Across the country, as families depart for summer vacations, parents are hearing the same refrains: Are we there yet? How much longer?
Advisors have been hearing a similar question from clients for the past year or more: When will my portfolio recover to where it was in 2007? Are we there yet? How much longer?
If you're tired of hearing those questions from clients, take a page from a parenting handbook and find new activities or topics of discussion to turn your clients' attention away from a goal that, unlike a vacation destination, may vary in its distance depending on the vagaries of the market. Below are some ideas for giving clients something else to talk about.
In difficult times, people often take a hard look at their life and rethink their goals and values. Your clients have probably been doing a lot of thinking about their lifestyles. What may have been a key focus a few years ago when you did the initial discovery meeting may no longer be a priority. Or, tough economic times may have caused clients to lose sight of their goals and values, which can lead to rash decision making that can hurt their financial future.
A re-discovery meeting process helps advisors be proactive about working with clients and helping them either adjust their goals to meet their new and changing needs or to help them see that their goals have not fundamentally changed and make them more comfortable with "staying the course."
If you haven't already, engage your client in a discussion and analysis of how converting all or part of their traditional IRA holdings to a Roth IRA. Whether or not a conversion would be beneficial depends on the client's unique circumstances. Arriving at the decision requires an in-depth review of the client's situation and careful analysis. While the client may or may not wind up converting, the process of making that determination will deepen the relationship and give the client greater confidence in you as their advisor.
The wave of Baby Boomers pushed the financial industry forward in its efforts to help clients accumulate sufficient assets for their retirement. As the boomers retire, their primary need changes from accumulation to preservation and distribution. For many of them, trained to measure their investing success against the major benchmark indexes, the change in mindset may be challenging. They may need to adjust their spending or make other difficult decisions to help make their money last as long as they do.
Okay, so this conversation won't necessarily get away from the portfolio recovery issue, but it may help clients reframe their thinking in a way that focuses less on where they've been and more on where they are going.
Family Financial Education
Although the economic downturn gave families a dose of reality about their spending and lifestyle, many parents and grandparents still worry that their progeny don't appreciate or understand the basics of good finance management. And just as not every parent can confidently assist a child with chemistry formulas or diagramming sentences, some will find teaching financial fundamentals daunting.
Talk to clients about their expectations for giving children and grandchildren good financial skills. You'll find an abundance of ideas, tools and resources on the web, including guidelines for what's appropriate at various ages. Then offer to let your clients bring the kids or grandkids to your office for a few basics or hold a short workshop for multiple families.
By directing your clients' attention away from "are we there yet," you can deepen your relationships, demonstrate a broader knowledge base, and create more opportunities for referrals. Plus, you'll make the journey to your client's destination more pleasant for everyone.