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Retirement Planning Biz Largely Untapped

retirement planning

At first blush, the retirement planning industry appears crowded with professionals, while the World Wide Web has countless do-it-yourself pages with savings calculators and other financial tools.

Yet, untapped demand for retirement planning is strong and advisors have the opportunity to grow their business by implementing marketing plans that focus on Americans’ growing angst over finances during their golden years.

In a recent Employee Benefit Research Institute survey, nearly half of American workers said they lack confidence they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. That represents a substantial increase from 1995 when 27% expressed the same sentiment.

A considerable 54% of survey respondents, meanwhile, say they have never even calculated how much money they will need to retire and shockingly, just 18% said they have worked with an advisor. The growing lack of confidence is attributed, in part, to the painful bear market following the subprime mortgage fiasco eroding retirement savings and, more recently, to record low interest rates, which are making it hard for existing retirees to generate income from their savings.

For advisors, the survey results can be the starting point of a marketing strategy that targets individuals who need help with long-term finances. When striking up conversations with prospects, advisors can highlight the study results—including the findings that many Americans are insecure about their golden years—and ask prospects if they have calculated their retirement savings needs.

Advisors should emphasize that being confident about retirement can play a big role in providing peace of mind and that the best way to become confident is to develop a thoughtful plan that includes disciplined saving through qualified retirement programs and the creation of long-term projections of income needs. In the process, advisors should add that retirement planning may result in some individuals realizing that they are in better shape for retirement than they anticipated or, conversely, realizing that some individuals need to increase salary deferrals into retirement programs to accomplish their savings goals.

Some Americans, understandably, feel overwhelmed by the sizeable amount of retirement savings that they will need for retirement. For example, a 33 year old individual earning $200,000 annually who wants a retirement income comparable to 70% of his or her salary upon retiring at age 67 will need to save approximately $4 million after factoring for inflation and assuming an annual Social Security Benefit of $30,000. If the individual has a $100,000 401(k) balance, $3,000 each month would have to be saved to reach the savings goal, assuming an average annual investment return of 6% is achieved.

Clearly, a $4 million savings goal is intimidating. But for advisors, helping clients realize that the goal is achievable can go a long way in building relationships. To that end, advisors should illustrate the impact of employer matching contributions. For example, if an employer provides a dollar for dollar match, up to $10,000, the individual will only have to defer approximately $2,166 per month of his or her salary. Since a portion of the amount may be saved on pretax basis, some of the tax savings will help offset the impact of the monthly savings on the individual’s take home pay.

Advisors should also be prepared to work on the financial planning basics with potential clients by helping them develop budgets that include making routine 401(k) deposits. The advisor should also ascertain if other assets, such as an inheritance, may eventually help with reaching retirement goals.

By using robust financial planning software, the above scenario, of course, can be modified to make the end goal easier to obtain. The client may be willing to work past age 67, thereby providing more time for accumulating wealth and shortening the retirement period during which income must be produced. Alternatively, the client may be satisfied with a target retirement income comparable to only 65% of his or her current income.

Either way, it is important to understand that there are no exact answers when planning for retirement. The important thing is to implement a plan that will increase a client’s chances of eventually being financial prepared for retirement.

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