Top Financial Advisors are Guiding Clients with Confidence and Empathy During Today’s Financial Crisis
The world is suffering from a pandemic and a financial crisis that has hit investors and communities very deep and incredibly quick. It’s almost hard to remember that about two months ago, equity markets were experiencing all-time, record highs. Now, we are facing an unprecedented, event-driven bear market. The intensity and extent of this crisis has been completely unpredictable.
Could it get worse, or will it get better? How long will this last? So many investors are asking these questions. Top financial advisors know that their focus should not be on just answering these questions. They have opinions, but are not clairvoyants, and in reality, no one knows the answer. The best advisors are those who are communicative and helpful now, not those consumed with trying to analyze data or predict the future.
We are now in new and unchartered waters for many investors and advisors alike. The difference is that now is the time for advisors to lead investors intelligently and empathetically. The ripple effect of the economic downturn created by Covid-19 will be seen for quite some time. Those advisors that are prepared and not scared will emerge stronger. Top advisors understand that they are managing both risk and emotion. They’re doing what they were hired to do! As a financial advisor, you are a resource, not a news source, to your clients. Your job has always been to listen to clients, understand their situation, be watchful to changes that may affect them, and provide ideas. This has not changed.
For over 20 years, the Academy of Preferred Advisors has worked closely with some of the top advisors in the country who are in-the-trenches, battling this crisis. Here are some strategies that they are offering to clients to add value.
Reminding clients of long-term returns
“Many of my clients have been with me for a good number of years,” stated Chad Smith CFP®, an award-winning advisor and 20-year Academy member from Ashland, Oregon. “For some, they are uneasy about their current account values, but I remind them that during their years with me, their distributions and account values have gone up. Obviously, they’re down from highs right now, but when you reflect on longer term results, they’re still happy with their value.” Chad also stated that for newer clients, he is reminding them of their initial time horizons from when they invested into equity markets. “Most can honestly say their time horizons were five to ten years and not just a few weeks. When I remind them that they still have time to accomplish their goals, it always calms down their nerves and they feel much better about their future.” Chad also diversified his clients, so they do have a good supply of money in money market funds and short-term bonds which have held up well during this equity downturn. “Adding value and helping clients are why I became a financial advisor. Every day provides me an opportunity to help investors.”
Tax Swap and Bank Losses
This strategy involves selling one investment with capital losses and replacing it with a different investment, such as moving from one growth fund or ETF that you own with losses to another growth fund or ETF you also like.
Karen Reimer CFP®, an industry veteran and top advisor with offices in Wichita and Overland Park, Kansas is a long-term academy member who is always looking for tax saving opportunities for her clients. “Taking a loss in an investment is never fun, but you can ease the misfortune by capitalizing on those losses. I have some clients that I know could benefit from a tax swap. Now is a good time to do this for some, especially with prices dropping so low. At some point they will benefit from the loss from a tax prospective. My clients are fully diversified and understand that equity markets move up and down. The Academy has strengthened my tax planning skills and now is the time to share that knowledge. I love helping clients and during these difficult times, I have talked with almost all of my clients. This is a time when clients need an experienced advisor with wisdom and insights.”
Consider Roth IRA Conversions
There are many reasons to consider Roth IRA conversions. Depending on who wins the Presidential election this year, or how much the government injects into their stimulus, there is a chance that for some investors, tax brackets may rise. Also, for most retirement accounts with equities, account values are down. This can create opportunities, especially for those investors currently in the 22-24% tax brackets. Add in the new SECURE Act’s changes to inherited IRAs and it becomes even more prudent to consider a Roth IRA conversion. Now, is a good time to consider and review the pros and cons of a Roth IRA conversion.
Dean Hedeker CFP®, CPA, fifteen-year academy member and nationally recognized top advisor in Illinois, is asking his clients to allow him to do some research on all their IRAs, so he can let them know if they are good candidates for a conversion during this time. Dean noted, “My main goal is to help my clients overall financial health. This means looking at all their accounts and reviewing ideas and strategies that make sense. I love my clients, so talking with them during uncomfortable times is never a chore. Adding value is even better. I remind them that now is the time to revisit their future work and income plans so we can make the best decisions today for tomorrow. Proactive tax planning is a cornerstone of the Academy and it’s a primary strategy for my firm. We add value that they have not been offered in this critical area.”
Many financial advisors will be performing a rebalancing of positions for their clients at the end of this quarter. “Right now, those who started the year with 60/40% positions probably are not at those percentages.”, said long-term Academy member and Top Advisor, Michael Tomren CFP®, of Northern California. “Some rebalancing will have to happen to return them to a real 60/40% position, and we are watching for a good time to take advantage of low equity prices. As our state faces a condition of lockdown, it’s also important that we continue to communicate with clients. We have built a large practice by adding value and doing the right things for clients and now is another opportunity for our firm to step-up. We are communicating with clients and making sure they are okay. We also remind our clients that they are well diversified and we are looking for opportunities to rebalance where it is appropriate. Client service and adding value has and will always be at the forefront of our practice.”
Suspend distributions for IRA holders who do not need them.
Charles Schlapp, CFP®, a top advisor and long-term Academy member from Long Island, New York had several clients who were taking monthly RMD distributions from their IRAs. During reach out conversations with them, he asked if they had a current need for that cash flow. These clients were comfortable with suspending distributions for the time being. Chuck shared, “As a financial advisor, you should be taking a look at when the best time is for your clients to take distributions, and when may be a good time to hold off. I know my clients and their situations and I am always looking for ways to add additional value. My clients are actually referring friends who are scared or do not have a proactive advisor. My personal mantra is to talk with clients and so while this pandemic is uncomfortable, my clients are not panicked.”
This is the time when top advisors will separate themselves from all other financial advisors. Those whose have a client-centric office know that this is a critical time to provide their clients with intelligent leadership and guidance. 16-year Academy member, Chris Doughty, CFP®, a Barron’s and Forbes list best-in-state advisor shares that, “When you run a practice that puts clients first, adds value and is proactive, it is easy to call clients during unsettling times. Many of my clients are asking me if I am Okay. I love my clients like family and honor my responsibility to them. This month, once again, I proactively helped people. We are in the people business and we understand our clients. We are listening to their feelings. The positive messages and functional ideas from the Academy help me. This is a time for advisors to shine.”
First and foremost, make sure all of your clients are healthy. You have been hired to be the steward of your client’s life savings. They are looking to you to let them know that their financial security is your top priority and that you are there to help them through this difficult time. Panic and bad decisions have hurt more investors than any market downturn or pandemic. Now is the time to be proactive like other top advisors.