Continuing education has become very important for financial advisors as they navigate volatile markets for their clients. Like doctors, financial advisors continue to learn throughout their careers, gathering information from many different resources to better serve their clients.
Having experienced advisors host topics of interest to other advisors has become big business among the largest investment companies. The Principal and ING both have divisions that work with continuing education or coaching to help other advisors in their networks find the best possible retirement plans for plan sponsors and plan participants.
Kevin Morris, director of marketing for Principal Funds, helps his company plan continuing education seminars for advisors on topics ranging from Social Security to how advisors should approach clients about their spending habits. His most recent seminar was on Social Security and helping advisors discuss the nuances of that program as it relates to overall retirement strategy.
“Advisors are hit with a lot of information. We use our knowledge base to simplify it so it is tangible for their clients. It is good for advisors. We want advisors to look like the knowledge center for their clients because an advisor is the one who has a relationship with clients and we want to make them as successful as possible,” he said.
The company also conducts seminars on Roth conversions, beneficiary planning and making people aware of the potholes of inflation as they plan their financial needs for retirement, he said. “As a retirement leader, we work with millions of individuals applying for retirement. We pass on that knowledge to advisors who work with individuals on a day-to-day basis,” Morris said.
“Anything in regards to planning for income as people are approaching retirement is pretty important right now,” he said.
Principal Funds offers 250 continuing education seminars across the U.S. for between 2,000 and 3,000 advisors a year. Advisors can have between 20 and 100 clients, so the ones who attend these seminars can “take the message and pass it on to their clients,” he said. Social Security has been a very popular topic because everybody will be affected by that.
ING Retirement Coach Holly Kylen is a financial advisor with ING Financial Partners based in Lititz, Penn. She has built her practice around helping middle class Americans plan for retirement.
Kylen has spent her 26-year career helping people retire and giving presentations to workers in the workplace to get them educated and motivated about their retirement savings. She approaches the topic from an emotional perspective rather than a financial one. She asks clients to first visualize what they want their retirement to be like.
“We’ve got to get Americans to define what they want and plan around it. It is an interesting approach,” she said, which has been very successful for her clients.
She likens her process to saving for a trip somewhere. Do you have the money to travel to Fiji or would a less expensive tropical vacation to Hawaii also serve the purpose?
“In financial planning, it is truly about what you want in life. We’ve got to listen to what you want and create a plan around that. I’ve got to listen, teach and slow down and get you really excited about your dream. We have to do that first before we do anything else and there’s some great tools out there for that,” Kylen said.
Most retirement planning is very textbook-oriented, she said, you learn the basic principles and you help clients come up with a basic number of what they need to save to achieve their dream retirement.
“How motivating is that for you? ‘I can’t wait to get up in the morning to get my 401(k) going,’” she said with a laugh. “That’s textbook training. Now, put some emotion into it. Where’s the emotion in all of this? You don’t do anything in life without emotion attached to it. More planners today, our investment companies and our plan sponsors, are really starting to say it is not just a number, it is really a number attached to what they want. What they want is what motivates that. “
Employers don’t invest enough time helping workers get the education they need about retirement planning. Most just focus on the mechanics of a sound retirement saving plan. Kylen likes to demonstrate an enrollment meeting for her potential clients. “If they can’t be motivated by what I’m about to do, then I’m not the right person for [them]. Employers don’t understand, unfortunately, how important the teacher is. We’re missing that. We’re not there yet,” she said.
If employees are going to be motivated by retirement, “we advisors need the ability to motivate them. Employers also need to know what the advisor they are hiring is going to do,” she said.
Most continuing education meetings are a give and take between the presenter and the attendees, Morris said. A lot of sharing takes place, “like a book club.”
He added that, “We give advisors a lot of information. Anytime we offer a presentation, we supply supporting marketing materials to help them start the conversation.”
Information is everywhere, so the major question financial advisors need to answer is, how do you cut through the clutter to simplify messages and make them digestible to people? “We are trying to gather information and give it to people in a digestible format. The speed of the world doesn’t make it easy, with millions of messages per day,” Morris said.