Working with Skill, Not Luck


Shallow men believe in luck.  Strong men believe in cause and effect. 
– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Too often we tell a client things like, “I feel confident this strategy will work for you” or “Based on historical performance, this will work.” What we’re really saying is we’re relying on luck. We hope the vehicles we’ve chosen perform exactly as they have in the past to provide the needed income. And, we assume the strategy won’t need to be changed, adjusted or enhanced. “Set it and forget it” is a recipe for disaster. 

As we look to the future with a fiduciary landscape in mind, I think it’s important to make sure we’re operating from a point of skill and not luck. Skill requires a greater understanding of the cause and effect of financial vehicles. Just understanding how a product works is no longer acceptable. We have to move to understanding how that particular product benefits the client in the best possible way. 

The industry and its regulators continue to move toward science and away from art. In the near future, it will be imperative to substantiate your recommendations with certainty that they meet the best interests of your client. No longer can we rely on the art of selling, which is valued individually. Instead, our skills used to create that art need to rise to the top and not only be seen, but documented.  

Bottom Line

This is a change of mindset we must become used to if we are to survive as financial professionals. Being held to a higher standard isn’t a bad thing or unsurmountable. It simply means we must operate our businesses differently while accomplishing the same client objectives. It’s skill, not luck that will make a difference for so many Americans going forward. 


Mike McGlothlin is the Executive Vice President of Annuities at Ash Brokerage. His strength is helping advisors become more efficient and effective in their businesses. He and his team provide income-planning solutions focused on longevity and tax efficiency, and they also assist advisors with entering defined-benefit termination planning and structured settlement markets

Training for the Marathon of Retirement


Long distance running can actually be enjoyable. There, I said it, and I’m standing behind it. I really enjoy the training process of preparing for an event, whether it’s a half marathon (13.1 miles), a marathon (26.2 miles) and yes, even an ultra-marathon(any distance greater than 26.2 miles). I was never an athlete growing up, but I’ve observed that most people who don’t like running participated in other sports where running was viewed as punishment. In reality, it is a great foundation for the endurance required to excel in most other sports.

The training process for all distances is extremely important for success, and I feel retirement income planning should be approached in the same manner. Would you wake up one day and just decide to go out and run 26.2 miles? I didn’t think so. Most training plans last four to six months leading up to the event, depending on your level of fitness prior to starting. Sticking to the plan as much as possible is imperative – if you cannot commit to 90 percent or more of the plan you’ve laid out, your likelihood of finishing reduces dramatically. It’s a steady process that builds your base fitness over the training cycle, then tapers off before the race to allow your body to rest and prepare. 

When planning for retirement income, you build your base, stay the course in terms of your personal risk index and then “taper” five to 10 years out. A marathon is 26.2 miles, but your retirement will possibly last even longer than that in terms of years. Are you just going to wake up one day and start that journey of retirement? I hope not, otherwise your chances of success will be nominal at best. You must build a strong foundation you can customize for income, health care and longevity. 

The Bottom Line: A marathon is tough, but like longevity, preparation is the key so you don’t hit that “wall” at mile 20. At Ash Brokerage, our knowledge, expertise and holistic approach are second to none. Combine those ingredients with curiosity and unbiased client solutions, and we have the “training plans” that can help you come up with the best retirement plan for each of your clients. Call us today – we’ll help you run a great race.            



What if These are ‘The Good Old Days’?


If you knew “the good old days” were happening right now, what would you do differently? What would you eat, buy or do more of? What opportunities – that maybe you didn’t take advantage of or took partial advantage of – would you want to seize so you don’t look back in regret? 

I’m not talking about stopping to smell the roses, though that’s never a bad idea. But isn’t it true that we choose to isolate and romanticize things from the past, blocking out a preponderance of other, negative things that were going on at the same time? Whether it was “the good old days” of more respectful youth (Vietnam), “Leave it to Beaver” middle class America  (a martini and cigarette for dessert) or the days of the “perfect President” (pick one – the rose colored glasses of either party are equally myopic and revisionist), the “reality” of the past is really in our interpretation of it.

In planning our financial futures, it is equally dangerous to look fondly on the past as it is to look optimistically to the future. We need to focus on the now! We’ve been told that interest rates would be rising for at least the last five years. How many earnings have been lost waiting for that to happen? And how much more will continue to be lost, waiting until that magic percentage rate is reached?  

Alternatives exist now to participate in the market’s current positive trajectory, lock in gains and providing future flexibility. Not acting now could result in retirement savings disappearing and becoming a bitter memory as the result of an upcoming market correction.

Here’s the trap: Now may not seem like a good time to take action because you are too busy, you have other more urgent things to do, interest rates are too low, there’s an election coming up, etc. Later seems better because you (think you) will have more time, more money, more information and better opportunities.

The Bottom Line: Will later be better? Or will later turn out to be the worst of times – too late? Take action now. Give yourself the chance to look back and say, “Those were the good old days.

Avoid That Difficult Conversation


Think back over your career in financial services. Of the thousands of conversations you’ve had with your clients over the years, think of the most difficult ones – the ones that give you that queasy feeling in your stomach even now as you recall the circumstances.

When I ask advisors to describe their most difficult conversation, each answer is slightly unique, based on their particular situations, but almost all fall into a few categories:

  • Market losses (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities)
  • Income shortfall at retirement
  • Estate erosion upon a disability or long-term care event
  • Not having enough life insurance upon the death of a client

In virtually every case, the advisor freely admits the blame rests largely with him or her. They know things could have been different if they were a bit more adamant about covering the specific needs and risk tolerances of their clients, and positioning them to handle any eventuality.

As the conversation continues, my next logical question is, “So, what are you doing now to make sure you avoid having to have a similar difficult conversation in the future?”

The Bottom Line: Ash Brokerage is uniquely qualified to help advisors design products and portfolios to avoid the perils of market volatility, income shortfall, catastrophic injury or illness, or premature death. You should call your Ash RVP today, and start a conversation. We’ll help make your difficult client conversations down the road much more pleasant.



Winning with New Regulations


The proposed rule from the Department of Labor takes up a lot of conversation these days. While we await the final rule, it’s clear that we are likely to be acting in a fiduciary role soon. Many have predicted lower sales and as much as 25 percent of the sales force shrinking. However, with any change, there is opportunity to capture additional market share – even with increased regulation. 

A large advice gap exists in the United Kingdom, where similar legislation went into effect in 2012.  Many financial institutions moved up market as they did not find the mass affluent market profitable.  Unlike in the United Kingdom, we will still be able to write commission-based products. Let’s not lose sight of that fact in the conversations surrounding the Department of Labor. For those financial professionals who can work efficiently in the mass affluent, there will likely be opportunity to thrive in the post-DOL world.  

It will take efficiency and effectiveness – two business building blocks – in order to succeed in this market with the proposed regulations. Professionals earning a commission must be able to repeat a sales process with every client to assure the planning process remains holistic. In order to capitalize on the opportunity that involves key components in the proposed rule, in 2015-16, you must think about strategic maneuvering: 

  • What level of staffing will help me in the post-DOL era?
  • How can I easily document all of my client interactions, client conversations, client goals, and case-specific data that leads to my recommendations?
  • What software will I need to show I am working in the best interest of my client while remaining carrier/fund/investment agnostic?
  • How can I repeat the sales process efficiently, and with care, to create scale in my office?

Bottom Line

New regulation does not mean you automatically have to change your business plan to a fee-based or assets under management model. However, it will require some thought about how to take advantage of some of the opportunities. I urge everyone to begin the thought process around a post-DOL Conflict of Interest era. The plans you make today are likely to help you and your clients succeed in the future.   


Mike McGlothlin is the Executive Vice President of Annuities at Ash Brokerage. His strength is helping advisors become more efficient and effective in their businesses. He and his team provide income-planning solutions focused on longevity and tax efficiency, and they also assist advisors with entering defined-benefit termination planning and structured settlement markets. 


Regulation Department of Labor