As an advisor, you generally focus on making money for your clients, which is important when it comes to helping them reach their life goals. But as the recent market volatility demonstrates, investments don’t always produce the positive returns we are looking for — particularly in the short term. That is why it makes sense to offer clients strategies that can improve their finances even in a down market.
Clients love saving money. Unlike moneymaking strategies, techniques designed to save clients money work no matter how markets happen to be behaving at the moment. Here are three money-saving strategies your clients will appreciate that you can implement easily:
Recover unclaimed funds and abandoned property. State unclaimed property programs are sitting on $41.7 billion worth of abandoned bank accounts, uncashed dividend checks and paychecks, refunds due from insurance policies and other funds awaiting return to owners, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (Naupa). The average recovery amount in 2011 was roughly $900, Naupa says, and recoveries of thousands of dollars aren’t uncommon. In the past six months I’ve seen two recoveries in excess of $10,000 each.
Clients love to learn that someone owes them money. And since they don’t expect their advisor to help them recover unclaimed funds or property, they’ll particularly welcome the assistance — not least because it allows them to avoid the finder’s fees often associated with such recoveries. To determine whether a client has any unclaimed property, go to the Naupa-endorsed website. If your client’s state doesn’t list unclaimed funds or property on that site, visit www.unclaimed.org. No matter which site you use in your search, you may find numerous possible matches for your client’s first and last names, so be careful not to file a claim for someone else’s money. Work with your client to identify possible matches, and then send him or her links to the claim forms — or snail-mail the printed forms. Your client could receive a check within a few weeks or months, assuming all paperwork has been completed correctly.
Minimize current taxes. Many investors have used up the carry-forwards from their tax losses of 2008 and 2009, which offset the gains they realized over the past few years. Indeed, for the first time since before the dot-com bust, many investors actually have to pay taxes on profits.
Your clients really don’t like paying taxes. So why not talk to their accountant about using the custodian’s enhanced tax-reporting capabilities to help decrease tax liabilities? In these situations, the advisor changes the default “disposal method” for client accounts so higher-cost shares or shares with long-term gains are sold first. You complement that activity with some tax-loss harvesting. Your client will appreciate your thoughtfulness at tax time, and this is a great way to add value to your services.
Minimize costs associated with 401(k) plans. You may be tempted to make a client’s 401(k) asset mix look like a portfolio you manage; but this isn’t always feasible, because of limitations in retirement plan product menus. So when helping a client select investments for a 401(k), advisors can provide value by skipping the high-cost turkeys and focusing on low-cost core options that might be better investment choices anyway. For example, if your client’s plan doesn’t offer a solid emerging-market choice, it might make sense to opt for a simpler 401(k) portfolio. You can then add a bit more to your emerging-market weighting in the portfolios that you directly manage.
While you can’t control what markets do, you can find new ways to differentiate your practice by helping your clients save money. They will understand you are relentless in your commitment to add value.