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 CardsSocial 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.

The 2.8% COLA boost means bigger payments in 2019. But this will be the last year for the “restricted application strategy.” Currently, anyone at full retirement age (66) can restrict their application to spousal benefits only. This allows them to collect those payments while letting their own benefit grow until they reach age 70. However, this strategy is only available for those born before January 2, 1954. 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. Lawmakers are expected to push legislation aimed at improving and preserving the program. Most notably, the Social Security 2100 Act. This bill calls for a 2% across-the-board benefit increase, bigger annual COLA adjustments 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.

Piggy BankRetirement Savings Plans

The IRS will raise the contribution limit for retirement saving plans. The move will allow 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. Thrift Savings Plans will jump from $18,500 to $19,000. Annual IRA contributions will increase 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. Oregon became the first state to launch one of these programs in 2018. California and Illinois expected to start theirs in 2019. Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, are currently preparing programs. 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.

Marketing Corner – 6 Key Challenges Advisors Face Today

Marketing Corner – Wednesday June 29th, 2016

6 Key Challenges Advisors Face Today

Advisors and Agents face many challenges throughout their career. From establishing a practice, building a client base, marketing, and dealing with downturns, the zigs and zags of an agent’s career can be erratic. Here are six key challenges advisors face today.

Shifting Demographics and Client Bases

America is on the cusp of the largest transfer of generational wealth, ever. Over the next 30 years, some $30 trillion will be transferred from Boomers to Gen-Xers and Millennials. That’s a pretty good opportunity for advisors, except for two things:

Nearly 66% of children release their parent’s advisor
Most advisors only focus on a particular age segment

Retaining clients across familial generations requires skill. Although there is no such thing as “easy money,” focusing only on Boomers does simplify your practice. You are able to understand the key needs of this population segment and positions to continually enhance your expertise. But doing this cuts you off from the next wave, which is going to arrive sooner than you think. Some demarcations put the outer edge of Gen-Xers around 1960, which means that in five-ten years, these will be the new Boomers. Plus many Gen-Xers and Millennials (yes, Millennials) represent planning opportunities now. Take some time understand the key issues facing each generation and expand your target market.

marketingMarketing and Prospecting

Marketing and prospecting will always be a challenge in any business. Financial advisors are in especially prone position, however, when it comes to generating leads and converting new clients, since the service they provide is not a tangible object and often involves long time-frames. As generations shift, so too does the effective means to reach new clients. This is where having an array of marketing solutions is helpful. While you may have one core marketing activity (seminars, social media, referrals, etc.) having many different marketing tools will help you adapt to changing target markets. It’s not digital versus traditional or push versus pull marketing. It’s digital and traditional, push and pull marketing.

Regulation

One immediate challenge facing the financial service industry at large is the DOL fiduciary rule. While advisors can expound endlessly on the potential impact of this rule, it does raise some concerns about regulation in general and the changing perceptions of what it is financial professionals actually do. We’ll see how this change plays out before full implementation (already there are many lawsuits set to argue against the rule) but it points to the importance of staying abreast of industry-wide changes and being diversified in your offerings.

Balancing Being A Good Advisor and A Good Businessperson

A good advisor provides custom-tailored service and excellent care. A good businessperson understands the true cost of profit and has a vision for the company on several different time scales. The challenge many advisors have is that they have to be both a good advisor and a good businessperson. Independent advisors may pull enough in production to hire a support staff, but the responsibilities of dealing with consumers and protecting the business’s growth fall squarely on their shoulders. Time spent as an advisor can take away time needed to ensure business needs are met. Time focused on the numbers takes away from time that could be spent with consumers, which at the end of the day, helps support the vision of the business.

How do you balance this? It may help to establish a distinct marketing and business plan periodically. You may also wish to align with another producer or agency. Or you might seek out a FMO to handle marketing and back office tasks, as well as help shape the scope of your business. However you do it, never forget that you are a business owner and need time to focus on business needs as much as client needs.

marketvolatileMarket Volatility

The market is unpredictable. While there are best practices, solutions, and strategies that work within and outside the market, the market still casts a large shadow over financial services. Market volatility presents a challenge to advisors in a few interesting ways. Advisors need to have some idea of how products and solutions will perform in the ecosystem of the stock market. Consumers, watching key stock figures and measurements, come armed with their own perceptions, fears, and concerns. This can lead to behavioral finance biases. While you can’t control the market, you can help people address their specific needs. Having a good understanding of consumers’ biases and issues can go a long way to selling your market-tough solutions.

Generalization v. Specialization

The problem many professionals face is to generalize or specialize. This is true of doctors, lawyers, and certainly financial advisors. If you are too generalized, you may miss opportunities to land advance-market, high net-worth clients. If you are too specialized, you may be vulnerable to changes with your specialty and target market. One possible approach for success is similar to the point we made about marketing: have one core offering, with an array of other offerings. This will allow you to go after niche clients, with a sustaining set of services.

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