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NEW FEATURERecommendations: instantly provide options when goals are over or underfunded!

How Advisors are Stress Testing their Clients’ Retirement & Financial Plans

We know that right now inflation, interest rates, talk of bear markets, and declining portfolio values are top of mind for nearly all Canadians — in particular, those who are either approaching retirement or are already there.

Our users have been telling us that they need more tools to facilitate these conversations in order to provide their clients with the peace of mind and level of service they need.

This is why we have recently built and released a brand new feature called Stress Testing. This feature is an add-on that allows you to apply historical or randomly generated rates of inflation and investment returns to your projections.

Stress tested projections aren’t meant to replace your original plans, so we always recommend starting with your base expected returns, and then making a copy to facilitate the stress testing discussion with your clients. When you’re having these types of discussions with your clients about what the sequence of returns risk is and how it may impact them, there are many variables to cover. We need to consider both sides of this – if we’re seeing negative returns during the contribution years, this will materially change the value of the portfolio come retirement time. If we’re seeing negative returns during the decumulation phase, perhaps we’re experiencing early market losses and later market gains, the portfolio may be depleting faster than expected.

There’s no way to know for sure how the sequence of returns risk could impact actual retirement portfolios, but we can model both randomized and historical data to get a good idea of potential outcomes.

You can watch a quick video overview on it here.

​Why we created Stress Testing:

During the interview process, there was consensus among users that the current uncertain economic environment was a top concern for advisors and their clients. There was a clear appetite for tools that enable purposeful discussions about the downside risk that can impact the success of the client’s financial plan. The usefulness of modelling the variability of returns and ranges of outcomes was evident.

How Advisors tell us they plan to use this new tool:

There are plenty of use cases for the new stress testing tool, which provides both historical and randomized return options, but here are the most common ones:

  • Show a range of potential future market returns and inflation rates so your client is comfortable with and prepared for more than a base case outcome. This can be combined by running a sustainable scenario to establish a more realistic after-tax spending target that considers the impact of lower than expected returns.

  • Model sequence of returns risk to demonstrate that the timing of when your client receives strong or poor performance on their investments matters, in addition to their overall returns. For instance, you can model a period of negative returns following retirement to show that selling investments to fund withdrawals in a bear market can have significant and negative impacts on the client’s likelihood of success.

  • Model strategies that can help minimize this risk such as a cash wedge or rebalancing into a more conservative asset allocation.

  • Model the first two use cases mentioned above by using their own (or their firms’) market assumptions — think customizing expected returns and standard deviation — to show the potential impact on their projections in context with their investment portfolio assumptions. This is especially useful for planners that support portfolio manager types of advisors.

What current users of this new functionality are already saying:

 

… “This is so fitting for the current times as economic and market conditions are uncertain, and not like any time in history” …
… “I love all the new features added in Snap. Also, love all the sessions and webinars offered by your team” …
… “This is a great tool for client education … the ability to look at the potential worst scenario and make changes accordingly to adjust for sustainability” …
.… “Snap gives a concise 1-page summary that I can use to show clients what their life will look like if they take different paths. And it’s easy for them to understand. It’s also flexible and quick. I’ve tried all the others and they were not as good. The new tool is the best resource we could have been given to have discussions with clients about the current market situation” …

Want to try it for yourself?

Sign-up for your 14-day free trial now and activate the Stress Testing feature. It’s free for 14 days, too!

How Financial Advisors Can Easily Provide Transparent Recommendations for Retirement Planning

As a Financial Advisor, you already know that your clients continue to demand more value in each and every client meeting. To facilitate this, Advisors rely on information, speed, and simplicity from their financial planning software during retirement planning discussions. Most likely, your clients are not coming to you, asking for a financial plan. They are, instead, coming to you with financial questions. As the expert, you know that these questions can be addressed through the financial planning process.

As you work through the financial planning process, what happens if you determine that retirement goals are either over or underfunded? What can you do to help, and how can you provide transparent recommendations to your clients?

This is why we created Recommendations. This new feature will empower Advisors to quickly illustrate to their clients their retirement spending goal, what they are on track for already, and what options they have to close any gaps. This means that now, Advisors can run more “what-if” scenarios in less time and with less effort. As a result, they can spend more time creating value for their clients through meaningful discussion and less time is spent on manual (trial and error) software operations.

The Recommendations feature is ideal for clients who are either pre-retirees or younger clients who are starting to plan for their futures. With Snap’s new recommendations feature, you can now instantly help your clients explore what actions they can take TODAY to ensure their future retirement goals are met.

 

We know that one of your clients’ most important questions is: how much can I afford to spend during retirement?

But what happens when that number isn’t enough? What happens next if you determine that your client can’t afford to spend what they need or want once they retire? That’s when the next round of questions start.

  1. How much MORE do I need to be saving each year in order to reach my goals?
  2. What age can I afford to retire at?
  3. How much do I need to reduce my annual spending by to ensure I don’t run out of money?
  4. Or, how much do I need to save from the sale of this business or property to ensure my retirement goals are fully funded?

Why we created Recommendations:

During the interview process, there was consensus among users that automating the recommendations process would be highly valuable, for several key reasons. Advisors tell us that their clients continue to demand more value and service from each and every meeting, and expect to receive answers quickly to their most important questions.

If the answer to “how much can I afford to spend” is not what the client was hoping for, the next line of questions will be around what can be done now to impact that number.

What our Advisors have told us they need:

After an Advisor meets with a client and inputs all required data to produce a base financial plan, Advisors say they then want the software to auto-calculate how much retirement spending their client is on track for and what options they have to close any existing gaps. Advisors tell us they also want the ability to make swift plan alterations and then have the software re-calculate these areas. Finally, they want the option to have the software implement the recommendations for them, creating transparency behind the recommendations and saving valuable time.

This is exactly why we built the new Recommendations feature.

How Advisors tell us they plan to use this new tool:

Here are the most common use cases for the Recommendations feature.

  • Identify gaps/vulnerabilities between clients’ retirement goals and their current situation.
  • Illustrate how the timing of retirement can affect the achievement of specific retirement goals.
  • Illustrate how additional annual savings can help to achieve retirement goals.
  • Establish whether some of the client’s capital assets can be repurposed toward goals other than retirement, such as purchasing a second property, supporting a loved one, or budgeting for an annual trip.
  • Explore ways to increase estate value, such as funnelling a portion of capital assets into an insurance estate strategy or investing into a business.
  • Illustrate how much money a client needs to put away today to achieve their retirement plan in the event of a windfall due to something like selling a business/land or receiving an inheritance.
  • Present how unfavourable market conditions [by using the Stress-Testing module] can affect retirement funding strategies by combining stress testing with recommendations.

 

What current users of this new functionality are already saying:

…. “Recommendations will save me time on calculations and quickly allow me to generate client-facing what-if scenarios” …

… “This will save me time because it eliminates the need to produce multiple stand-alone what-if scenarios. I can now do it on one page” …

… “Recommendations will allow me to quickly produce high-level recommendations with little effort. It enhances the client-facing experience”…

… “It looks awesome! The automatic savings feature that optimizes where to save and is showing the before and after tax required savings is exactly what we need. Thank you.”

Want to try it for yourself?

Sign-up for your 14-day free trial and access the new Recommendations feature today.

FP Canada Standards Council’s New Tech Rules

Did you know that there are new technology rules for Financial Planners?

 


In July 2021, the FP Canada Standards Council added two new rules to their Standards of Professional Responsibility.

 

Certified financial planners (CFPs) & qualified associate financial planners (QAFPs) have some new expectations and requirements pertaining to the technology they use as part of their financial planning process. We’re going to break these two new rules down for you and demonstrate how Snap Projections helps to satisfy these requirements. We enable planners to easily comply and meet these requirements, so if you’re a Snap user, we’ve got you covered for these changes.

 


 

Let’s start with Rule 28, which you will find on page 16 of the updated set of standards.

It states that:

 

(28) When relying on or using technology in the financial planning process, a Certificant:

a) Must take reasonable proactive steps to gain a general understanding of the methodologies underlying the technology that have a direct impact on financial planning projections and recommendations;

b) Must have an understanding of the financial assumptions underlying the technology that have a direct impact on financial planning projections and recommendations;

c) Must validate that the inputs and assumptions used are reasonable and appropriate based on the client’s circumstances; and

d) Must validate that the outputs generated are reasonable and appropriate for the client before relying on them, or presenting the final recommendations or strategies to the client.

In laymen’s terms, this new rule simply means that Financial Planners need to understand what data goes into a financial planning software, and whether or not the numbers that go both in and come out, are reasonable. It means that you need to understand how things are calculated, and be able to validate that the assumptions and outputs are reasonable. The other layer here is that all of this pertains to what is reasonable and appropriate for your individual client, which means you really need to “know your customer”. If you use financial planning software that you don’t understand because it isn’t transparent, or don’t invest the proper time in client discovery and awareness, you may find yourself in breach of these new rules.

How does Snap Projections help with this new expectation?

Snap Projections takes great care to document and share the methodologies and assumptions that underlie the software. We believe a thorough understanding of these inputs is important to ensure the outputs of the software are as intended for your needs. We use current government-provided inputs where available (e.g., tax rates, CPP benefits) and use reasonable and customizable assumptions where required (e.g., inflation, portfolio holdings). Where possible, we use industry-recommended inputs (e.g., the FP Canada Projection Assumption Guidelines (PAG) for the rate of return assumptions). Additionally, our data entry flow encourages the review and validation of many of these assumptions as the plan is initially being created. In addition to the resources you’ll find below, it’s worth mentioning that we have a stellar Customer Support team that is available to answer any questions you have. If you’re wondering where a number is coming from, or how something was calculated, all you need to do is ask. You won’t be left in the dark and we will ensure you have the information you need to be confident in the numbers and plans you present to your clients. Articles outlining our methodologies and assumptions can be found throughout our Help section of the website. Some of the most relevant articles are included below:

Once we cover the data and numbers, we also need to consider the human element here, which is the responsibility to know your customer, and to know what is reasonable and appropriate for each individual. We provide you with a Financial Planning Questionnaire to obtain the relevant information that you need to not only serve your clients but remain compliant.

Next, let’s cover Rule 29, which you will find on page 17 of the updated set of standards.

It states that:

 

(29) In all cases, irrespective of the data used, the material assumptions used as well as the rationale must be documented, and clearly communicated to clients.

This one is a bit simpler to digest, and is essentially stating that you must be able to both demonstrate and document your assumptions and reasonings, and also show you’ve shared this information with your clients in a manner they can understand.

How does Snap Projections support managing this requirement?

Snap Projections includes a dedicated page in the Report section for assumptions used in the projection. In addition to these values, advisors can add their own comments in this section for any other material details not captured in the default tables. If assumptions are more appropriate in reference to specific figures (e.g., tables, charts) you can add comments to any section of the Report. Assumptions currently included are listed below:

  • Start year
  • End year
  • Inflation rate
  • Province for tax purposes
  • Rate of return on capital assets
  • Appreciation rate on real assets
  • Retirement age
  • CPP start age
  • OAS start age
  • CPP % of maximum
  • OAS % of maximum

 

Other assumptions may be included depending on additional functionality added to the projection (e.g., education goal, insurance). There is also the option to export the plan as an Excel file, which documents 100+ different assumptions/parameters used in the plan. Our reports are simple and easy to understand for clients. For sharing the plan and communicating with your client, you have several options. You can present the plan and charts in real-time, either in-person or through screen-sharing, and then download a PDF of the report to email or print and provide it to your clients.

 


 

At the end of the day, even though this may be a lot to digest, these changes are good. These new rules, which are timely and relevant to the changing environment, are designed to protect not only the clients but the Advisors as well. And in the spirit of complete transparency, these resources and features in Snap are not new and were not built to accommodate these new rules. For us, this is business as usual because we fundamentally believe in having a tool that advisors/planners and clients alike can understand. We believe in transparency, and ensuring everyone involved understands the assumptions and methodology.