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‘But I read online...’

Matt Pais

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What to say to clients who heard something on the internet. Or in an ad, or from a friend.
Chris Brown Photography

Douglas Eugene Owens, LUTCF, has a client who wants a certain amount of guaranteed income when he retires. Yet after the 11-year MDRT member from Champaign, Illinois, establishes and implements an annuity for him, the client has an almost instantaneous bout of buyer’s remorse: “Isn’t that one of those things they tell you I’m not supposed to buy?” he asks about the product he just bought.

What’s notable isn’t the client needing more information or that he was reassured quickly after Owens explained why the product met his particular need. What’s notable is that the client’s doubt existed because the “they” in this situation (as in “they tell you I’m not supposed to buy”) was merely an ad from an advisor who doesn’t handle any kind of protection products.

It’s why Owens has developed a clear way of addressing situations like this that many advisors experience when a client has heard something from the internet, a commercial, a friend or otherwise: “You have to be leery of someone who says never do or always do this because they don’t know your situation and what you’re trying to accomplish,” Owens said.

Owens works with small-business owners and employees of a nearby university, and periodically has found himself in situations like this with clients.

He responds: “The internet doesn’t know you, your goals, your feelings and your risk tolerance. So it’s hard for the internet to tell you what to do as opposed to someone who can sit across the table and look you in the eye, and where you have a relationship.”

In addition, he has seen ads (or articles, or word-of-mouth) promote products that are “one size fits all,” which is something clients may not want if they learn what’s actually involved. For example, an index fund that may not match up with a person’s risk tolerance.

“It might be the cheapest thing for you, but it might not have any attachment to your goals and objectives,” he said.

The internet doesn't know you, your goals, your feelings and your risk tolerance. So it's hard for the internet to tell you what to do.

Similarly, Owens makes sure he is the right person for the client. When one wanted to do nothing but buy oil and tobacco stocks because of something he’d heard, Owens had to walk away. “We want more of a diversified approach that’s proven over time, not a quick-hit scheme,” he said.

“We have to tell the people who want to act just based on something they’ve heard or read that’s not exactly how we operate. It could be part of an overall investment plan but not a singular approach.”

Contact: Douglas Owens


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