Terry is an Associate Director RICP - Retirement Income Certified Professional at Transamerica out of Columbus Ohio. He has 12 plus years in finance and leads a team of 15 other advisors. Listen in on some of his pro-tips for web calls, building trust, and helping clients reach retirement readiness. Also, check out his non profit Educational Retirement Advisors, whos goal is to get every teacher in front of a fiduciary advisor, and have a documented retirement plan completed. www.ed-advisors.org
Ed Dressel 0:08
Welcome to another podcast. This is Ed Dressel with RetireReady Solutions. And I'm excited to have Terry Mulhern. Welcome, Terry. Nice to have you.
Terry Mulhern 0:16
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Ed Dressel 0:18
So tell us a little bit about your business. You're out of Ohio. What do you do? How long have you been in the practice and what sets you apart from other advisors?
Terry Mulhern 0:26
Sure. I've been in the retirement planning business for over 12 years. But kind of a long career. I started my career in finance. I graduated from John Carroll University, with a finance degree and went straight into banking. I was in banking for 15 years and received my MBA as a concentration in finance from Case Western Reserve, then eventually moved into marketing and became Chief Marketing Officer for several companies, and also became Chief Operating Officer for a tech company. But during those years, I also worked part time at my brother's practice at Lincoln Financial, as kind of a back office data person who did all the analysis for him where he was kind of the face of the business. And I did all the backend work on the analysis side. He sold his business just little over a year ago. And I decided I wanted to go into that full time. So I made the break from the corporate world to join Transamerica as an associate director here in Columbus, which gave me the opportunity to build my own practice, my own business here. Since joining just a little over a year ago, I have about 14 advisors working on my team, and now I've committed full time to retirement planning. And so, though I started kind of the back office data person, I've really come to enjoy the across the table one-on-one conversations with customers, which I didn't do in my brother's practice. So it's been a good change. I think I've really enjoyed the change, as well as leading a team of 14 other advisors. And we focus on a couple different markets. One of the key markets is the educational market. So K-12, as well as the university market, doing complete retirement planning. So, I really like where I am. I really like the opportunity that's here. And I like that the actual the team within this Columbus office is really strong.
Ed Dressel 2:26
That's fascinated with the history and marketing and you prefer the analytical side. It's interesting.
Terry Mulhern 2:32
It started out that way. I was accepted into Pittsburgh Institute of Art. I was going to be an artist that graduated from high school. Instead I went to John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, got a finance degree, and got my master's from Case Western Reserve and went directly into business. And kind of moved away from the whole art scene and went heavily into finance, into banking, and then made the move into marketing to get that kind of creative itch that I had, filled. So being that cmo Chief Marketing Officer where you get a lot of good creative work, but it's also a very much a numbers based business as well. So that kind of gave me both sides of the coin, which was kind of nice.
Ed Dressel 3:18
When you're working with your clients how do you define success?
Terry Mulhern 3:21
We were just talking about this last week. I was talking to the entire Transamerica team throughout the country that first and foremost, one step at a time. If you just follow one step at a time, you will be successful with with your clients and that first step is getting to know them, building trust, understanding them, doing a good job of finding out where they are, and then getting them to share the information that you need to do a complete analysis of where they are. So getting them comfortable enough to share their pay stub, their investments, their portfolio, so that you can do a complete analysis. Once you have that, then you can really do a good analysis on their portfolio, where they are, what does retirement look like for them? Are they on track or off track? Where are there ways that we can optimize their portfolio to get them to achieve their objectives, either from a retirement date perspective, retirement age, or an income during retirement. But it all comes down to building that trust, getting them to share the data with you so that you can actually give them good solid recommendations. And then having them follow through on those recommendations. And then really leaving them much better off from a retirement standpoint then when you met them to begin with. That their portfolios in a better spot than when you met them. I think that is success.
Ed Dressel 4:56
You talked several times there about gaining their trust, building their trust. Are there any specific steps you take to move them in that direction?
Terry Mulhern 5:06
For me, I always start off my meetings with just who I am, how in today's virtual environment where you're not sitting across from somebody face to face, getting a really good conversation going begins with dressing professional, as if you were there face to face. And then giving a good back of who I am--this is who I am, this is my background, this is my experience. I'm a Retirement Income Certified Professional, been doing this for over 15 years. This is all that I do. And my goal as a fiduciary is to sit on your side of the table. And does this help you make good decisions regarding your retirement plan? So I think building that trust happens very, very quickly. In that first 15 to 20 seconds, they're going to make some judgment about you, your credibility, who you are. Are you a professional, and are you an expert. And I think you want to get that across in that first 15 to 20 seconds of the call that you're an expert, and you can be trusted. I think it happens very quickly.
Ed Dressel 6:17
You talk about working virtually what are some keys to the success you have for working virtually?
Terry Mulhern 6:23
There's multiple sets. One is a little bit more prep on the front end, making sure the person that you'll be having a virtual call with you've either reached out to beforehand so they know that's a virtual call and they know it's going to be either a Zoom or Google Me call. They can get on, you confirm the time with them. So it's a little bit more work than a face to face and a prep site. And then to do everything you can to be as professional on that call as possible from the quality of your microphone to how well you're dressed. Be very conscious of your background and the background noise that you have. I hear many people try and do it from home. You'll hear dog bark or a lawn mower--that all that has to be taken away. So it has to be just as professional as if they were in the office with you. So I think, for me, it's trying to create that same atmosphere as that you would have as if you were face to face, wearing a shirt with a tie and being clean shaved as you normally would for a meeting. All those rules still apply. Asking them probing questions, asking them questions about them who they are, what's important to them. I think all that still applies. You're trying to minimize the distraction of the virtual call. You're trying to break down that barrier by trying to make it feel as much as a one on one personal call as if you're across the table from them.
Ed Dressel 8:02
How do you engage them towards retirement readiness? How do you set the mode, you set their expectations? How do you move them towards retirement readiness?
Terry Mulhern 8:10
So after my introduction, generally they've scheduled a meeting with me, or a service that I use where they scheduled the meeting. So I make a very easy transition over to them saying, obviously, you booked this meeting. You obviously have some stuff on your mind. What questions do you have? What's keeping you up at night? How can I help you? And I think I just leave it open ended and just let go from there. And from there, you'll get a good mix of, well, nothing's keeping me up at night, but I have these questions or I'm really, really worried about something and this--you'll get someone who's really worried about something. They'll start opening up to you regarding what's really on their mind. And then spend some good time listening to what they have to say and ask probing questions of why does that keep you up at night? What do you know about that? Can you give me more detail regarding that particular issue? So just turn the microphone over to them. Let them know that you're there just to help them. And "How can I help you?" is the phrase that seems to get people to say, "Well, here's what I need help with." Okay, great. Let me take some good notes. That seems to open them up pretty well.
Ed Dressel 9:32
I know you use our product, The Retirement Analysis Kit. How does that fit into your practice?
Terry Mulhern 9:39
It's evolved in every single client meeting I have. I sell the tool as part of what I can provide to them. Obviously, I'm working with people with public pension plans which are built into your product. So many times I'll be discussing with them. Here's what I do for most clients. I have a proprietary retirement planning software. It has all your pension plans built into it. But what's great about it is that we can bring together all of your retirement portfolio. So if you have a 403(b) or an IRA, or even a spouse, we can look at a household level, and really get a full picture of what your retirement looks like. And what's really awesome about the tool is that once we have your data in there, it's very easy for us to make changes as to whether if I want to retire at age 62, instead of 64. What if I want a little bit more money or a little bit less money? What if I get this return on investment or this return on investment? Once we have your data in there, it's a fantastic tool that we can do a lot of "what if" analysis as to what if I retire early? How much more do I need to save? We can build out custom plans for you. And I definitely have customers where we may even do two versions, you know, a 65 version or a 62 version, and what the two different versions look like. And once I have the data and have it in and I present it back to them on the call, I print the PDF, and I just walk them through it with a highlighter tool, this is what I have. We review the data first, just to make sure you're all correct. This is your date of birth, this is your income. This is the plan that you're in. I highlight it one at a time, walk them through it and just make sure we get all this data correctly. And then we walk through kind of what the results are. This is what it looks like as of today. So that's a part of every second or third meeting with every client.
Ed Dressel 11:45
What's the response to them seeing their pension plan or an integrated benefit analysis in front of them?
Terry Mulhern 11:52
Everybody's happy to get it. Some people aren't happy with the news that they get. Sometimes I have to deliver you know, they're expecting a lot more in retirement than they have. And that's where I come in and say you know what, you do see some red here. so we want to get to where we can work on a plan of eliminating that red. Other folks who are fully funded, it looks pretty good. They're kind of "Wow, I really didn't realize that I was doing that well." They're excited that they're on track and that I have minor tweaks to their portfolio, maybe reduce some risks. Maybe adding something for a long term care plan is the only thing I see missing in their portfolio. But I think everybody is excited that at least they get it on paper, they know exactly where they'll be if they stay on the course that they're on. That's the assumption that's built into version one that I review with them. Then many times we'll say okay, here's five strategies, I'd recommend when maybe saving a little bit more in this category, maybe doing an IRA, or maybe adding a fixed indexed universal life for your long term care plan. Now, here's four strategies, I think we'd really improve your portfolio. Maybe a fixed indexed annuity. And so that bond portfolio. Are you interested in me doing a true recommendation for you? If so, I'll put that work together and our next meeting, I'll take you through kind of what that looks like with those recommendations. and many are like yeah, let's see what that looks like with those recommendations. So in the next meeting, I'll have a little write up of here's my recommendations. Here's the strategy we discussed. Now, here's my specific recommendations. And then here's your new Gap Analysis--which is what I use mostly--here's your before--we'll bring up the before chart. And then if you make these adjustments, and you make these changes in your portfolio, we can improve some returns a little bit and you save just a little bit more. And you add this solution in. This is what your retirement looks like now, with these modifications. And here's the before and after. I think that's very powerful. You can see it in one simple graph of the before and after. Yes, I see that red and that red is now gone if I just make these optimizations to my portfolio. I use that before and after quite often, of here's where you were, here's our recommendation to a strategy. Here's a specific recommendation. So this is how it affects your portfolio. I think that's the number one way I utilize your software today. And it's very powerful when they can see it before and after.
Ed Dressel 14:46
Terry, the way I got to know you was you reached out to me and asked to write a blog for your nonprofit. Why don't you tell us a little bit about the work there and your passion for what you're doing there?
Terry Mulhern 14:57
Yeah, so my nonprofit is Educational Retirement Advisors, it's ed-advisors.org. I've been working in the educational market for over the past year in both K through 12 and university level. And I've been overwhelmed by the lack of preparedness for retirement of the educational community. Many times I'll ask from a scale from one to ten, where do you think you are from retirement readiness? It's amazing how many times I get a two or three, or I even got one-half from someone who is 50 years old. So we did a survey, and we found that over 65%, of all educators, ranked themselves as six or below in retirement readiness. In academia, that's a failing grade, where over 65% of our educators don't feel like they're prepared for retirement and give themselves an F. So the whole goal of the nonprofit is really three tiered. The base tier is that we want to generate some great, great content to help them plan for retirement and make that available to them. Step two, we love to get in front of as many teachers with presentations on how to prepare for retirement and the risks in retirement. To really educate people in meeting settings when that comes back around after COVID. And then the third ultimate goal is to get every teacher in front of a fiduciary advisor, and have a documented retirement plan completed. If there's a BHAG--big, hairy, audacious goal-of the nonprofit, it is to get every single teacher in the United States of America to have a documented written retirement plan. So when they're asked on a scale from one to ten, how confident are you in your retirement readiness? They're going to say nine or ten. That's the goal. We're just getting it off the ground. We're starting in the state of Ohio, but we plan to be national as quick as we can.
Ed Dressel 17:14
Excellent. Why don't you give us the website one more time?
Terry Mulhern 17:18
Sure. The website is ed-advisors.org. So ed-advisors.org.
Ed Dressel 17:30
Well, Terry, I appreciate you taking the time today to take a few questions. I appreciate the success you're having and helping clients with retirement planning. Have a great day.
Terry Mulhern 17:40
Well, thank you very much, Ed. It's a pleasure.