Many articles and news reports have covered the Federal Reserve's concern about the apparent investor complacency bubble. Based on the market, I believe it to be a legitimate concern. We have higher than normal price-to-earnings ratios and all-time market highs, and the annuity industry is similar to that of the pre-financial crisis.
Given that the normal P/E ratio is around 16 for the S&P 500, we are approximately 20 percent overvalued in the stock market. When you look at the Baby Boomers, how many can sustain their standard of living if their retirement assets decreased by 20 percent in the next 90 days? My guess is many would suffer a nearly unrecoverable decrease in their standard of living.
More importantly, what is the psychological effect on those pre-retirees who have been battling to get back to their pre-financial crisis retirement accumulation? This generation has spent the last decade pushing a large boulder up the hill. Boomers have felt the impact of 9/11, the technology bubble, the financial crisis and now an apparent complacency bubble. Why would we let our clients continue to make the same mistakes?
It's time we stop waiting for interest rates to increase or for there to be a "better deal." Doing nothing only perpetuates the risk that is already being taken. If we don't protect our clients’ assets and wealth, they’re likely to repeat the same errors over and over again. Let's get off the merry-go-round and help them.
You should ask for meetings with your top clients to talk about taking their risk off the table and protecting their wealth. If you don't, someone else might do it for you.
In a well-documented study decades ago, British scientists set out to determine how a worker's position on the corporate ladder corresponded to their stress level. It was assumed that more responsibility led to more stress, which in turn led to more incidents of serious health care issues.
The Whitehall Studies produced some interesting findings. Workers higher on the corporate ladder were actually less stressed, due to the amount of control they had during the day. And a worker’s responsibility had nothing to do with stress-related health issues.
I would argue that the same can be said about retirement planning. The amount of money involved is irrelevant. When an individual feels uncomfortable about their income stream, that uncomfortable feeling translates into stress, which increases the probability of problems.
Imagine your stress if you become a burden to your family members. Unfortunately, that stress will begin to form many years before you run out of money or have health issues. Without guaranteed income, you risk being a burden. Because of risks like this, a retiree's stress level can become unbearable.
Income annuities can prevent most of this stress. While the return is not in the range of equities, the power of safety promotes comfort and control. When individuals feel in control of their future, they feel less stressed.
Just as control at work could ease a worker’s stress, I believe Americans would benefit from the safety and comfort of a conversation with their financial advisor.
The following is a guest contribution by Randy Kitzmiller, Regional VP of Annuities for Ash Brokerage.
If your clients want to maintain their standard of living throughout retirement, they need increasing income as part of their strategy.
Take for example a couple, both age 65. It's likely that one of them will live an additional 24 years. If you use the Rule of 72 at a 3 percent inflation rate, they will need to DOUBLE their income in those 24 years to keep up with the same standard of living.
The math doesn't quite add up with a variable annuity with a high water mark strategy. If they have an income value of $1 million and a 5 percent payout, they start with $50,000 of income. For their income to increase to $100,000 in 24 years, they need the income value to grow to $2 million. While mathematically this sounds possible, donít forget that they have to overcome a 5 percent withdrawal, fees of up to 3.5 percent and any market loss.
Using an annuity income strategy gives you much better odds. Your clients will get an annual reset in the income and accumulation phase, and approximately 77 percent of the time, they would receive an increase in income.
Don't wait 24 years to find out if your clients have enough income. Increase their odds and income by looking at different annuity strategies today.
Whether you like it not, your clients have likely made a very important financial decision without your input. Look at their investment portfolios – the absence of long-term care insurance indicates they elected to self-insure. They may not even know they made a decision, but they have. As advisors, we may not be able to change their decision, but we can help mitigate their risk.
Long-term care events may be the most costly risk to long-term accumulation and retirement goals. However, 93 percent of Americans have decided to avoid the purchase of stand-alone protection. Likely, it’s too late for aging clients to consider this level of protection due to health concerns or an unwillingness to commit to high premiums.
If you’re like me, you carry larger-than-normal amounts of cash when on vacation. You might place some money in your significant other's purse, in a suitcase or in multiple pockets. It's as if we’re diversifying our vacation money, right?
Well, why don't we diversify our risk by placing some of our "emergency bucket" money in the right pocket? Using asset-based tools, we can create leverage for our clients. While the return on these types of assets is low, the advantage is to remain in a conservative position while providing additional protection.
The next time you’re looking at a portfolio and see no asset-based long-term care protection, ask your client if they have their money in the right pocket. I'm guessing that some of their portfolio is designated for future, costly medical events. Make sure you match up their assets with their risk and place the money where it can create the most leverage. Call Ash Brokerage for strategies to make it happen.
In previous posts, I have mentioned the need to understand our clients’ behaviors, desires and objectives in order to be a valuable ally in their planning process. It seems advisors aren’t always on the same page with consumers, however.
A recent LIMRA study asked consumers and advisors what the top three concerns were in retirement planning. Of course, advisors and consumers agree that running out of money and creating a retirement income plan were very important. Unfortunately, advisors underestimated other components that their clients highly prioritized. Clients placed a high value on protecting portfolio principal – they actually valued this 50 percent more than the advisors surveyed. I found this gap alarming as it indicates we might not be addressing our customers' true wishes.
Recently, the Federal Reserve began talking about the "complacency bubble" where clients have become comfortable with risk. In reality, maybe advisors have become comfortable with the recent run in the equity markets, but our clients remain fearful of a major correction. It's worth a conversation with our clients to make sure they remain at the same risk tolerance they are willing to take.
Taking gains off the table may be an appropriate tactic in today's market environment. Fixed indexed annuities provide a tool to sweep gains in qualified accounts while remaining attached to an equity index.
The other large gap that the study revealed centered on minimizing taxes. Again, consumers valued this 50 percent more than advisors. With increased tax brackets, higher federal entitlement taxes and alternative minimum tax for high wage earners, the impact of tax deferral has never been more important.
Carriers seem to be focused more on accumulation-driven product design as they try to remove risk from their product portfolios. But for consumers worried about taxes, annuities remain a valuable tool in the planning process. Non-qualified assets gain tax-deferred status during the accumulation phase, while guaranteeing a lifetime income during the payout phase. More importantly, annuities provide tax-efficient distribution during retirement.
Annuities can provide lift and calm consumer concerns in many retirement planning strategies. Shielding growth from current taxation allows for quicker accumulation. Leveraging the many distribution options creates a better take-home income stream in many cases. And, the guarantees and safety of annuities can help clients feel secure. Look at how an annuity might fit into your clients’ retirement plans.
© 2018 Ash Brokerage LLC.