The Need To Change the Conversation

Posted on March 2, 2017. Filed under: Consultants |

Last month I announced our new strategic partnership with Financial Literacy Toolbox.  It is clear from the feedback we have received that our new and improved approach is lining up with what our advisory community is looking for.

Delivering simple financial wellness tools in an effort to help plan participants improve their financial lives is a goal for many of us.  The struggle has been that, to date, our industry has done a poor job of truly connecting with participants.  Additionally, the advisor has not been incentivized to offer these tools because it has not helped them with their #1 business objective – which is to grow the business.

This is why I am so pleased that our message, and new menu of services, really seems to have resonated with advisors.

This month I offer to you an article that Mark Singer, Founder & President of Financial Literacy Toolbox wrote.  He strongly believes we need to change our perspectives in order to get some traction as we look to rollout financial wellness in the corporate world.

If after reading the article you wish to learn more about our cutting edge solutions, please click below to request we reach out to you:

Is Financial Wellness a Waste of Time?

Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to speak in front of hundreds of advisors on the topic of financial wellness. For financial advisors in the retirement plan space, this subject is quite compelling and was often one of the best-attended sessions at the conferences where I was a featured speaker.

Let’s take a look from 30,000 feet as to why this topic is so hot.

First, studies illustrate just how poor a job our industry does of influencing plan participants with the traditional “retirement ready” conversation. Some would argue that without the “autos” that have been adopted by many plans, employees would be in even worse shape than they are now (this is defined by how small the average plan participant’s balances are).

Second, the employees are feeling more financial stress and are asking for more guidance. Companies understand the need to offer more guidance, not only in an effort to help their employees accelerate their retirement savings, but as a way to create less stressed, more productive workers, which in the long run can make a positive impact on the employers’ bottom line.

Finally, a recent Aon Hewitt study indicated that a high percentage of companies, of all sizes, will have adopted financial wellness as a standard offering within the next 7-10 years. Add to this the fiduciary responsibilities of those providing services to the retirement plan space, and one can understand why this topic is so timely and attracts so much attention from financial advisors who are looking to thrive in the retirement plan space.

Thus, advisors see the opportunity to step in and offer solutions that can make a difference with both the plan participant and the plan sponsor, at a time when the advisory community is facing challenges as well. The competition is fierce, and differentiating one’s firm is getting more and more difficult. Traditional marketing efforts are not as effective. The landscape is shifting in terms of where investors are getting their information and how they are making their decisions, and the result is that many seasoned advisors are having great difficulty adding new assets to their firm.

It should not be a surprise, then, that financial advisors, seeking new ways to grow their business, are looking toward financial wellness as a solution. But there is a tremendous disconnect between the idea of delivering financial wellness and the actual execution of it. And herein lies the problem, as I see it.

Financial wellness is not easily defined. Kristie Howard, Senior Health & Benefits Consultant at Mercer, has called financial wellness the “wild wild west”. There is no clear definition of what financial wellness is, or how it should be delivered, not to mention that it is a major undertaking to create, deliver and benchmark a program to hundreds of employees.

Making matters worse, I have spoken with numerous providers in the financial wellness space and I hear that the utilization rate of virtual tools offering guidance is as low as 10%-20%. And because such a small percentage of employees embrace these new tools, many advisors who fell in love with the idea of financial wellness as a business-building tool are frustrated with the results. Most advisors are not interested in spending the time, money and resources to offer financial wellness if they cannot benchmark tangible success – that being new assets or new plans.

So the conclusion for many is that this is a “waste of time”. This was reinforced in a conversation I recently had with Charlie Epstein, founder of the 401k Coach Program. Charlie said, “I believe teaching financial literacy in the workplace is a misguided notion.” He went on to say that as busy as employees are, it is going to be very difficult to gain their attention for a long enough period of time to make an impact on them.

I understand what he is saying, and I understand the frustration advisors are feeling; I just think we are looking at this the wrong way. Instead of seeing that “only” 10%-20% of employees are embracing financial wellness and concluding that this is a failure, why not look at those who are willing to engage in the process as the start of something good?

I say we should focus on those who truly appreciate the opportunity to improve their financial lives, and give them tools to reduce their stress and improve their situation. I say instead of trying to deliver financial wellness to the masses, and feeling frustrated that most will not understand it or take the time to engage with us, we should find those who are willing and build our successes one at a time.

I have taken that approach in my business, as I have used the tools I now offer to other advisors. I strongly believe that with a new focus, we as advisors can make a significant impact on others’ lives, and find that financial wellness can be the means to the end, which is finding a new way to build our business. The key to that is to hit the “easy” button.

Kay McManus with BPAS Plan Administration & Record Keeping Services and I were talking about the problem advisors were facing. We were discussing that many of the financial wellness programs are too broad, almost a shotgun approach, which was creating tremendous frustration for advisors. Kay mentioned that an effective program must be both easy for her financial intermediaries to implement and easy for the plan participant to embrace.

If we can focus on those who wish to spend the time to improve their lives, and deliver easy-to-engage tools that can be easily benchmarked, then delivering financial wellness will not be a waste of time. We will make a significant impact on those who are willing; we will be able to gather success stories for their colleagues in the future; and we will be able to leverage the delivery of financial wellness as a successful business-building tool.

Mark Singer, CFP®, AIF® is a leader in the world of financial education. Mark is the author of three books, a frequent speaker at events, and is the creator of The Financial Literacy Toolbox, a virtual resource center to help financial advisors, wellness providers, or institutional retirement services firms change the conversation about financial wellness

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Electricity? Biology? Seems to me it’s Chemistry!

Posted on July 24, 2012. Filed under: Consultants |

What does a Rush song from their Signals album have to do with attracting new High Net Worth Clients (HNWC)? Discover how in this insightful interview revealing how to take your practice to the next level, and how a classic rock song leads you in this same direction.

I recently saw a video blog from Annie Gasparro, Reporter – Dow Jones Newswires Broker’s World, where she sat down with Richard Wildman, President of The Wildman Center of Excellence for Practice Management. I personally remember sitting through one of Richard’s one day workshops, a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away…, and he was most impressive and an obvious authority of this subject.

Like/Follow us on any of our social media pages at the end of this article to receive the link to the interview for those who wish to watch it themselves. It’s only 3.5 minutes. Please feel free to post your comments as we will be happy to address every one of them. As always, thank all of you for your continued interest and support for all of us here at RJ20 in providing wealth management caliber participant advice!

How Advisors Have To Use Different Tactics To Attract HNWCs:

It’s not about the products and services, it’s about the EXPERIENCE! Remember James Carville who was Bill Clinton’s campaign advisor who coined the battle cry, “It’s the ECONOMY stupid!”? Well here it’s all about creating an experience, which really distinguishes an advisor to the HNWC. Richard says an elevated client experience distinguishes an advisor and transforms their practice in the marketplace. Just as with Marriott and Ritz Carlton, you cannot acquire a Ritz Carlton client with a Marriott experience. Rather than try to reinvent the wheel and do this across the board, just focus on one niche in your practice first, to take it from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Master that step, and then move on to another one! (Signals transmitted, message received..)

OK, So How Do Advisors Up Their Experience To This New Level?

Richard says that most importantly it’s not about competency, but seems to him its chemistry! (Hey, listen to the interview yourself!) Advisors must have an emotional connection with their clients, as economic security is important but the other piece that never gets talked about in this space is emotional security! (Emotion transmitted, emotion received!) The HNWCs want to talk about their fear of uncertainty and their doubt about being able to assess risk effectively. So here’s the opening to connect with them on an emotional level to give them that elevated experience! (Oh but how, do we make contact with one another?)  

Whether its wine, special notes on special days, or taking care of the retirement planning needs of their employees. (Nudge, nudge…there may be a company providing this solution founded by wealth managers, not software developers or academics, who really know how to fit it in and solve the problem!) Seriously, Richard says HNWCs are very interested in finding an advisor who connects with them with something other than their personal portfolio. So why not focus on a particular niche that most advisors don’t spend much time on like their employees, charities, or other interests etc., and distinguish yourself by really connecting with them?

So Why Is This Important For Advisors To Work With A $2.5 Million Client Rather Than Ten $250k Clients?
Ok, Richard points out the obvious here. However, it illustrates a key point for participant advice. If you are a financial advisor, is it really the highest and most effective use of your time doing the retirement planning of average employees in a company’s retirement plan? Surely it is important to have the face-to-face when a participant raises their hand so your client, the CEO, business owner, or other key executive, sees you taking care of the employees. However, why not leverage a solution to do all the planning for you, before you meet face-to-face?

This service can perform all the real time-consuming/heavy-lifting, and you just review the results. Or if you prefer, you can leverage the whole experience and not have to be involved at all. This allows you to find larger more profitable plans with greater numbers of participants that you can now handle with this vertically scalable solution to handle any size. (Again, one $100 million plan or ten $10 million plans.) If you feel clients will say “I thought you were already doing this” it’s easy to illustrate this is the latest means to augment and improve your existing capability to better help participants. Don’t most people look for service enhancements or improvements as they develop, or want their advisors proactively discussing this with them?

How would this help you to elevate your client’s experience? (A change of synergy…) Ok Geddy, enough already.

Thanks again for your continued support and let us know if you need any client handouts to help with these discussions!

Sean Ruehl, President

Get the interview by following us at any of the following:

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RJ20 New Services Help Your Participants

Posted on June 6, 2012. Filed under: Consultants | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Participation Is Up, But Goals Not On Track

A recent article on the Benefitspro website from June 4th by Liz Davidson, cited three reasons employees are participating in their retirement plans but are not on target to meet their goals. We thought this article was pertinent regarding crucial plan design components, and also the perfect way to introduce RJ20’s updated services. These new services were developed all because clients have asked us to find a solution to their challenges. We pride ourselves on molding our business model to fit seamlessly into yours, so we hope this introduction serves as a useful update as well as relevant industry information to keep you current. As we strive at RJ20 to help position you to have proactive discussions with your clients before your competitors do, remember the saying “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” We hope you find this helpful and insightful and stand ready to discuss or demo these ideas for you.

Article’s Executive Summary:
The top three reasons employees are participating in their plans but not reaching their goals are:

  1. The company provides auto enrollment features, but at too low a deferral rate – Typical default rate is 3% when many pros suggest 10%.
  2. The company is informing employees about retirement benefits but is not educating them – Simply telling employees what’s available isn’t enough. You need to help them.
  3. The company is not getting to the root of the problem – Solely focusing on “retirement” doesn’t help employees with other financial challenges distracting them at the moment. Provide a solution to address the other issues and you can help employees focus again on retirement and take action.

How Do These Issues Segue Into RJ20’s New Offerings?
As RJ20 is an online Certified Financial Planning experience founded by CFPs, and not academics or software programmers with no real-world client experience, we have our fingers on the pulse for what really works in improving participant outcomes and overall plan success. It is clear that “tools”, “calculators”, or “software” are not the solutions by themselves as the market is littered with these and next to nobody uses them. Auto enroll features and QDIAs certainly help, but clearly are not getting the results everyone would like to see due to their singular focus on just the plan and not outside considerations.

What we believe this article does a great job of referencing is the holistic nature to solving participant problems where you can then solve their retirement goals. In essence, you need all the horsepower and goals-based perspective of a wealth-management experience, yet it needs to be scalable and affordable as face-to-face credentialed consultations cannot deliver. Enter the missing link to solving this problem once and for all. As our virtual advice provides all the planning both for retirement AND any other financial goal important to a participant, as well as provides servicing over the phone and email so the personal touch is not lost, we encountered a few clients where they needed help with a few other areas briefly highlighted below. Necessity is usually the mother of invention so with our new solutions, there clearly is no longer any excuses why participants cannot have their financial challenges addressed and document significant improvement in helping them meet their goals. We are excited to share these updates with you as this the perfect time to deliver these solutions to the market.

Updated New Services:

  1. “White-Glove” Servicing – RJ20 can now perform trades for participants wishing to make the changes our advice reports recommend. There was some concern from clients that “you can lead a horse to water…” and felt some participants may freeze when it comes time to actually make the changes. RJ20 stepped up to the plate to provide this service so participants can’t use this as an excuse to not take the action our advice suggests.
  2. Hard-copy Input Forms For Non-Internet Users – There were particular plans that came up where the majority of participants do not use the internet or feel comfortable getting advice and taking action on it. RJ20 developed an input form that is easy to complete where employees can send it in and RJ20 completes the report for the employee! Everyone can get a report regardless of technology challenges. RJ20 can also perform the trade for these employees if they wish as well. Advisors that like to meet with participants can also send RJ20 the participant data for us to generate the reports for them, so they can spend their time meeting with participants.
  3. Customize Rollout & Ongoing Communication – Employees won’t use a service if they don’t know it exists and what’s in it for them to use it. We will work with you in getting the word out and having an ongoing means to let employees know the service is there and all the work can be done for them. No more excuses!!!

Please give us a call and/or schedule a webinar for us to show you how you can have that “wow” factor with your clients before it’s too late. It is an honor for us to continue to forge meaningful, value-added relationships with you and we will continue to strive to offer leading-edge, robust, and extremely low cost solutions to create win-win solutions for you and your clients.

Thank you,


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