Retirement Planning Marketing Suffers From The Blepfard Effect

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Think back, for a moment, to when blepfards were introduced. Remember what they felt like in your hands? Remember what they felt like next to your skin?

Of course you don’t. Blepfards don’t exist. And because they don’t exist, trying to imagine what it’s like to hold it and feel it is a fruitless effort.

This is what I call the blepfard effect:

Asking people to imagine a situation, a state of mind, or something that they can’t possibly imagine because they have no basis of experience to do so.

Today’s retirement planning marketing efforts suffer from the blepfard effect.

For good examples, go to ING’s or to Wells Fargo’s Retire Secure Index sites. What they have in common: Answer six simple questions about your finances and retirement expectations, and VOILA!, these sites will tell you if you have enough money to last you your retirement years, and they may even produce a “personalized retirement plan” (oooh!).

Problem is, it’s just not that simple.

Asking someone who is ten, fifteen, or even just five years away from retirement to imagine what kind of retirement lifestyle they want, how much they’ll need to live on, etc. is a fruitless effort. Yet, that’s exactly what today’s spate of retirement calculators and sites ask.

Pre-retirees have questions, not answers. Pre-retirees want to know:

  • How likely is it that my income will continue to grow unabated from now until I retire?
  • Is my current investment style truly as conservative or aggressive as I might think it is?
  • Will I have to make large investments — like children’s college tuition, parents’ health care or buying a second home — between now and when I retire?
  • How much money will l really need on an annual basis to live my desired retirement lifestyle, and what kinds of retirement lifestyles are we even talking about?
  • How much money will I need for health care in retirement?

The list goes on. I won’t drag this brief on and on with all the questions that I, myself, can come up with.

If financial services firms want to effectively market their retirement planning services, they’re going to have to adapt a new approach. Today’s “six simple questions” approach is overly simplistic, and, quite frankly, insulting to those of us with a positive IQ.

If you’d like to know more about what approach I think will be successful, please take a look at my first Aite Group research effort. It’s available for free on the Aite Group (pronounced Eye-tay Groop) web site. Click here for the PDF.

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