Understanding Behavioral Finance Problems
Have you ever made an impassioned, logical, and appropriate pitch for a prospect and they walked away? Have you ever created a tailored financial plan for a client and they chose to not follow through—even though it responded appropriately to their needs and unique situation? Of course you have. This kind of rejection is part of the prospecting process. You win some, you lose some. But it’s important to consider why, even with a logical, tailored, and appropriate solution, a client or prospect fails to see the key benefits of what you present to them.
Part of this can be explained with behavioral finance. Behavioral finance is a relatively new sub-field of economics that that seeks to explain financial actions and ways of thinking that may be irrational. These irrationalities are often identified as “biases,” some of which you are likely familiar with (i.e. gambler’s fallacy).
For an advisor or life insurance agent, these biases can represent real challenges to converting a prospect or making a client understand how your solutions best position them to achieve their financial goals. Consumers are often unaware of these underlying biases affecting their financial decision-making. Understanding these can help you overcome objections and clear more production. Here are five common biases to be aware of:
Loss aversion is the tendency for people to avoid loss instead of going after gains, in that the emotional character of loss is not equal to it’s numerical gain. For example, compare how you feel about losing $150 versus finding $150 on the street. This can impact a prospect’s ability to see the value of products with growth components, such as fixed indexed annuities, or it can even impact their consideration of any financial solution at all (status quo bias).
Snake Bite Effect
Once bitten, twice shy. It’s only natural for people who have a negative experience with financial solutions (or know someone who has) to be on-guard when presented with a product or plan. The issue here is that the conditions could be completely different or the consumer could be conflating products that are not comparable.
This bias describes the tendency of people to hold on to properties they already own, placing more value than they are actually worth. For instance, a prospect may have a large sum of money in a low-growth savings account, but because they have accumulated that sum over a long length of time, they may be averse to using these funds to purchase specific retirement vehicles that may be more appropriate for their retirement goals.
Mental accounting in finance describes an irrational bias in how individuals treat money compartmentalized into different “accounts.” People ascribe characteristics based on what that money will be used for or how it came to them. A consumer is likely to play with money that came from a windfall, even if they have debts or bills. Or a consumer might have a piggy bank used for saving toward a vacation, even though they have significant credit card debt. Although the money is the same (the debt and the change in piggy bank) both are treated differently because of their utility. Mental accounting can greatly impact an individual’s saving/spending habits. This bias can also affect a prospect’s receptiveness to repositioning funds, because of the separate accounts they come from.
This bias, observed in many different disciplines, identifies the tendency of an individual to latch (anchor) on to a specific piece of information and make choices based on this information–even when other details, contexts, or considerations are available. This can be a particularly damaging bias because a consumer with a strong anchoring bias returns to the same reference point to process new information.
While these are common biases you may encounter as an advisor, they certainly aren’t the only ones. As behavioral finance continues to develop and expand, more and more explanations are posited to
While these are common biases you may encounter as an advisor, they certainly aren’t the only ones. As behavioral finance continues to evolve, more explanations develop for why consumers behave irrationally or illogically. The important thing is to be aware of these filters and understand why prospects or clients behave the way they do, so you can sidestep any potential roadblocks to a sale.
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June is National Annuity Awareness month. This affords producers a great opportunity to discuss the key benefits and values of an annuity within an individual’s retirement plan.
While annuities may not be a catch-all solution for everyone, they do offer many features that can be attractive to a consumer—namely guaranteed interest rates, income for life (with a lifetime income rider), and tax-deferred growth (in the case fixed and deferred annuities).
Many consumers with a passing familiarity of annuities and how they function may be aware of these features. However, these benefits may not fully resonate. For instance, “tax-deferred” is great, but often consumers don’t fully understand the power of this feature on an emotional gut level. Here is a simple way to drive home the benefit of a tax-deferred annuity (or any other tax-deferred financial product for that matter).
In this scenario we are going to compare values that double every year, for 25 years. For one column, we will have strict double compound and for the other, values will double, but then be reduced by 25%–a general tax rate representing savings and mutual funds.
So we see that if a dollar doubles every for 25 years with no yearly reduction, the value grows to huge, almost ridiculous heights, eventually compounding to over $33 million. (That’s a lot of vacations and rounds of golf for retirement).
Obviously tax-deferred does not mean tax-free, so once benefits are triggered, the benefits received will face some taxation. But even at a top tax bracket of 39% the client still walks away with over $20 million in this scenario. The deferral process allows a smaller amount to build to a significantly larger pool.
Now let’s take a look at our “taxed-yearly” values:
A drastically different result. By the end of year 25, the value of the accumulated account has grown to over $1 million. A healthy, respectable amount for retirement, sure, but nearly a $20 million difference from our first calculation.
Of course these are simply illustrative figures and there aren’t financial products with this kind of compounding rate. But this does show the consumer the powerful advantage of a tax-deferred annuity.
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The Power of Time Value Illustrations
Although retirement planning can involve complex products and finely detailed tailored solutions, the underlying principle—saving–is as basic as it comes. So even with sophisticated software, progressive marketing materials, and advanced calculators, retirement planning really comes down to convincing people to do what they already know they should be doing: saving appropriately for their desired retirement lifestyle.
This will generally be the first, and biggest, hurdle an advisor faces in dealing with a prospective client. There are many reasons why consumers don’t put retirement saving into action, even though they know they should:
- Saving is not a priority expense
- They think they will be able to save next month, next year, etc.
- They are unaware of the power of starting now.
With that it mind I wanted to reintroduce the power of time value illustrations.
Given advanced prospecting and marketing methods, this simple core concept has lost some allure. However, don’t underestimate this yellowpad concept’s ability to make retirement saving more tangible and meaningful.
For the purposes of this yellowpad concept, we are only going to deal with strict saving, ignoring interest rates and growth potential vehicles. Let’s say that the client wants to save $150,000 for retirement at age 65. A reasonable and achievable figure in many regards.
For a 35 year-old, this means allocating $5,000 a year, for the next thirty years. Now five grand yearly is nothing to sneeze at, but broken monthly, this figures out to be about $417. For a 55 year-old, achieving $150,000 would mean saving $15,000 a year, which breaks out to be $1250 a month. Clearly it pays to save early and regularly.
Of course many households don’t have the ability to allocate over $400 a month toward savings, with much more immediate needs like mortgage payments, utilities and college. However even saving $250 a month starting at age 35 yields a respectable $90,000 by age 65. Perhaps with other resources, like employer-sponsored retirement programs and Social Security, this will be enough. But maybe (and very likely) this figure won’t be enough for the client’s retirement need. Well now you have your door-opener to the other financial solutions, such annuities or life insurance, that can enhance and potentially grow your prospect’s assets to achieve their retirement goals.
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Small, Everyday Marketing Ideas
A few months ago we discussed the value of off-holiday marketing. Off-holidays provide great opportunities to make contact with clients/prospects and to also offer timely promotions or communications. Beyond off-holidays though, there are other marketing opportunities—ones that may seem small or slight—but actually end up being some of the best ways to prospect and maintain client relationships.
Permit me this analogy: a super athlete like Tiger Woods does not win the game with flash hot shots. Rather, he wins incrementally, chipping away and making the right small moves that build to the big ones. So while you can go for the big shots in your marketing efforts, you should also focus on the incremental, regular things that you can do anytime.
Here are five things you can do to win the game in small, meaningful steps.
Check In Regularly With Clients and Prospects
Schedule courtesy calls/emails to check in with your clients and prospects on a regular basis, outside of occasions like holidays. How often will depend on the personality and relationship of the client. But what’s important is to have a periodic casual conversation. Find out what’s new in their life and see how their goals and priorities are tracking with their financial plan. This gives you a chance to see if there are other services or products you can provide to them. But it also shows that you care about them beyond the initial provision of services, meaning that they are likely to return back to you when a need arises and refer others to you.
Although many companies use birthdays to issue promotions, communications, and offers, these tend to be special birthday related deals. As a financial advisor you likely do not have a birthday deal to offer. However issuing a handwritten birthday card to a client lets them know you are thinking about them and keeps your name on their mind. The important thing is to be sincere and genuine.
Social media will not be a silver bullet answer to all your marketing needs, but it is a great way to make regular contact with clients and prospects. Invite consumers (especially your current clients) to participate on your social media platforms. Make your social content enticing to clients and prospects by varying between sales pitches and relevant content. Like and follow their activity as well. Allot a regular amount of time everyday (10-30mins) to adding more connections. Leverage your current connections to build a wider personal network.
Participate in Social Discussion Groups
Not only should you try to foster a social media following by providing great and relevant content, you should participate in online community and business groups. These are opportunities to present your voice in a venue where clients and potential clients may hear it.
Write Articles for Website Hubs (and yes even Letters to the Editor in local newspapers)
There are two ways to approach this idea. You can write content that is related to you and your capacity (expertise) as a financial advisor. But you can also write discussions that are more general, on a topic that you and your target clients/prospects might share. Search out online forums and blogs, and also submit letters to the editor of your local newspaper.
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Is Your Business Prepared for Google’s New Changes?
You may have heard rumblings about a new Google algorithm update coming soon. For anyone with a business website, hearing that Google is going to make any change at all can inspire fear, anxiety, sweaty palms, pained prayers, and breath-holding. The world’s most popular search engine in the world certainly holds quite a bit of power in the ecosystem of the Internet and any shift of weight by this web giant will ripple far and wide.
So…should you be scared?
Yes and no.
Google claims that the April 21 update will be a mobile-friendliness update, citing the growing importance of mobile site to overall searches.
As posted on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog:
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.
Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.
Sounds great, except if your website is not mobile-optimized. Basically this means if your website is not mobile-friendly, your mobile search traffic can dwindle and you will lose rank.
This repositioning of mobile is indicative of the larger trend towards smartphones and tablets as the go to device for Internet searches. Those who treat mobile interaction secondary to desktop interaction are in a for a ride.
You can test your website’s mobile-friendliness here:
If your website is considered mobile ready, then you don’t have much to worry about. Now you know the focus is on mobile-optimization, so maintain and improve your mobile appearance.
If it not, then consider mobile optimization. According to a very recent Local Search Association Study, 60% of US adults now use tablets or smartphones over PCs to get information about services and products.
This post is part of Legacy Financial Partners’ ongoing Marketing Corner, a space that offers advisors short sales ideas, yellow-pad concepts, and alerts to aid advisors in lead conversion, marketing, and client relationship building.
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Managing Expectations with Prospecting
Let’s begin with a less-than-controversial statement: prospecting is hard business. This is true even if you are lucky to convert a sale on the first interaction, because after you have satisfied that client, you have to think about where the next one will come from. Prospecting, especially within the financial services industry, is never-ending, with very few fish that jump into the boat.
The problem that many advisor and agents have regarding prospecting is a somewhat unrealistic attitude of instant conversion. Many of the advisors we work with have an immediate need; they may not be getting the same amount of leads they used to, or they may have a harder than usual time converting prospects into clients. While there are things in the immediate that advisors and agents can do to work through these challenges—such as purchasing leads, boosting web presence, and repositioning overall marketing strategies—you should also work to manage your prospecting expectations, and understand better pay-offs will often come with time.
Here are some prospecting pitfalls, followed by some thoughts on how to overcome prospecting challenges:
Your net is too wide, too narrow, or too unvaried.
As we’ve discussed before good marketing comes down to understanding your target market [ https://legacy-financial-partners.com/marketing-corner-thursday-jan-8th-2015/ ], and understanding the consumer profiles within your broader target market. So is the answer to become niche? Not exactly. Be both broad and niche. Have varied and dynamic marketing strategies; once that are rooted in what works and allows for experimentation.
The natural inclination is to try to convert the sale immediately
This can create tunnel vision. Obviously when interacting when with prospects, you should make the best case for your services and solutions, but closing away from a consumer once it becomes clear they aren’t ready, can waste an opportunity that occurs once they are ready.
You spend time burning and turning leads, rather than growing the seeds of opportunity.
Again prospecting is hard business, taking up significant time and resources. Why would you want to spend effort on a busted lead, when you could try your magic on a fresh prospect? Isn’t prospecting a numbers game? Yes, but it’s a numbers game on multiple axes of movement. If you only go after slam-dunks, you will miss the other shots that let you ultimately win the game.
It’s not an “either, or” situation. You can still aggressively pursue those clients that convert on a first pass and also have a measured approach to prospects that need time.
Some Suggestions for Overcoming Prospecting Pitfalls
You undoubtedly hope that trigger events such as retirement, would make prospects susceptible to your charm and expertise. Understand that these trigger events are not the same thing as a prospect screaming, “I need help, now!” It means that a consumer has a potential need, likely in the near future. It also probably means that the consumer will explore a lot of options and consider their overall goals by the time they reach you, and that your initial interactions with them will be seen as part of their option-weighing process.
Even if you have gathered a group of pre-retirees for your seminar on Social Security and Retirement Portfolio Maximization, you may get very little or no appointments out of that (or you may convert every single attendee into a client). But you have inserted yourself into those individuals’ evaluation process, assumed an authoritative role, and provided good information. What may be a failure in the short-term could very well be a success in the long-term. This is why when you do live events you capture as much prospect information as possible — for analysis and follow-up.
Use Direct Mail and Drip Email Campaigns for Serial Contact
Direct mail is an old-school way of marketing that still proves it’s worth, especially with pre-retiree consumers. So don’t discount it just yet. Drip email campaigns provide serial contact that track along with a prospect’s long-term decision-making process. So while a consumer takes the time necessary to figure out their financial priorities and weigh their planning options, they will have a periodic reminder of your services, expertise, and interactions.
If you can automate this process, even better. This will allow you to split your time between immediate converts and long-range opportunities.
FOLLOW UP FOLLOW UP FOLLOW UP
Always follow-up on a prospect. Demonstrate your concern and expertise. Provide a personal touch.
It is important to remember that doing just one of these will be insufficient to properly engage with your community. You should look at all of these practices, as well as any others, to build and maintain your community presence. Whatever methods you practice, also remember that engagement is supposed to be an extension of you—your services, business philosophy, professionalism, and friendliness. The more you see these as opportunities, rather than duties of running a modern business, the more value you will get out of them.
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Don’t Miss Out On April CD Renewal Opportunities
October 19, 1987. The largest percentage drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average—a negative 22.61% loss. This is, of course, Black Monday. At the time many thought the effects of this market crash would rival the Great Crash of 1929 (Black Tuesday). However, markets rebounded, with some volatility. For example, just as Black Monday was preceded by all-time highs, so too was the Friday 13th Mini-crash that occurred in October 1989.
The stock market has since experienced much change in the intervening 27 years or so (2008 anyone?) the effects of the 1987 crash are still rippling through the marketplace, in a curious way. One immediate effect (and possible contributor to the severity of Black Monday) was that many individual consumers took their money out of exposed investments and stuffed them into Certificates of Deposits.
This explains why the months of April and October are known as CD renewal months—when consumers’ six-month and twelve-month certificates of deposits are up for renewal. When compared to the market risks, CDs seem like a good bet, and certainly did in October of 1987. CDs provide guaranteed, but by no means huge, interest rates and they are backed by the FDIC.
Many consumers are comfortable with their long-range CDs, but the problem that some face is that CDs do not track as well with inflation as other products do, such as modern versions of annuities.
This presents a great opportunity for the agent or advisor. A client or potential client could see a better—and still safe—return by parlaying their CD funds into an instrument that has greater interest rates and underlying guaranteed structures. Many consumers from the CD boom that resulted from Black Monday may not even be aware of modern, more agile, financial products like fixed indexed annuities. They may renew their CDs out of habit, out of a sense of familiarity and security.
Certainly every consumer is going to be different. For some individuals, their CD may be perfect for their needs and desired level of marketplace participation. It will depend, but it does mean that April and October are good times of the year to have these kinds of discussions, uncover new needs, and make product sales.
To help take advantage of CD renewal opportunities, Legacy Financial Partners is pleased to offer our CD Replacement Kits. Click here to get your complimentary CD Replacement Kit.
It’s still tax season, so don’t forget about our 1040 Overlay Kits.
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Don’t Overlook Millennials
While they typically have no immediate retirement or financial planning needs—compared to say a pre-retiree—Millennials represent a significant emerging market for financial advisors and life insurance agents. Accessing this generation can be particularly difficult for a number of reasons and advisors are likely to focus on pre-retirees and boomers, taking in millennial clients as they come.
Here are some sensible and practical reasons advisors don’t pursue Millennials:
They Have No Money
The average Millennial enters a choppy marketplace wearing the cement shoes of student debt. According PNC Financial the average Millennial is burdened with $45,000 in debt, most often in the form student financial obligations.
They Have No Jobs
Last year, Millennials represented 40% of unemployed workers, slightly greater than Generation X and nearly double than Baby Boomers.
They Have Different Values and Priorities Than The Last Generation
Their values and priorities are very different compared to their parents or grandparent’s generation. This can be a reflection of the marketplace they entered—it’s hard to prioritize owning a home and establishing a retirement plan when the job market is squeezed tight.
For most financial advisors this gives the impression that this generation is not worth the effort. How do you begin the financial planning process for someone that has significant debt exposure, unstable income, and differing values? Why would you want to?
The reality is that there is good opportunity with this generation. Millennials will comprise a large portion of the workforce in the next ten to fifteen years. As the economy and job market improves, this generation will move into more stable positions and be primed for financial planning.
So why not wait until this generation is ready? Well, time for one. A significant portion of Millennials essentially had a half-decade or more of early earning power scrubbed from them—a period that could have been used to effectively manage student debt loads. So even when this generation becomes stable they will still be carrying heavy financial burdens. They will have lost time and earning power.
Here’s why you should look at this market, now:
They still need you
Although Millennials don’t have an immediate need for financial services, they still have a strong planning need (whether the kids appreciate it or not). More importantly, now is the best time for them to begin to plot their financial future
They Are Positioned To Get The Most Out of Financial Plan
Because Millennials are roughly thirty or so years away from traditional retirement age, they are in the best position to save for retirement, from a timeframe standpoint.
Becoming a trusted advisor for a young, upstart professional, can lead to repeat business as that client matures through their income life cycle. Solidifying a relationship early on will make you the go to resource for a Millennial client as they marry, have a child, or experience other life events.
Although Millennials can be a complex mess of financial concerns, their problem is a very simple and familiar one when it comes to retirement and financial planning: how to save when in debt. Or how to save with limited income. Essentially it’s the old savers vs. spenders model.
It may be difficult to allocate toward a retirement program when every dollar is pretty much spoken for, but Millennials, as with anybody starting a financial plan, can grasp the importance of saving. So how do you access this market? The same way you access any new client needing a financial plan.
Explain to a Millennial Prospect:
Pay Yourself First – Saving is just simply paying yourself first. It is as necessary as paying loans, credit cards, and utilities.
Manage Your Debt Appropriately – Although it is important to squash large debts as quickly as possible, it is important to establish a plan for when that debt is cleared, especially when time is a great compounding factor.
Be Consistent Even During Financial Instability – Regular contributions to savings accounts and retirement programs are what help consumers accumulate, even with a debt load.
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Universal Life insurance can be a great tool for many consumers. But, like other financial products, the way UL works can be difficult to succinctly explain. For some consumers this can be the ultimate barrier that inhibits understanding of the value of this particular product. Which, for the agent, can mean the loss of a sale.
This is where the following diagram comes in. The “bucket” is a great yellow-pad concept that explains the core elements of universal life insurance. The basic idea of the “bucket” may already be familiar to many of you, possibly from other variations, such as the “retirement bucket” or the “annuity bucket.”
In our Universal Life Policy bucket, we have two main faucets: Cash contributions and compound interest. The cash contributions represent a larger influx of water (i.e. money, cash value) into the bucket, as indicated by a large single water drop. The compound interest faucet dribbles at a smaller, but steadier, rate than the cash contributions and goes towards raising the level of the death benefit and accumulated cash value.
Our bucket is not entirety free of leakage however. At the bottom, there is a tiny spigot through which some of water will escape. This spigot represents the mortality and expense charges of the universal life policy. The amount of water (again, money, or accumulated cash value) that exits through this spigot is small relative to the rest of the bucket, but is still important to consider and understand. Provided, however, there is enough regular cash contribution and compound interest, the minimum death benefit will keep rising and easily overcome these policy charges.
The overall idea this illustration conveys: keep your bucket full and your death benefit rising.
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Marketing Corner – February 19th, 2015
Go Big and Go Small: Periodization With Your Marketing
Name one goal for your business. Your biggest goal. What do you hope to achieve this year? The early months of the calendar is a time when many advisors and agents think about the successes and failures of the previous year and what they can do to make a big splash before the new calendar turns over.
Maybe you want to increase your AUM ten-fold. Maybe you want to see a fifty-percent revenue growth. Maybe you want to move to a bigger office. Maybe you want be more recognized in your field. Whatever it is, you undoubtedly have that one big, overarching goal for the year. While it can be daunting to think about the how, it’s easy to imagine the big win, the final objective that would put a nice bow on your practice come next Christmas.
It is good to have an ultimate goal as part of your annual plan. Where many businesses struggle is that either the big goal is too big to practically accomplish or the big goal creates tunnel vision that causes them to ignore other small opportunities and everyday needs. Let’s also not forget day-to-day operation tasks and unforeseen events that will affect any business, any person really, throughout the course of the year.
This is where the strategy of periodization can come in to help. The basic idea of periodization is probably already familiar to you. In essence it’s breaking down a big goal into a spread of smaller goals and training objectives. The concept has roots in sports training, especially for athletes that compete professionally. Adapted for business the concept is very similar and can be applied in several ways.
So let’s say your overall goal is to make $100,000 for the year. Not an impossible goal and when you’re identifying your key objective for the year, why not dream big. Now $100,000 is still a pretty significant chunk of money and if making that is your ultimate goal, you only have one opportunity for victory—that is, you either make that amount or you don’t. But what is $100,000 broken down throughout they year? It’s a little over $8,300 a month, which is a more palatable and achievable number, even if it has to be repeated over twelve months to reach that ultimate goal. By compartmentalizing the task, you give yourself twelve opportunities for victory instead of one.
The other reason periodization is a good approach to accomplishing an overarching annual plan is that it gives you better opportunities for metrics and progress tracking. This helps you understand why you may not be achieving the bigger goal—maybe you had to expend resources on a busted marketing campaign, maybe you lost one of your bigger clients, etc. Periodization allows you to figure out what is directly and indirectly impeding (or boosting) your progress. To go big, go small.
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