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Would You See a Podiatrist for a Heart Attack?

A hundred years ago, if you were ill, you went to the town doctor. That physician would see patients with all types of ailments — headaches, pregnancy, shoulder pain, surgeries, heart attacks and more. The doctor would know a little bit about a lot of different illnesses and try to cure each patient.

As a progressive society that was gaining more knowledge and experience, we soon realized that each area of the body is highly complex. Therefore, we now have specialists. Hence, if you have a foot ache, you see a podiatrist. With our advanced understanding of medicine, many of us would agree that it would be crazy to a see podiatrist for a heart attack — right?

Yet, in the financial services industry, we are living in a one-doctor town.

One-Doctor Town

When a client has a financial situation, they go to a financial advisor. That person is supposed to know everything, including insurance, wealth accumulation, decumulation, estate structuring, retirement planning, retirement plans and more. But the question is: Why?

Just like the doctor from 100 years ago, this was the way it was. Generalists knew a little bit about a lot of different topics and did their best to solve all problems. However, wouldn’t you agree that financial lives are just as complex as physical bodies? If so, why are we still living in a one-doctor town?

In a recent Fidelity survey, it was reported that 91% of retirement plans are serviced by non-retirement plan advisors. This means that 9 out of 10 plan sponsors are not seeking a specialist for their retirement plan services. In essence, they are going to a podiatrist for a heart attack.

How can retirement plan advisors promote their expertise and change this one-doctor-town opinion?

Marketing, Advertising and Education

Just like the people of 1915, most plan sponsors don’t know any better. A century ago, people trusted their local doctor and followed the doctor’s advice, just as we do today with our financial advisors. Only through education, time and experience did those townspeople learn about specialists. Thus, we have a big challenge ahead of us: to educate plan sponsors about the benefits of retirement plan experts!

Did you know that the average person experiences over 5,000 advertisements per day? We share this information because it’s going to take a focused effort to rise above the advertising clutter in order to gain educational momentum. Thankfully for retirement plan experts and fiduciary advisors, there is a lot going on right now, from the redefinition of fiduciary by the DOL to Justice Breyer’s comments on “continual and ongoing” fiduciary responsibility. There are a lot opportunities to rise above the noise and become known throughout your community as the “go-to” retirement plan expert.

Perhaps the reason that 9 out of 10 retirement plans are serviced by non-experts is simply because plan sponsors can’t tell the difference between a podiatrist and cardiologist. It is possibly due to the fact that many retirement plan experts haven’t separated themselves from financial advisors. Therefore, the plan sponsor doesn’t understand the value or benefit of getting to the heart of the matter.

Financial lives are as complex as physical bodies; therefore, there is a need for specialists. Retirement plans specialists are a unique segment of the financial services industry. Today’s society is more connected and aware than ever before. Therefore, it’s surprising that with all of the world’s information at our fingertips, we’re still seeing, accepting, and doing what we did years ago.

Rebecca Hourihan, AIF, PPC, is the founder and CMO of 401(k) Marketing.