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Prepare clients for market volatility

Prepare your clients for the fact that their portfolios will experience periods of disappointing performance. I often share this advice in my presentations on “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read,” but I’m always seeking more specifics on how to do this. At the NAPFA Spring 2019 Conference, I picked up practical ideas for how financial advisors can achieve this.

Financial plan as source of certainty

In “Improving Investor Behavior Through Behavior Coaching,” Jay Mooreland of the Behavioral Finance Network touched briefly on how financial advisors can prepare investors for volatility. He suggested focusing on the financial plan as a source of certainty.

Talk less about performance, and more about the plan, he urged the audience. “Remind them that your plan accounts for this volatility,” he said. After all, as he said, we can’t control market volatility, the economy, or politics. We can, however, control our investment strategy and our behavior and our reactions. In fact, you can coach clients to view volatility as their friend. That’s because it gives people an opportunity to “buy low.”

Pre-commitment plan

Mooreland suggested creating a “pre-commitment plan.” Tell your clients you understand that it’s difficult to buy during volatility. That’s why you have clients commit in advance that if the market falls X%, they’ll move Y% into stocks. You can make plans for multiple levels of market declines. “From a behavioral standpoint, it can be powerful,” said Mooreland.

Mooreland also showed two market performance graphs that reinforced why investors shouldn’t let short-term volatility upset them. If you fell asleep on September 1, 2018, and woke up on Easter Sunday, 2019, the market would be at roughly the same level. That investor wouldn’t have experienced volatility.

The perception of volatility is a function of how often you look at the market, said Mooreland. The more often you look, the more often you’ll see what is ultimately a good investment look bad.

Use your communications to reduce the volatility and stress that your clients feel. Both you and your clients will benefit.

Avoid guarantees

Of course, don’t promise that the financial plan will protect clients from harm in any scenario. You know how the SEC feels about guarantees. Still, there’s plenty that you can do within the constraints imposed by the regulators.

Make an email sandwich for introverts

Quiet influence: introvert's guide to making a differenceIntroverts like to think things over before they speak.

If you cater to their needs with an email sandwich, as suggested by Jennifer Kahnweiler in Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference, you’re likely to have more productive exchanges.

Here’s what Kahnweiler suggests when you schedule a meeting or phone conversation:

Step 1. Write and send in advance an email with “all necessary background information for a discussion.” This lets your readers think about your agenda or ideas prior to your conversation.

Step 2. Discuss the topics with the other person in person, on the phone, or in some other “live” format.

Step 3. Send an email summary of your conversation’s key points. This helps the reader reflect “before committing to action,” as Kahnweiler says.

This email sandwich creates “thinking space for others,…especially…introverts,” says Kahnweiler.

As an introvert, I heartily endorse the email sandwich. I wish everyone would use this technique.

On the other hand, crafting an effective email sandwich takes time. You may choose to reserve it for high-stakes meetings or discussions that benefit from reflection. In addition, sometimes a quick phone call works better than an email.

If you’ve used an email sandwich with clients, prospects, or other important individuals, has it worked for you? I’m interested in learning from your experience.

 

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book.

Newsletters: Can you offer too much good stuff?

A newsletter can work with as little as one good article. While more articles may boost the number of clicks, my experience suggests that most people only sample longer newsletters. The bottom line? Don’t feel you need to push out a multi-article newsletter.

Highest ROI for one-article newsletters

You get the biggest bang for your buck by simply sending some sort of newsletter, even something with just a few lines of text. Why? Because the mere act of appearing in your subscribers’ inboxes is a powerful reminder of your existence.

The longer your newsletter, the more readership drops toward the bottom of the page

I find that the first article in my monthly newsletter typically gets the most clicks. Clicks drop dramatically as readers scan down the page. Still, overall, my newsletter has received way more clicks than average, even after I introduced a streamlined format in May.

What’s YOUR newsletter strategy?

I’m curious to learn about what number of newsletter articles works best for you. Please comment.

How to help your clients help their aging parents

Your clients’ communications with their aging parents can have a big impact on their peace of mind as well as their financial plan. A family meeting is one way to improve communications, as described by Bob Mauterstock of Gift of Communication in “Breaking Down the Barriers: Helping Your Clients Help Their Parents” at the annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts on May 16, 2013. As a financial advisor, you can help clients by suggesting they organize a meeting. You can even facilitate the meeting, said Mauterstock.

The family meeting can break down the generation gap and the communication gap, said Mauterstock. Your clients and their parents may not find it easy to talk. Parents belong to a generation where emotions or money weren’t discussed. They may also shun the online communications favored by younger generations. Face-to-face communication may work best for them.

Family meeting participants

The family meeting should take place face-to-face and involve both aging parents and all of their children, said Mauterstock. Don’t leave out anyone. You’ll probably find that one child is the alpha child, most trusted by the parent. In an interesting twist, Mauterstock, who is an only child, looked to his wife as their “alpha child,” needing her endorsement of his suggestions.

Also involve a facilitator as a neutral party. When financial advisors act as facilitators, they can be heroes to their clients, said Mauterstock.

Family meeting agenda

Start with values, not valuables, in your family meeting, advised Mauterstock.

Be aware that aging parents want to maintain control over their lives. Tread carefully. Anything that threatens control will cause parents to shut down.

Start with the parents’ emotional issues. They are wondering:

  • How will I maintain control over my life?
  • How will I be remembered by my children and grandchildren?
  • What do I want to get done whether I’m alive or not?

Other topics for discussion include legal, healthcare, and financial issues as well as the details and location of other key information.

Other resources

Mauterstock is the author of Can We Talk? A Financial Guide for Baby Boomers Assisting Their Elderly Parents. He blogs at www.parentcareplanning.wordpress.com. Among the books in his extensive resource list was David Solie’s How to Say It to Seniors.