In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic upended nearly every facet of life as we knew it and continues to take its toll. Add to that the political divides, regional unrest and global tensions, and it’s easy to see why markets experienced unprecedented volatility and many investors felt uneasy.
When looking back at the year 2020, some may say, “Good riddance!” It was certainly a disconcerting year, to say the least, and there are still many challenges ahead. As we look back, however, it’s not all gloom and doom. In addition to the challenges, there were some bright spots and there are opportunities as we move ahead.
Here are our top 2020 takeaways and related stories for financial advisors and their clients.
Guiding Clients Through Pandemic Fall Out
Many advisors fielded frantic calls from clients when markets plummeted in early spring 2020, then rose, then fell again, then…let’s just say it’s been a hectic year! As time inched along, markets began recovering despite continued volatility and uncertainty from day to day, and those advisors who demonstrated a cool head and a keen recollection of other historic crashes combined with sincere empathy and care likely had an edge when it came to guiding clients through conversations.
One of the most financially devastating effects of the pandemic is sky-high unemployment rates as millions lost their jobs or were furloughed within a matter of weeks. Guiding clients through unexpected job loss or early retirement may have become a frequent topic of conversation. Once again, staying abreast of enacted legislation intended to help clients who face financial hardships played an important role in providing guidance.
- Should a Client Accept an Offer to Retire Early? Ask These Questions First
- Understanding Unemployment Realities to Provide Investor Guidance
- Why and When a Roth IRA Conversion Might Make Sense
For those fortunate to keep their jobs, some were notified that their employers would no longer match their 401(k) contributions. You may have, once again, found yourself fielding questions from clients about how the reduction might impact their retirement strategy, and speculations about economic forecasts likely provided little consolation.
- 401(k) Matches Slashed: 5 Ways for Investors to Respond
- Economic Commentary: Economy Remains Uncertain Amid Pandemic
Communicating in New Ways
When was the last time you met with a client face-to-face? If you’re like many advisors, you may have ended up working from home, and virtual meetings became the norm. You likely had to adopt new routines as well as manage household and children’s at-home schedules on top of managing your client’s portfolios — all from your kitchen table.
Some saw virtual connections as a disadvantage while others embraced it as an opportunity to show their value to clients who struggled to make sense of the volatility in 2020. The financial implications of the pandemic may have been a big wake-up call that showed the value of personal financial advisors, especially for clients who may have grown confident when markets were strong and considered investing on their own or using a robo advisor.
Embracing Legislative Changes
Who can forget all the efforts by the federal government to keep the U.S. economy afloat? The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act helped millions of citizens by providing stimulus checks, additional unemployment payments and penalty-free access to retirement funds. And many businesses received assistance by way of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from the Small Business Administration. These efforts helped stimulate the economy during an unprecedented time.
In addition to keeping up with newly enacted legislation that might impact their clients, advisors were already working to adopt other legislative changes that took effect prior to the pandemic. Among the changes that advisors need to pay close attention to is the SECURE Act which took effect in 2020. Advisors need to ensure that their clients are informed about its implications, including RMDs, IRA and 401(k) contribution changes, withdrawal limitations, student loan repayments and more.
Of course, we can’t overlook Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) and its implications for advisors. The new rule went into effect last summer for brokers who use the term “advisor,” and is comparable to the fiduciary standard for registered investment advisors (RIAs).
Innovating Through Challenging Times
Being unable to connect one-on-one, many advisors looked for online resources to help engage with clients who may have called in a panic. CUNA Mutual Group sought to equip advisors and their clients by launching an advanced planning resource program in 2020, including a digital version of Behavioral Finance Advice (BFATM) advisor tools in partnership with think2perform, combining traditional practices with psychology and neuroscience.
- CUNA Mutual Group Launches Advanced Planning Resources Program
- CUNA Mutual Group Launches Digital Behavioral Finance Advice (BFA™) Advisor Tools
Another 2020 introduction may help highly risk-averse clients stay in the market. CUNA Mutual Group’s all-new MaxProtect™ Fixed Annuity provides investors with a guaranteed rate of return for three-, five-, or seven-year periods while helping to protect their savings from market volatility.
Several innovative annuity products offered through CUNA Mutual Group caught the eye of a leading financial news outlet and were featured in Barron’s 100 Best Annuities for 2020. We’re proud that four annuity products were called out across 14 qualifying categories, demonstrating the value that guaranteed income brings to a diversified portfolio, especially during these challenging times.
There will likely be more challenging days in 2021 and beyond, but equipping yourself with the tools and products you need to forge ahead confidently may be the key to navigating the uncertainties to come.
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Base Policy Form: ICC20-SPDA, 2020-SPDA, ICC20-MVAEND, 2020-MVAEND.