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Be the Planner That Docks the Boat: Jim Craig’s Guide to Winning Teamwork

Jim Craig to planners:

Jim Craig to planners: “The most important thing you can be is relevant.”

When 1980 Olympic ice hockey gold medalist Jim Craig was in the process of interviewing financial planners, he wasn’t pleased when they treated his wife as though she were invisible.

He also wasn’t pleased when he had to reschedule a meeting with the planner he ultimately hired, only to find the planner didn’t update the meeting materials.

“This guy got comfortable,” Craig said during the first general session at the FPA Annual Conference—BE. He likened it to boating, when he used to let his kids play captain after he’d put the boat on automatic pilot, but he’d take over when it was time to dock the boat.

“I thought, boy he’s really good for now, but when it gets close for him to dock the boat, is he capable of doing that?” Craig questioned. So he hired somebody new–somebody who wasn’t only good for him, but somebody who had a good team that would be around and supportive for his children after he passes.

Craig shared knowledge from his book, Gold Medal Strategies: Business Lessons from America’s Miracle Team, with planners Saturday morning that included his eight strategies for success. Employ these in your business, Craig said, but first take full advantage of all this conference has to offer you.

“Go back better than you came,” Craig said.

1) Have a Shared Dream: Organize your work around your clients’ dreams and watch them come true.

2) Meticulous Recruiting: Recruit people who don’t just have the same dreams as you, but who are willing to work hard and push themselves to make those dreams come true collectively.

3) Manage through Ego and Conflict: Be disciplined for those key moments during the day when you need to avoid temptation.

4) Winning Underdogs: Find somebody who believes in you and work hard to not let them down. Or be that person for employees and clients.

5) Real or Invented Enemy: Know your weaknesses and your strengths and use them to your advantage.

6) Personal Sacrifices: Be prepared and expect to win.

7) Hold Each Other Accountable: You are a product of your decisions, not your circumstances.

8) Stay Young in Outlook and Spirit: In life happiness is a journey. You’re the only one who can make your own happiness. Be positive and open to learning.

9) Great Teams and Great Companies Win: The most important thing to understand is that intense discomfort is the price tag for personal greatness.

Take these tips and employ them at work. Take the knowledge you gain at conferences like the FPA Annual Conference–BE and give it to your employees and colleagues who are unable to attend.

“You represent a lot of people who aren’t here,” Craig said.  “What you have is an opportunity. Not only for you, but for the people you represent and the people who work with you. You need to go back and provide them with the knowledge to do something great.”

HeadshotAna Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.


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If the CIA Can Tweet, So Can You: 5 Marketing Lessons from David Meerman Scott


David Meerman Scott takes a selfie with the BE crowd to prove the power of real time connection.

When David Meerman Scott turned 50, he was bigger, he said.

He proved this by showing a roomful of people at the second general session at the FPA Annual Converence—BE Boston a picture of big 50-year-old him, and new fit 54-year-old him.

He changed his mindset, he said. That’s exactly what you have to do with marketing in real time utilizing social media.

1) Provide Great Content. Generate helpful blog posts and Tweet links. You may be concerned about regulations, but Meerman Scott gave the example of the CIA tweeting, so you shouldn’t have any excuse not to, too.

“Yes you have regulations, yes you have to be ethical, but that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate,” Meerman Scott said. One of the methods to communicate is something Meerman Scott calls “newsjacking,” which is the art of injecting your ideas into breaking news.

2) Connect With Your Markets Via Social Media. Align the way you sell with the way people buy. A good example of this is Donald Trump. Meerman Scott emphasized he wasn’t endorsing Trump politically, but said the man is “crushing it” in terms of social media connection.

For example, when Trump’s phone number was published by Gawker, instead of changing his number Trump changed his voicemail message to be a campaign tool, driving callers to his Twitter page and his campaign website.

Trump is leading in the polls, and it’s probably no coincidence that Trump has Tweeted 27,000 times.

Meerman Scott also emphasized following the “Sharing More than Selling Rule,” which is 85 percent of your activity on social media should be sharing and connecting, 10 percent should be original content and 5 percent or less should be promotional stuff.

3) Real Time Is Key. You should be operating in real time. Planners know about real time when it comes to markets and the news, but when it comes to marketing, they tend to look to past information to make plans for the future.

“If you’re spending all of your time in the past and the future, you’re not spending any time in right now,” Meerman Scott said. And that’s a problem because potential clients are looking for right now.

He used the CIA as an example here, too. The agency answers questions and interacts with its followers in real time, often making comical statements like, “No, we don’t know where Tupac is,” referring to the famous 90s rapper whose death involves numerous conspiracy theories that he is alive and well.

“If the CIA can do it, what’s you’re excuse,” for not doing it, Meerman Scott posed.

4) Bring Humanity to the Organization.  Don’t ask your potential clients to first fill out a form before you give them access to your content. Make your content free and encourage followers to share it. Take a lesson from the Grateful Dead, who shared their music for free and were tremendously successful.

Also, don’t describe your firm in technical, hard-to-digest terms. Eliminate stock photos and hire a real photographer to take pictures of you and your firm.

5) Manage Your Fear. The best way to manage your fear is to change your mindset. Think of it in terms of fitness, Meerman Scott said, and be diligent and consistent.

“If you want to get fit and run around a stage like I do,” Meerman Scott said. “You can’t dabble, you have to truly become fit.”

Same thing with marketing and sales, he said.

For more on Meerman Scott, check out this recent Journal of Financial Planning article.

HeadshotAna Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.

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Closing the Knowledge Gap: Findings from FPA and AARP Social Security Research

SSSocial Security is a complex thing for your clients. At what age should they start benefits? What are the rules?

Turns out, Americans surveyed by the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and AARP aren’t very knowledgeable and they’re not going to planners or other experts for help. Read the full report here.

“The survey sends a clear message,” Jeannine English, president of AARP, said at a press conference Sept. 28 at the FPA Annual Conference—BE Boston 2015. “Most future beneficiaries lack the knowledge they need to make good decisions they need about Social Security.”

This knowledge gap could cost future beneficiaries many thousands of dollars and it not only affects them but their loved ones as well.

“I know from hands-on experience that Social Security is the cornerstone of any retirement plan,” said FPA President Ed Gjertsen, CFP®. “If it’s not addressed properly, beneficiaries and families can really miss out.”

They think they know Social Security, according to the research. Nearly a half of those surveyed said they are “very” or “somewhat” knowledgeable about how their benefits will be determined.

The reality is that most Americans can’t afford a financial planner, so how do we close the knowledge gap for them? That’s a question Sharon Epperson, senior personal finance correspondent at CNBC, posed to a panel of professionals at the closing general session at BE.

“Financial planners are key in helping your clients and consumers know the information about Social Security in order to make the best decisions for them,” said Gary Koenig, vice-president of financial security at the AARP Public Policy Institute.

While planners won’t be able to give all the goods away for free, Koenig suggested they get involved with virtual and in-person “town halls” AARP is planning to host across the nation for consumers who don’t have access to a planner.

The key takeaways when combining the data on what consumers said and what CFP® professionals said regarding Social Security:

  • CFP® professionals expect that Social Security will be a lower percentage of retirement income for their clients than consumers estimate, reflecting the data showing that those who used a professional financial adviser are more affluent than those who had not.
  • Consumers think they are more knowledgeable about how their Social Security benefits are determined than CFP® professionals believe their clients are; 9 percent of consumers say they are very knowledgeable compared to the 1 percent of CFP® professionals who believe their clients are very knowledgeable.
  • CFP® professionals are twice as likely to say they are very confident that the Social Security system will provide their clients with benefits at least equal in value to those received by today’s retirees (14% versus 7% of consumers).
  • CFP® professionals were far more likely to correctly identify 10-20 years as the length of time the trust fund would remain solvent (50% vs 27% for consumers), whereas consumers thought it would be exhausted earlier.
  • Nearly three in 10 (28%) CFP® professionals recommend to clients that they wait to claim benefits until age 70, but only 13 percent of consumers plan to wait that long.
  • More than 90 percent of CFP® professionals recommend that clients check their estimated Social Security benefits at least once every couple years, yet only 64 percent of consumers have done so in the past two years.

One thing consumers could do—your clients included—is sign up for a My Social Security account on the Social Security website, said Dr. Thomas Hungerford, the associate commissioner for retirement policy at the Social Security Administration.

This is where consumers could find answers to common questions about benefits, have access to their Social Security Statement (as the SSA isn’t sending out paper reports anymore) and find out if there are any errors with their earnings so they can figure out how to fix them.

“The people who are approaching retirement are probably more computer savvy, so we do have a lot of web-based resources,” Hungerford said. AARP also offers a plethora of helpful calculators and tools on its website.

According to Jeannine English, now is the time to fill the knowledge gap for tomorrow’s retirees, because “many people don’t realize how much they will need Social Security.”

HeadshotAna Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.



Editor’s Note: Watch the full press conference here:

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Managing Client Anxiety beyond Market Volatility

A remnant from the Great Recession is ongoing financial anxiety about the future. The recent global market turmoil highlighted how this anxiety sits as a strong influencer across generations and wealth strata. Consider the following from recent studies:

Overemphasizing Market Volatility
The Jefferson National/Harris study identified market volatility as the No. 1 issue for both the macro environment and investment execution (noting the concern is actually downside volatility; investors are fine with volatility in rising markets). Volatility’s prominence in investor consciousness speaks to an important truth: when markets decline, wealth is lost; and, when wealth is lost, anxiety increases.

However, market declines are an overemphasized contributor to financial anxiety since any dollar lost has the same wealth affect. Dollars are also lost due to overspending, changed priorities, financial mistakes, unprotected property, tax inefficiency and excessive investment product fees.

Each time a dollar is lost unnecessarily, its compounding value is lost too. Wealth preservation must minimize the loss of dollars from any source, and each dollar not lost allows the remaining wealth to compound from a higher floor.

A Plan’s Wealth-Protecting Actions
Beyond a diversified portfolio to minimize the impact from market downturns, a comprehensive wealth plan protects against many other losses such as:

  • Reducing taxes through tax-loss harvesting, gains management, income shifting, and asset location
  • Lowering expenses for core asset classes with ETFs or passive mutual funds.
  • Avoiding waste by setting spending priorities and budgets
  • Eliminating financial mistakes by using an adviser’s expertise
  • Protecting property with new appraisals and resetting coverage
  • Avoiding probate using a Revocable Living Trust

Something is Clearly Missing
After the wealth plan is executed, attention shifts to the portfolio’s investment performance, thereby excluding the important value secured from the other wealth-protecting actions.

Whereas market declines are infrequent and unpredictable, overspending, taxes and high fees degrade wealth day after day. Preventing these other wealth leakages have absolute monetary value that, in total, can exceed the value generated through portfolio design.

Consider if the S&P 500 declined 50 percent over a few weeks, wealth would clearly be impacted at that moment; paper losses would result with clients’ anxiety spiking. The above IMCA data point highlights that clients value an adviser who keeps them calm in a downturn and prevents paper losses from being realized in a panic. Over time as markets rebound, the paper losses would be washed away by a new bull market—i.e. bull markets last much longer than bear markets.

What’s missed in the reporting task is a high-income client’s largest single expense every year is taxes, at a marginal rate exceeding 50 percent in high-tax states. This annual wealth erosion can far exceed the impact from a single, even severe market decline.

At the typical client meeting, the adviser’s tax alpha production—increased after-tax returns resulting from tax management tactics—is nowhere to be found in the report package.

Not Just Performance Reporting, but Value Reporting
In a performance report, a low-basis investment is shown with a large unrealized gain; a paper profit that may not be realized for years to come. The client’s financial anxiety is reduced knowing this asset exists should it be needed.

In the same vein, the adviser’s wealth-protecting actions have value even though some remain unrealized at a particular time—like a property loss or probate.

An adviser’s value is accentuated when all wealth-protecting actions are illustrated side by side in the performance report package. Seeing the wealth plan’s total value—not just related to portfolio returns—reduces anxiety from headline-grabbing market declines. When anxiety is reduced, a good portion of those 475 hours spent worrying are left to more inspiring thoughts. How could an adviser’s value to this client be more evident?

Kirk LouryKirk Loury
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, NJ

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Storytelling: ‘Pull’ instead of ‘Push’ to Effectively Engage Your Audience

As I pointed out in in last February’s post Use Storytelling to Persuade Your Audience to Take Action, despite the apparent fascination with communicating in sound bites and 140-character Tweets, human beings continue to love and be fascinated by stories. Stories capture our attention by evoking memories, stirring feelings and establishing an emotional bond with the story’s main character and the storyteller.

In her book The Story Factor author Annette Simmons explains that in the world of business stories help deliver information, direction and inspiration in a far more persuasive manner than arguments based on pure logic. She maintains that when we seek to influence or convince our audience with cold, hard facts and figures, we are implementing a “push” strategy, which can easily trigger some form of antagonistic retort. She defines storytelling instead as a “pull” strategy, one that doesn’t alienate listeners but rather lures them into the conversation.

Everyday interaction with clients and prospects provides financial advisers with abundant material for storytelling. Think about all the conversations you have with families seeking to get out of debt or buy their first house, individuals dreaming of launching their own business, parents wanting to give to their children a superior education. These are real examples of human challenges and struggles that your audience can easily relate to. Most important, real life cases make them pause to think and reflect and, ultimately, help them find an answer to their most immediate challenges, or just give them hope.

So, what are some of the most common elements of good storytelling? Here are a few:

Keep It Simple
Good storytellers are pros at making their accounts easy to understand by employing the same language that their audiences speak. This prevents listeners from experiencing distractions arising from pausing to process unfamiliar terms. Effective narrators begin their accounts portraying the challenge that the story’s hero faces. Then they move to describe the attempt(s) made to solve the issue and bring it to a close explaining when and how the problem was successfully addressed.

Short and to the Point
People have limited attention spans. Ergo, you should tell your story as rapidly as possible and make your relevant points as soon as you can. The story you decide to tell need not to be lengthy, overflowing with details. When picking a specific story, make sure it has an emotional component, be it humor, pathos or joy. However, do not struggle to make it overly funny or intersperse it with humor. Ultimately, you are not trying to amuse your audience. Rather, you want to convey some valuable information that will spark in your audience’s brain memories and emotions that would help them connect with you.

Keep It Real
The best stories are those that the narrator has experienced firsthand. Your story should contain aspects that your audience can swiftly relate to. For example, an audience comprised of entrepreneurs will likely be engaged and better respond to a story that involves entrepreneurs rather than college teachers.

Stick to the Beginning-Middle-End Format
Make sure your story adheres to this easy-to-implement structure. Seek to establish a strong opening (beginning) to set the tone and introduce the character(s). Use the middle part to clearly articulate the key problem(s) and conflict(s) that the hero of the story faced prior to finding the appropriate solution. Then, continue your narrative taking the audience to the end of the story. Once your account is over, do not rush to take questions, instead take a pause. It will help your audience to reflect on your words and build a stronger emotional connection with the main character or topic of the story.

A simple, well-narrated and persuasive story is one of the most powerful and effective means of engaging your audience. Ultimately, we are beasts of emotion more than logic. We love to tell and hear stories. Consequently, even the most email and text message addicted client or prospect will find the time and appreciate a concise and well-told story.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.

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3 Ways to Manage Your Time on Social Media to Get Results

You’ve heard social media marketing is a must. You know you need to engage potential clients in the places where they are: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like. You understand there is value participating in the social sphere, but you haven’t quite cracked the code on how and where to invest your energy to make it pay off.

Rather than espouse theory on what could work, I want to share exactly what I do. This combination of three ways to engage has returned exponentially to me in direct clients and opportunities I could not have anticipated.

By implementing all three ways outlined below, you will know where to spend your time and gain the most leverage out of your effort:

1: Daily interaction
You’ve been told to spend 10 or 15 minutes a day on social media, and you can have an impact. While I don’t subscribe to this tactic as your only engagement, allocate time each day for commenting, sharing and otherwise participating in the social media ecosystem. Daily interaction is almost always ‘reactive’ as you respond to what others post.


  • You attend an industry event and Tweet a photo, tagging others in the shot.
  • You congratulate a client on a recent promotion you read about on LinkedIn.
  • You comment on a post an estate planning attorney shares on her firm’s Facebook page.
  • You “retweet” and “favorite” an article published by a journalist you want to meet
  • You read an article that is spot-on for your target audience and you post an update on your company LinkedIn page.

2: Weekly Sharing
An effective adviser marketing plan starts with weekly content creation or curation aimed specifically at the concerns and aspirations of your target client.

Whether you create a blog post, a video or a podcast, social media expands your distribution pushing your message from the limited traffic of your website out to your social followers. This often overlooked act opens up the number of people who may view, like and share your content. Each time you upload a blog post or publish a new video, be sure to share it across all of your social media accounts.


3: Quarterly Campaigns
Proactive sharing of the story you want your target audience to hear comes alive through your quarterly content campaigns. Take a page from the advertising agency media playbook where you carve out a distinct time periods across the year (quarterly works well) where you focus your content on a single theme. Plan and set it up in advance, streamlining the time you invest in the effort.

Here’s how:

  • Select your first topic that you want to share (e.g. The 20 Financial Tasks Middle Managers Must Complete before Retirement)
  • Identify all of the content you already have that fits this topic (blog posts, newsletter articles, write-ups from a financial plan or client email excerpts)
  • Craft new content (think “tips”)
  • Pinpoint the “holes” in your campaign. Find resources, articles, photos, or other professionals who can provide the content. Fill in any remaining blanks with your advice.
  • Break down the content into posts for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, or whichever platforms your audiences uses.
  • Set up and schedule the content distribution in advance through Hootsuite (http://www.hootsuite.com) or Buffer (http://www.buffer.com)
  • Announce the campaign at the start of each quarter to let your prospect email list, your clients, and your followers know what to expect.

The quarterly campaign is where you gain leverage in your marketing. You repurpose existing content, you have a reason to craft new content that you can reuse, and you guarantee that you will show up regularly with a message that reinforces what you want your target audience to read or see from you.

When you set up a campaign each quarter, you can rest assured that if your daily interactions fall to every few days, your weekly sharing slips to semi-monthly, you have to deal with the quarter end, or you want to take a vacation, you will have a campaign supporting you in the background.

Sounds like it’s worth the time, right?

Kristin Harad 2014Kristin Harad, CFP®
Marketing trainer for advisers
San Francisco

Editor’s Note: Kristin Harad has several great pieces on how to branch out and attract and engage clients virtually, including this one that was published in our March 2015 issue titled, “9 Steps to Building a Client-Attraction Virtual Event.” 

For more educational opportunities, check out our webinar titled “Introduction to LinkedIn for Business,” presented by Susan Catalano. Or register for FPA BE Boston 2015 to meet one-on-one with social media and websites business coach Maggie Crowley of Advisor Websites

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8 Ways to Renew Your Focus as the Seasons Change

Like most people, you probably took time to kick back this summer. Perhaps you took an extended vacation, or you took three-day weekends regularly throughout June, July and August. Whatever the case may be, recent market volatility may have kick-started your return to the 40-hour workweek, as you’ve had to respond to client concerns about their portfolios.

To everything there is a season, so they say, and as each season changes, we face new experiences and opportunities, both personally and professionally. In the fall, for example, as students head back to school, there’s a sense of buckling down and getting back to business. And this is just as true for financial advisers.

How can you buckle down and renew your focus?
Buckling down often translates into activities like the following:

  1. Holding more review meetings with clients
  2. Taking extra steps to prospect for new clients
  3. Reviewing internal processes to ensure efficiency
  4. Examining your client base and potentially realigning it with your vision
  5. Rethinking your brand and the extent to which it serves a specific niche
  6. Working with your staff and partners to ensure that everyone is working toward the same firm goals
  7. Assessing the risks the firm faces from clients, employees, technology, business continuity, or natural disaster
  8. Thinking ahead to 2016 and assessing what you need to do to foster the firm’s ongoing growth and quality

For some advisers, the above activities are business as usual. They keep these items top of mind and regularly review them for any signs of trouble or inefficiency. Others advisers think about “CEO-type” issues once in a while—perhaps when they read a blog post like this. Still others think of the above as irrelevant, unnecessary and a pain in the neck. As time goes on and practices turn into more sophisticated businesses, advisers won’t be able to get away with the latter. In fact, the larger the organization, the more critical these activities are.

The approaching fourth quarter is a time for wrapping up 2015 and thinking ahead to 2016 and beyond. Why not seize the autumn momentum and adopt a “back-to-school” mind-set to take a look at your business today in preparation for next year. It will help you appropriately ground the reality of your practice today with your dreams and goals for your business in the future.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.


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