The Channel 4 Dispatches programme looking at how little most people’s pensions are worth was hopefully a wake up call to many of our clients and prospective clients. Certainly it has created a massive opportunity for us to talk to them about their retirement planning.
Unlike many such documentaries I found this particular programme to be generally well balanced. Perhaps it could have made a bigger point about the need to seek proper financial advice before buying an annuity, but at least it showed viewers the danger of simply drifting into accepting an annuity from their current pension provider without checking out the alternatives.
One point clearly demonstrated in the programme was the lack of very basic future financial planning undertaken by most people. Even someone earning £150,000 a year admitted he had never thought about what he would need to spend in retirement and how he might finance that spending. My own experience is that there is a desperate need for what I refer to as “future cash flow planning”. The clients my firm meets, unlike the three volunteers on the programme, are usually fully aware they need this, but until I meet them they simply don’t know where to turn to get help in preparing such a plan.
This is something I believe we should all be offering our clients. Not simply advising them on where to invest, but working with them to identify their likely needs (and wants too, if they can afford them!), and what resources they have or can begin to provide in order to answer those needs. I find this approach pre-empts the usual objections such as “I will downsize and use the equity to supplement my pension”, or as the £150,000 a year volunteer said “my business is my pension”. These are no longer objections if we are doing our work properly – they are simply additional factors in the plan we are helping our clients create. Once all these factors have been added to the plan I find it is rare for a client to believe he or she is well set up for retirement. The reality, as the programme demonstrated, is that very few of us are.
I am sure you recognize that this is a very basic sales technique. First make sure your prospective client is aware they have a problem and becomes anxious to address it. Then provide the solution. Do this properly and the sale almost makes itself! But what we are talking about here is not simply a sales strategy. It is providing a service clients genuinely need, as the Dispatches program clearly demonstrated.
Hopefully you will take this opportunity to contact any of your clients who have not yet sat down with you and worked out a clear financial plan for their retirement. If they try to make excuses and put off this meeting, remind them of the strong message that came through in the programme, as many of them will probably have watched it.
Also, I suggest you use the further opportunity of reaching out to those unfortunate individuals who have not yet seen the benefit of becoming your clients! This is certainly something I and my firm will be doing. Thank you Michael Buerke!