Celebrities have long endorsed all kinds of products from cars, foods, athletic gear and nearly every other category of consumer product. The financial services industry has had far fewer celebrity endorsers, but this may be about to change and likely for the better.
Recently, movie and TV actor, and “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson announced that he and his mother were partnering with Northwestern Mutual in order to spread the word about the benefits of financial planning, which hit Yahoo finance news this weekend.
Mr. Anderson is not the first celebrity to endorse a financial services firm: Tommy Lee Jones was a spokesman for Ameriprise for several years, film and TV’s “Law and Order” star Sam Waterston appeared for many years in TD Ameritrade ads. However, both Anthony Andersons’ message and timing are very different and could be the beginning of a trend accelerated by recent regulatory changes.
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced significant changes to its rules governing testimonials and endorsements of financial advisors, namely it will allow them. The financial services industry has lagged other industries of allowing marketing basics like testimonials which many observers believe has hurt investor education. The timing of Mr. Anderson’s deal with Northwestern was of course coincidental with the SEC release, but bodes well for other partnerships.
What is very different about Mr. Andersons story is that it is his true story and is multi-layered. As he explained to Yahoo Finance, growing up in Compton his family did not have discussions about financial planning and were living paycheck to paycheck. However, he met with his first financial planner 20 years ago just as his career was taking off and obviously with his highly successful career his needs are likely quite significant now.
Making the story quite unique and very educational is that his mother is part of the Northwestern program. At the age of 67 she just met with her very first financial planner and will be a first-time home buyer this year. Her real-life story is highly relatable because the majority of Americans have not met with a financial planner, showing regardless of age the benefit of financial advice can apply to anyone. Mr. Edwards also shares in the interview “Its not about how much money you have, because the plans aren’t about money. Its about your lifestyle. Its about preparing for your future and preparing for your lifestyle to continue well after you are retired”. He goes on to point out that he is not talking about needing millions of dollars. Any amount, be it $1, $10 or $100, whatever your amount can be optimized.
These personal, real-life stories have been largely missing in the financial services industry because for the most part they were not allowed by regulation. While the final rules implementing the new policy will not be passed for many months, it is very good for investor education to learn from others life stories.
Financial planning and financial education in general is complicated and emotional, so the more messengers communicating the benefits of planning, the better. It will be a welcome sight to see celebrities and others discussing and sharing their personal finance stories in the years to come.
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