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Monday, August 11, 2008

Why Baby Boomers Don’t Save for Retirement—It’s our Fault

We don’t do what we’re told. It starts at a young age, and we continue to resist doing what others tell us to do. So it’s no wonder baby boomers are sick of being told and continue to resist saving for retirement.

This problem won’t be solved by greater tax incentives. It will also not be solved with more financial education. Financial education assumes ignorance but is there a baby boomer that does not already know they don’t save enough? If you're committed to educating babay boomers please know that if you educate people, you will never earn more than a school teacher. People don't need to be educated, they need to be motivated and not 1 in 10 financial advisors know how to do that.

The basic problems we have not solved as financial advisors are:

1. We tell people to save for retirement by having less fun today.
2. We try to have people realize the importance of retirement planning by telling them, yet realization is a self-generated activity (i.e. baby boomers won't learn by being told).

We can fix both of these problems if we communiate the right message in the right way.

First, let’s stop telling baby boomers to save for retirement at the cost of less fun today. They won't do it. Rather than taking money from consumption, we need to be smarter, and show boomers these solutions:

a. How to make use of dead equity in their homes—so few people realize that home equity has no return. Their home will appreciate the same amount whether they put the equity to work or not. (Hopefully, you still have clients with home equity)
b. How to reallocate assets for greater returns—most people are under-invested because they don’t watch their investments or have an unstructured plan. As a result, they don’t get the return they should.
c. How to restructure debt for greater cash flow—people have high rate credit card debt and automobile debt rather than low cost deductible mortgage debt. Yet, to a large extent, financial advisors focus on managing assets, not the debt of their clients.

Baby Boomers will be happy to save for retirement if they can do so painlessly—without giving up the BMW and exotic vacation. If you want to get a crowd at a retirement planning seminar, start with the title “How to Plan a Comfortable Retirement without Giving up Your BMW or Exotic Vacation.” Since we have already programmed boomers to believe they won’t have enough and they will need to sacrifice today, we will need to yell the new message that they can still have their fun.

Next, WE need to get it. No matter how much we tell people what to do, they rarely do it. But if they realize what to do and believe it’s their idea, they do it. People have such self-realizations when they need to think for themselves and you can initiate that by asking them questions.

Here’s how that sounds:

Advisor: Bob, what’s your plan for retirement?

Bob: I don’t know…

Advisor: How come you don’t have a plan?

Bob: I already spend too much—where would I get the funds for a retirement plan?

Advisor: I don’t know—what places are possible?

Bob: Sure—I could cut out lots of things, but that’s not what I really want to do.

Advisor: Like what?

Bob: I have a late model BMW. I could drive a Chevy, but who wants that?

Advisor: It sounds like you’ve been pre-programmed to believe that preparing for retirement means you need to sacrifice today. Is that correct?

Bob: Yes, but isn’t that true?

Advisor: No. Let me ask you—do you have any credit card debt or debt on your car?

Bob: Sure I do.

Advisor: If I could hypothetically show you how to save $300 a month on that debt, would you be willing to put that into a retirement fund?

Bob: I won’t have to give up anything?

Advisor: Nothing.

Bob: Yes, please show me.

Notice that in the above dialog, our brilliant financial advisor avoids doing what most advisors do—telling the prospect what action to take. Instead, the advisor only asks questions and the prospect has their own realization.

If we could control our own excessive talking and telling, and teach ourselves to enlighten through our questions, we may just be able to save 78 million people from financial disaster.

1 comments:

Toronto life insurance broker said...

Very nice example. I am working for Long term care insurance Toronto which is also pretty connected with retirement (not to say about whole life insurance, which is way, how to save money for pension) and it's usual client's reaction:"I want to enjoy my salary today, I don't know what will be in 20 years..." You have to show them, they can have both - enjoyment and financial safety. There are some ways how to achieve it (tax cuts, government bonuses etc.) without a big sacrifice.
Lorne