Scare Tactics

Retirement might be a scary time for many of your customers. It often comes with big changes in everything from lifestyle to how and where their money is spent. Even though it might be a frightening time for your customer-how you market to them shouldn’t be.

Generally, the idea behind fear-based marketing techniques is to instill a sense of urgency so that the customer feels the need to make a quick decision. Using scare tactics on your marketing materials may not only create a scare among your customers, but it could put you in a scary situation with the regulators.

Try viewing your advertising as a way to be supportive and help your customer find a way to overcome their challenges when it comes to retirement. Showing yourself as a possible solution might be much more valuable than inundating your customer with problems they may be facing either now or down the road.

Here are some examples of phrases and wording that we’ve seen on pieces that regulators would consider scare tactics and how we helped modify these statements to make them compliant.

Original statement:
At old age, when you are 85 and alone, your family may not take care of you.

Compliant statement:
Some families may find it challenging to care for an older relative.

Original Statement:
Major recessions, wars and other catastrophes happen more frequently during a lifetime…

Compliant statement:
Market volatility, major life events and other outside factors that are beyond our control are all things to take into consideration when creating your retirement strategy.

Original statement:
You must protect your nest egg or you will lose it…

Compliant statement:
Finding ways to help protect your retirement savings is important.

And keep in mind that it’s not just wording that the regulators are watching. Images that are used in advertising are regulated as well. Using images that depict loss, desperation or show catastrophic events are not appropriate for advertising materials and could result in fines.

Here are some examples of images that we’ve seen that would be considered a scare tactic:


Marketing materials should be informative, fair and balanced, and honest. Using wording or phrasing that would invoke a sense of fear is not only unethical, it’s highly regulated. As a financial professional, your responsibility is to make recommendations that are in your client’s best interest, at all times.

If you have questions regarding this or other compliance-related issues, send them to the Brokers International compliance team at As your partner, we’ll assist you in keeping your advertising on the right side of the regulators.

This information is intended for Financial Professionals who are insurance licensed only. If you are securities licensed please contact your Broker Dealer for their requirements.

These educational pieces are intended to be informative and provide generalized guidance. They should not be construed as legal advice or provide protection against compliance violations brought on by a consumer or state insurance commission. It is the sole responsibility of the financial professional to seek compliance or legal direction specific to their individual situation. These pieces should be used as a means to raise awareness and evaluate business practices.

For Financial Professional use only, not for use with the general public. #17-3079-092218