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How to Sell to Affluent Seniors

The first thing to understand is to know what they really want.

By Kerry Johnson, MBA, Ph.D.

According to the IRS, there were 9 million households before the market meltdown of 2008-2009 with a net worth of $1 million or more. According to Forbes, there are now more than 300 billionaires in the United States. Mr. or Ms. Millionaire’s average age is 44, while the average billionaire is only 46. And this doesn’t include inherited wealth, which accounts for a surprisingly low three percent of the wealthy. The affluent come from a middle-class or blue-collar background and likely graduated from a state university.

Yet, a well-heeled subset of the affluent are seniors over 55. They are more likely to be affluent than any other demographic group. Affluent seniors account for the plethora of the current explosion in fixed investments. So, who are these affluent seniors, how do they buy and how can you market to them?

They need your help
The Employee Benefit Research Institute reported last year that many Americans have saved little for retirement. Forty-nine percent of those who participated in the 2007 Retirement Confidence Survey reported that the total value of their household savings and investments—not including their home or defined-benefit retirement program—was less than $25,000. Ten percent reported total savings and investments of $25,000-$49,999. Only 14 percent reported having savings of $250,000 or more. But this is the affluent senior group that most needs the help of a qualified financial advisor.

Consider this example. An advisor was able to secure an appointment with a mature couple who wanted to know more about protecting their assets throughout retirement. After chatting for a few minutes, the husband blurted, “What is this about?” as he held up the mailer that created the interest in the first place. The advisor proceeded to explain that without a good trust, the government would take most of the couple”s assets through probate and the lawyers would get the rest. The prospect kept asking questions and the advisor kept answering. When he urged the prospect to talk to an attorney partner who did trusts, the prospect said he would think about it.

Have you experienced this scenario? Do you sense that prospects sometimes seem suspicious and unwilling to take the next step? Would you like to increase your closing ratio?

What seniors really want
In a recent Forrester research study, it was shown that your senior clients want three things from your relationship:

  • They want to understand what they are buying.
  • They want someone to be in control of their investments rather than having a feeling of abandonment.
  • They want frequency of contact.

This is the best time in the last decade to gain affluent seniors as clients.
This means that if you haven’t kept in contact with your senior clients over the last three months, you not only will be unable to gain referrals, but also, you will be unable to gain more of their assets. According to a McKenzie consulting study, 50 percent of seniors are considering changing their financial advisors. Another study conducted in July 2008 noted that 38 percent of clients plan on leaving their advisors. That number increased to 77 percent in November 2008. A surprising statistic in that same timeframe showed 86 percent of clients were warning their friends and family against using their own advisor. In spite of these statistics, this is the best time in the last decade to gain affluent seniors as clients.

Next month, read more about selling to seniors.

Kerry Johnson, MBA, Ph.D., is a best-selling author and frequent speaker at financial planning and insurance conferences around the world. One of his coaching programs, “Peak Performance Coaching,” promises to increase your business by 80 percent in eight weeks. Take a free evaluation test at to see if you are a candidate for this system. Call 800-883-8787 for more information.


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