, passive approach to investing and, in the process, leveled the playing field for the “small-time” investors of the world. His common-sense financial philosophy and disdain for corporate excess (high broker fees, non-transparent and unethical practices, etc.) sparked a revolution that allowed millions to save and invest for retirement.

Bogle’s fierce advocacy for indexing was, at the time, a dramatic break from industry tradition. And while he faced criticism from Wall Street, he went on to become one of the most respected and renowned names in finance and someone whom Warren Buffet once called a “hero.”

In his 1999 book, “Common Sense on Mutual Funds: New Imperatives for the Intelligent Investor,” Bogle laid out these eight basic rules for investors:

  1. Select low-cost funds
  2. Consider carefully the added costs of advice
  3. Do not overrate past fund performance
  4. Use past performance to determine consistency and risk
  5. Beware of stars (as in, star mutual fund managers)
  6. Beware of asset size
  7. Don’t own too many funds
  8. Buy your fund portfolio, and hold it

Bogle left Vanguard in 1999 and, a year later, founded the Bogle Financial Markets Research Center. He passed away on January 16, 2019, leaving behind a legacy built on philanthropy and standing up for the “little guy.”

What to Watch for in 2019

2018 was, to put it mildly, an interesting year. For many, the year was a blend of the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, it’s all behind us and now is the time to look ahead to the next 12 months. So, what does 2019 have in store for us? Will it be another wild ride? Or will the dust from 2018 finally start to settle?

For the first Marketing Corner of 2019, we have a snapshot of just a few of the things agents and advisors should keep an eye on over the coming months.

Social Security

From concerns over potential insolvency, threats to slash the program’s budget, and a COLA boost, Social Security dominated the headlines in 2018. That spotlight will likely remain affixed on the program this year.

While the 2.8% COLA boost means bigger payments in 2019, this will be the last year for the “restricted application strategy.” As it stands now, anyone at full retirement age (66) can restrict their application to spousal benefits only, which would see them collect those payments while letting their own benefit grow until they reach age 70. This strategy is only available for those born before January 2, 1954, meaning those turning 66 this year will be the last group of retirees who can take advantage of this strategy.

Advisors should also keep an eye on Washington D.C. this year as lawmakers are expected to push legislation aimed at improving and preserving the program. Most notably, the Social Security 2100 Act, which calls for a 2% across-the-board benefit increase, bigger annual COLA adjustment and higher minimum benefits for low-income workers. The expansion would be funded by lifting the cap on taxable wages and a gradual phase-in of higher payroll tax rates.

Retirement Savings Plans

This year will see the IRS raise the contribution limit for retirement saving plans, making it possible for workers to increase their nest egg. According to IRS.gov, these cost-of-living adjustments include increasing limits for 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and Thrift Savings Plans from $18,500 to $19,000 and annual IRA contributions increasing from $5,500 to $6,000.

These changes come as some states are starting programs that automatically sign up workers without employer-provided 401(k) or IRAs. These “auto-IRA” plans would require employers to set up automatic payroll deductions but won’t enforce matching contributions. Last year, Oregon became the first state to launch one of these programs, with California and Illinois expected to start theirs in 2019. Other states, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, are currently preparing programs, and New York and New Jersey are laying the groundwork for their own plans.

Market Volatility

After 2018’s rollercoaster of tariffs, trade wars, rallies, and plunges, it’s difficult to predict exactly what 2019 has in store for Wall Street. While the word “recession” has been tossed around as of late, few experts believe things will reach that level. However, that’s no guarantee the market volatility we saw in recent months won’t carry over through 2019. This is why advisors should consider focusing on low-risk and/or recession-proof solutions when helping clients plan for retirement. Consumer confidence may still be high, but a shaky stock market could be a source of recency bias for many clients.

Also Of Interest…

The Security Exchange Commission is expected to move forward with the proposed “regulation best interest” standard this year. Of course, that means the government shutdown has to end so the SEC can reopen and get back to work.

After increasing interest rates four times in 2018, the Federal Reserve is projecting two more hikes to come in 2019. That could very well change as the year progresses as the current projection is down from the previously forecast three interest rate increases and Chairman Jared Powell has suggested further flexibility. Some analysts are even predicting the Fed won’t raise rates at all in 2019.

More marketing tips! Regardless of what 2019 brings, we’ll be here all year providing you with a weekly supply of industry insights, sales ideas, and marketing tips aimed at helping you succeed.