Every American Should Have Access to Affordable Financial Advice

Many advisors make it their mission to serve Main Street communities

By Kevin Mayeux, CEO, National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors

A new survey by international investment management behemoth Blackrock has found, not surprisingly, that most Americans are not prepared for retirement. Also, not surprisingly, the survey found that people are stressed about this lack of preparation. I learned about the survey from an interview with Blackrock CEO Rob Kapito on the “CBS This Morning” television program.

Kapito and Blackrock — described as “the largest money manager in the world with assets of over $6 trillion” — are doing a fine job with their survey and media appearances to raise awareness about the problem. But as I watched the program, it struck me that a broad segment of Main Street Americans already know they are struggling to prepare for retirement. This is simply not news to them. Their question is not What? But How?

It also struck me that there is another segment of people who may not be struggling — or, at least, who are confident they are doing something to confront the problem. These are the people who work with professional insurance and financial advisors to prepare for the future.

Members of my organization, the National Association of insurance and Financial Advisors, serve clients in cities, towns, and neighborhoods across the United States. And you don’t have to be wealthy to benefit from our services.

A recent survey of NAIFA members found that nine out of 10 serve middle-income clients, and almost half serve at least some lower-income clients. More than 80 percent say their typical clients have a combined annual household income of less than $150,000, and about half say their typical clients earn less than $100,000 a year.

NAIFA members’ clients include people struggling to get by paycheck-to-paycheck, those living very comfortably, and everyone in between. If you have financial decisions to make, no matter how grand or small, there is a NAIFA member who can help.

Most importantly, advisors don’t just make you aware of the problem, they offer solutions.

As CEO of NAIFA, I talk to advisors all the time about how they help Main Street Americas. Here are some of the strategies that they advise every day:

— Advisors help families create and stick to realistic budgets so they can plan for the expected (retirement, college expenses) and the unexpected (loss of employment, illness or injury, surprise expenses).

— Advisors review their insurance policies, 401(k) plans, and other accounts, and work with them to find ways they can save money or plan better.

— Advisors counsel them on how to get their financial houses in order. If they are in debt, advisors will create a strategy to pay it down. Even if they have several bills, if it’s at all possible advisors urge them to pay themselves first because if they try to pay themselves after paying all of their bills, they may never be in a position to do so.

— Advisors provide them flexibility to pay for financial advice, products, and services in the way that works best and is most beneficial to them.

— Advisors work with the knowledge that even if they incorporate only half of the advice they receive, it is better than doing nothing or having no budget at all.

Another common theme I hear from NAIFA members is that they are always accessible to their clients. Many participate in community-based events, such as welfare-to-work programs for minorities and single parents coming out of difficult situations, or financial literacy events. Advisors work with churches, adult-education centers, and civic organizations to ensure the entire community has access to financial help.

Most importantly, advisors build relationships with their clients. They have frequent conversations or communications with them, year-round, to review their financial goals and make sure they are staying on track.

Financial wellness should be a top priority for everyone, because it directly impacts everyone’s quality of life. The Blackrock survey found that “83 percent of respondents who work with a financial advisor reported a high sense of well-being, compared with 61% of those who don’t.” Getting financial help can be a major stress reliever by helping you feel you are doing the work to reach your financial goals. You feel empowered because you have more control over your life. The future doesn’t seem quite so scary.

For more information on financial wellness and professional advisors, visit www.AdvisorsYouCanTrust.org.