Opportunities to Help Solve the Retirement Puzzle for the Middle Market

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The changing retirement landscape continues to present challenges for Baby Boomers as well as for those already in or nearing retirement. For the long-underserved middle-income market, these obstacles are particularly formidable, and they’re even more overwhelming for Americans whose earnings place them at the lower portion of this demographic. These are the individuals for whom a pension — if they’re fortunate enough to have one — and Social Security income will not be enough to cover all of their expenses during retirement. These shortfalls mean they’ll need to maximize the income and protection they can get from their IRAs, 401(k)s or other savings tools, and although this may seem daunting, the challenges facing the middle market represents significant opportunities for agents and advisors.

Much like their more affluent counterparts, the needs of middle-market retirees cover a wide breadth of goals, including predictable monthly income, lifetime income guarantees, assistance with catastrophic or chronic care expenses, asset accumulation opportunities to combat inflation, and even leaving an inheritance to their heirs. Over the last several years, numerous innovative products designed to meet one or more of these needs have been introduced, including annuities and even some life insurance products.

Many of these new products are specifically designed to meet the needs of the middle market and a wide range of income levels. However, many individuals, especially those at low- to middle-income levels, are falling through the cracks and remain underserved by financial professionals. According to a recent survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by The Phoenix Companies, only about a quarter (26%) of those with an annual household income lower than $75,000 have ever worked with a financial professional, while more than half (53%) of respondents with an annual household income of $75,000 or more have pursued professional financial guidance.

Individuals at lower income levels are often less inclined to initiate the retirement planning process simply because they don’t think they have the money to do so. However, this group is at a much greater risk of running out of resources in retirement, and therefore has the greatest need for financial advice.

Fortunately, there are many annuity and life insurance products available today that didn’t exist a few years ago, and there is plenty of room for financial professionals to make an impact on the lives of the middle market as well as to grow their businesses due to very little competition in this space. In fact, when you look at it closely, the scope of this unmet need presents far greater opportunity than one might expect from working with clients with a smaller asset base.

How to Profile and Reach this Market

Since middle-income Americans often don’t actively seek professional advice, it falls to agents and advisors to target these prospects and help educate them on what they need to be thinking about, especially as they get closer to retirement age. Consider employing these tactics to accomplish this goal:

  • Expand your marketing message. Despite the fact that prospects with modest incomes and assets don’t actively ask for advice, they are still very concerned about securing predictable retirement income as well as some level of protection regarding health or long-term care costs. Importantly, they may not realize that annuities and life insurance strategies are not exclusively designed for the wealthy.
  • Take a multifaceted approach to education. Agents can partner with employers or networking groups to provide educational workshops and/or one-on-one sessions that offer a 101-type of approach to retirement planning and annuities. They can also reach this demographic by providing planning information through social media, online tools and educational collateral.
  • Stay on top of new products and developments. In order to provide knowledgeable insight on how best to protect and plan for retirement needs, agents and advisors need to keep themselves educated on the market’s newest offerings. It is also crucial for them to not only stay in front of their clients to understand their unique needs, but also to be constantly informed on annuity product evolution from manufacturers and wholesalers.

Regardless of their income level, it is vital for all Americans to educate themselves on the options available, as well as to talk to a financial professional to develop a retirement plan that — at minimum — meets their basic needs for security and protection. Until the point when Americans are all proactively seeking professional guidance on their own, the opportunity for agents and advisors to reach out to these routinely underserved demographics remains strong. Those who recognize this market as an opportunity will ultimately grow their businesses as well as help those in need of an effective plan for retirement.

Mark Fitzgerald, brings 20 years of experience to his role as national sales manager at Saybrus Partners. Prior to his role at Saybrus, he served as regional vice president and the national sales manager for Phoenix Life Insurance Company, a Saybrus affiliate. In his role as national sales manager, Mark was responsible for sales through affiliated and non-affiliated broker-dealers. Mark also worked for Liberty Financial in various senior level roles. During his 20 years in the investment and financial industry, he has generated more than $3 billion dollars in annuity assets. He has also authored numerous articles about retirement income planning and has conducted more than four hundred seminars on client income planning. Mark has a Bachelor’s Degree in finance/economics from Roger Williams University. He also holds his Series 6, 63, 26, and 65 licenses. He currently resides in Collinsville, CT.

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