“It’s a good time to be an advisor,” Slott said. “There’s a tremendous opportunity now because you have certainty.”
While there was a lot of hype about the fiscal cliff -- talk of battle, warfare and the implication that a financial armageddon was in store -- in reality not much changed. For most, the Bush tax cuts will be extended. Only for the top earners, those making more than $450,000 for a married couple and $400,000 for a single person, will the top marginal tax rate increase from 35% to 39.6%.
“Financial adivsors do have the top slice of earners, but still many clients probably don’t earn more than $450,000,” Slott said. Even if they do, knowing what the rates will be is an advantage. “Planning opportunities are now permanent,” he said.
To capitalize on the certainty and soothe clients, advisors should be proactive in their planning conversations with clients. If they aren’t hearing anything from advisors, clients are likely thinking about worst case scenarios and the doomsday hyperbole they heard from the media Slott said.
“Advisors need to be proactive, not reactive,” he said. “Clients need someone to say, ‘don’t worry about that, here’s what we do need to talk about.’”
What are those things advisors need to discuss with clients? Slott said advisors are now in a position to help clients think about and prepare for estate, income, and gift tax planning as well as Roth IRA conversions and beneficiary from revisions.
He added that advisors should broach these potential planning opportunities as part of a conversation, not as advice. “You can bring it up, but you can necessarily make them do it,” Slott said. “But if you bring it up, they can’t come back and say, ‘why didn’t you tell me?’”
While this certainty won’t last forever and clients won’t always take a planners advice, for now, at least, there are real ways advisors may be able to help their clients make the most of the tax landscape.
“Anything good requires either spending money now or change and nobody likes either,” he said. “Now you have the tools to move things around. The advisors role is much more valuable.”