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How The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Changing Priorities When It Comes To Financial Planning
More than six months into the worst pandemic in over 100 years, it goes without saying that the COVID-19 crisis has upended life for nearly everyone in the world. For years, we’ll reflect on how our economy was altered, and what the toll has been on lives and livelihoods. As we continue to navigate this trying time, there are trends in financial advisory that we do see emerging. It’s important to act on these early signals and what they suggest for the future of our business.
Doing this takes a two-part approach. First, we have to fully understand how our clients’ lives have been changed. Second, we have to realize what will soon be required of financial advisors during the next stage of the crisis, and its subsequent recovery. From my perspective leading Financial Advocates and working with hundreds of financial advisors, banks, and credit unions across the country, here is how I see these dynamics changing.
Know What Your Clients Are Going Through
This is not the time to check in with your clients and continue financial planning as usual. While not all of the folks you work with have lost their jobs or had to go through financial heartache, those that haven’t still had to deal with the potential for losing loved ones, anxiety of an economic crisis that may reach them in the future, and other ancillary concerns.
Research shows that many consumers – employed or not – have substantially adjusted their priorities during the crisis, and this is something that is likely to last for years. People are spending less on frivolous things and saving more for emergencies and meaningful purchases – such as land or real estate that will set them up for the future. After all, when the home is now the office (and where we will likely spend even more of our time), investing in real estate has taken on a new importance for those who can still afford it.
American consumers are now saving more, have a closer eye on short-term needs, and unlikely to view previous concerns (like travel or maxing out a 401k) as a high priority. This is important to know because what was once a major reason for hiring a financial advisor in 2019 (planning for retirement, saving for kids’ college) may no longer be the case in 2020 and beyond. While we all hope and expect for a return to normal, this may be a few years away.
Lastly, know that different generations are facing different challenges. Morningstar notes how those closer to retirement (aged 55 and older) were more likely to lose their jobs during the crisis; those between the ages of 35 and 54 were not. When it comes to working with your clients, understand the external realities and remember that personalization is key.
Work With Your Clients Accordingly
Knowing what your clients are going through requires some additional steps than you may not have taken in the past. But doing them will increase client trust in you, as an advisor who knows their financial situation and what they need to do to stay ahead.
For one, increase your client engagement and know that the way those touchpoints are conducted will likely change as well. Quarterly in-person check-ins on a plan that was created in years past will need to change, for example. The way you work with clients should reflect the evolution that many have experienced in their working lives as well. Financial plans are changing faster than ever to act upon a new set of needs that has emerged during this pandemic. If you don’t engage with your clients often, you won’t be able to stay on top of those changing priorities.
Also, virtual meetings and other forms of communication may be required. Provide content and perspectives that matter to your clients and find additional ways to work with them when previous preferences are no longer an option. This doesn’t just stop at the advisory level – while in-person networking used to be a major source of new client referrals, social and digital marketing will be your new prospecting funnel through 2021.
As the year 2020 wraps up, let’s look positively at what next year can bring, and realize what we need to do as financial advisors is to be the best assets for our clients.