media hype and manipulation

FIRST OF ALL, LET ME SAY HOW excited I am to be part of the Strategic Planning Group. I was able to meet a lot of you at our client event dinners and I look forward to working with you in various capacities going forward.

Having been in the financial industry for nine years, I’ve been fortunate to work for some great companies and gain invaluable experience. I truly feel like I’ve found my professional calling working as a financial consultant. I’m passionate about this line of work and do my best to guide and protect the clients I serve. I’ve known Ryan for a few years now and I’ve always held him and this firm in high regard. SPG is truly a prestigious firm with a wonderful wealth of experience and expertise.

Something I try to do for clients is make complicated concepts easy to understand. It’s when we don’t understand a subject or concept that we make mistakes or get taken advantage of. Lately there has been a lot of buzz about social security. If you look back, it seems like there has always been something in the news regarding social security and its eventual road to depletion or ruin; always needing fixing or rescue. You could probably fill a library with the books and articles written about the problems with social security and how to save it.

The So-Called “Social Security Gurus”

All the doom and gloom about social security has caused a lot of anxiety for people in or nearing retirement (and rightfully so). Unfortunately, a popular response to the uncertainty and anxiety has been a surplus of purported gurus who claim they can help you maximize social security benefits or even uncover thousands in additional income. All you have to do is attend a “free” seminar, visit a website, watch a video, or speak to an agent/sales rep. It’s as though you’re on a treasure hunt for buried gold and these advertised resources are the metal detectors that will help you strike it rich!

By playing on your hopes and fears, these gurus often end up leading you through a sales pitch. On one end of the spectrum are the basic promotions to subscribe to a newsletter or website service. On the other end are the far more expensive solicitations to purchase products including fixed annuities and whole life insurance.

Unfortunately, there are growing numbers of opportunists who prey upon the fears of consumers regarding the future of their social security income. This is a very large audience and offers the potential for significant sales. After all, who among us doesn’t worry about social security—preparing to file for it someday, or already receiving social security income?

A Classic Example of a “Social Security Secret”

Let’s take a closer look at one of the so-called “social security secrets” and how it actually works. I decided to do a Google Internet search for the term “social security.” Within seconds I had 398 million search results!

I selected one of the top paid results which was an advertisement promising that I could earn thousands of dollars in additional social security benefits. I watched the demo video and listened to the sales pitch. After watching the demo, I was taken back by the request for a lot of my personal and family information– yikes! Why would I ever give this information over to a sales website? For me this was a huge red flag!

The demo video used a scenario that was pretty typical—a married couple approaching retirement, moderate income, average sized family, etc. After appearing to run some advanced calculations, the demo produced a conclusion. Not surprisingly, the results sounded amazing! By signing up for the newsletter service and following the recommendation of delaying social security benefits from age 66 to age 70, the hypothetical individual would receive an additional $106,239 of lifetime income! This seemed like a nice return for a $40 Internet newsletter subscription!

What’s the Catch?

As I looked past the glittery sales presentation, I began to notice some problems. First, the demo assumed that both spouses would live to age 100. I don’t need a statistician to tell me that the odds of this are extremely low. Perhaps one spouse making it to age 100, but both the husband and wife? The demo’s assumptions were obviously geared to make the numbers look as favorable as possible.

The second problem I noticed is that the demo assumed a “one-size-fits-all” approach to social security, namely that everyone can or should wait until age 70 to start taking social security income. This is a highly personal decision and depends on many different variables, preferences and individual situations. Again, assuming the “wait-until-age 70” scenario appeared to be designed to help the numbers look good, thus encouraging the purchase of a newsletter subscription.

I don’t mean to be negative or cynical in my analysis, but I get frustrated by all of the unnecessary antics and sales-pitching for what can often be over-simplistic or even unreliable newsletters and computer programs.

Simple, Straightforward Answers

As a client of Strategic Planning Group, you have access to simple, straightforward advice. There’s no sales hype or “making the numbers look good.” As a part of your overall strategic plan, we help you analyze your social security benefits and make an educated, informed decision.

In addition, we never hesitate to direct you to reliable, outside resources that can assist you with important decisions. For example, one of these resources is the Social Security Administration’s website. By visiting, you have access to great articles, calculators, and enrollment tools. I’m always more than happy to sit down with you and help guide you through the use of these outside resources.

One of my top priorities is to help you avoid unnecessary complications and pitfalls. Financial decisions don’t need to be complicated or overwhelming. For example, if you’re confused or unsure with regard to current or future social security benefits, let’s sit down and figure it out together.

One of the benefits of being a Strategic Planning Group client is that you don’t have to subscribe to online newsletters or enter sensitive information on unfamiliar websites. We’re here to address your questions and concerns, and help you make informed and carefully researched financial decisions. You have access to a great team of advisors who are ready and willing to help.

Once again, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to serve you and be part of an amazing Strategic Planning Group team. I look forward to getting to know all of SPG’s wonderful clients.

Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Ryan Craner, Registered Representative. Advisory services offered through Strategic Planning Group, LLC, Ryan Craner, Investment Advisor Representative. Strategic Planning Group and Cambridge are not affiliated.