The other day, I sat through a really interesting seminar put on by M.I.T.’s Age Lab about the changing face of retirement. It was excellent; the speaker was great, the information was enlightening and everyone loved it, including me.
The difference between me and the audience (who were all financial advisors working at a national firm) was that I saw all this progress for what it was – the end of their careers. To be clear, not all of them, but certainly most of them.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Hangonaminute. I’m an advisor. Are you talking to me?” Well yeah, I sent you this blog, didn’t I?
The gist of the presentation was that technology has changed everything for the better, as technology often does, and that because of smart phones and apps and other disruptive technologies and services, retired people won’t live or depend on the same goods and services that they traditionally have.
Retired people are going to be active and connected and (I hope) engaged and learning until they can’t. They will no longer find value in service. They will find it in experience.
The seminar opened with a cool video that showed Grandma waking up, checking in on Facebook, ordering up a person to help change a light bulb using an app called TaskRabbit. Then she ubered (ride sharing) to meet some friends for lunch, counting calories using her smart phone and then getting home in time to watch Netflix. They even talked about an app called OurTime, which I gather is like Tinder for the senior set. Like what you see? Swipe your walker right …
For a kid (that’s me) raised in the 70s, I completely appreciate all the sci-fi goodness. I love Facetime on my iPhone so I can see my kids. I love podcasts that I download for free and listen to them while I walk the dog. I regularly use iTunes and Netflix. I’m not a Luddite or even Luddite-lite. To the best of my ability, I embrace technology despite the fact that I cling to the joys of manual transmission (more fun, costs less).
Here is the problem if you are a financial advisor: in less than 3 years, you (or what you do to get paid now) are going to be handled, capably, by one of those apps. (“… And then Grandma pushes this button to get an update on her investment portfolio.”)
Technology makes things efficient. Making things easier and more efficient is what the goods and services industry is all about. Anytime your focus is to make it easier, you become a commodity. First the service gets easier, and simultaneously it gets cheaper.
Efficiency always (not sometimes) leads to commoditization. Consider all these great apps that I mentioned above – Uber is awesome, unless you drive a cab. HappyFresh is a great online grocery delivery, unless you own a grocery store, and TaskRabbit is great for finding a handyman to do chores for you, unless you are a handyman because when you participate with TaskRabbit, you are also competing on price against everyone else.
Want to charge for your services? You can’t anymore; your goods and services are a commodity. What you will be charging for is value, and value is found in experience, not goods and services.
Nobody needs or wants to have a meeting with a talking calculator, Poindexter.
So what can you do? Keep reading this blog; we’ll give you enough rope to save yourself.
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