In this podcast we interview Tom Walker, founder of Walker Capital Preservation Group, Inc. out of North Carolina where they strive to educate and empower today's federal employee to maximize their retirement through proper positioning and seamless coordination of their federal benefits and personal assets. We are excited to have him share some of his insights on growing a thriving retirement counseling business in the federal market place.
Ed Dressel 0:08
Welcome back. This is Ed Dressel with RetireReady Solutions. I'm excited to have another Grow RetireReady Client's podcast. I've got Tom Walker here from Charlotte, North Carolina. Tom, great to have you.
Tom Walker 0:20
Thank you so much. Happy Friday to you!
Ed Dressel 0:22
Happy Friday! So Tom, you're a retirement counselor. We just talked a little bit beforehand. Things are going really well for you. It's kind of fun to hear. Tell us a little bit about what you do.
Tom Walker 0:34
Sure. So we really worked a service two kind of niche markets. It's business owners and federal employees. It's one of those things I kind of saw the original need that federal employees had--the uniqueness of their benefits from some friends of the family. My father used to be a contractor for the NSA. So I had an early introduction to that and started helping people kind of look at FEGLI alternatives way back in 2012. And then really started growing into the benefits and the income planning, the tax planning, and just legacy planning--all of that, as I kind of learned more about the needs of the clients. And then grew the business out. I have a team of four now and started enjoying working with business owners as we kind of looked at how to leverage the revenue code and things like that for our own business. So been very fun and grown very--surprisingly well.
Ed Dressel 1:27
That's excellent. So I know the federal market is vastly underserved. When you approach the federal market, what are you finding, as far as people helping federal employees look at their options?
Tom Walker 1:39
Well, it seems like a lot of folks will kind of read the brochure and then claim to be able to provide that service, then, you know, with 10 years in it, it's something that I think is really important to recognize the nuance to the changes. And we work with all different agencies. We actually work with all folks in the continental 48 here, with the team of advisors we have. So being able to teach them about the different nuances and really help them leverage and coordinate those has been something that's been very beneficial for folks.
Ed Dressel 2:13
That's excellent. And one of the questions I get from advisors is how do you find a federal employee? How do you find your clients?
Tom Walker 2:20
Yeah, I used to do the in person, on site retirement workshops there that the agencies would hold. But what I've found is that I've been able to kind of leverage my extra education experience. I'm an Ed Slott Elite IRA Advisory group member, which dives real deep into taxation. So I started writing articles, highly researched on retirement topics, on tax topics, and started publishing those through some Federal News syndicates. And then as we kind of saw all these workshops and saw the topics that were being popular in our articles, we actually made the transition and started hosting our own retirement webcasts that dove a lot deeper into what we felt were the key retirement concepts than those full day trainings that teach you everything A to Z. We were able to accomplish that. So that's really helped us out. We actually went fully virtual in December 2019. Right before everything, forced the virtual hand there. We got lucky.
Ed Dressel 3:19
So you went virtual before you had to go virtual?
Tom Walker 3:23
We did. It was something that we were anticipating having a little bit more time before the rest of the industry was trying to play catch up. But I think it did make people more receptive to that medium of working together. Telehealth in 2018 was like science fiction. And now it's commonplace on those so I think that there's a little bit of a silver lining to that for sure.
Ed Dressel 3:45
So you have group webcasts. So you get people to attend those? I mean, it's our people showing up for them?
Tom Walker 3:51
Yeah, we've been able to continue growing them. Our newsletter, our articles, I have a book coming out later this year, and just the word of mouth there. And we've been able to have it grow to where we had a couple 100 people attend earlier this week, which was very exciting.
Ed Dressel 4:07
And you're generating business from those webcasts?
Tom Walker 4:11
Well, we're able to help these folks really take a deeper dive--take the classroom education and apply it to their numbers, work through a projection using TRAK and being able to show them along with like Riskalyze assessment into really forecasts and get under the hood on how that projection would look and how it comes together.
Ed Dressel 4:29
So you just dropped two tools that you're using. TRAK and Riskalyze. Tell me how those are complementing or helping you and in engaging your clients.
Tom Walker 4:38
Yeah, they are very helpful. So Riskalyze is a novel concept to take a subjective conversation about how much risk is appropriate and making it objective, which certainly is helpful in balancing different things or understanding the balance of a portfolio. TRAK has been phenomenal in allowing us to help different federal employees identify their retirement timeline, look at different retirement budgets. And we start there with everybody to really establish that kind of conservative baseline forecast. And then we stay in that software and we are able to show them different stress tests. We dive deep into the tax rates and how those might change over the future. We look at bear markets and stress tests for long term care and inflation. So the software really allows us to give people context there to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their current trajectory.
Ed Dressel 5:33
So there's a lot of virtual meetings out there, and people usually gloss over and go, "I really don't want to attend another one." How do you make a virtual meaning meaningful, so that clients are glad they attended?
Tom Walker 5:45
I think there's two layers to that. The webcast at the broad education level. We really try and take the key concepts and dive deeper into those to make it almost a real world application of some of the more nuanced pitfalls and concerns that might exist like sequence of returns risk or concerns about ETFP's if they're not properly set up and designated beneficiary. So we really try and educate there at the classroom level, and explain to people that, hey, this is great insight to go and further your study. But to really make it something that helps you understand your situation. We want to personalize and so we prepopulate as much of the data as we can so it's not a lot of data entry. But then we work through that TRAK software in that Riskalyze software live with them. They're hands on, they're rolling the sleeves up, and not just being asked to study a chart as we talk about economic. They're being asked to make assumptions about inflation or about the budget right there along with us.
Ed Dressel 6:49
So you've kind of talked about this. How do you differentiate yourself with other advisors that are out there?
Tom Walker 6:55
Sure. What we really try and do is bring these key concepts into a holistic plan. So where the TSP is strong, where the benefits can be maximized, what the revenue code affords us, and how to plan both the investor psychology as well as the distribution plan and how to mend all of that together. I mentioned earlier, being an elite advisor through Ed Slotts. That's an annually reoccurring boot camp that we do on IRA distributions and taxes and things that too many folks considered the nitty gritty. But we also work with a CPA, who's a tax professor. He'll join us. We have an event coming up later this year that he'll be helping us break down some concepts from a tax documentary that we'll be airing for some of our clients and some of our folks. We try and really tie in these macro concepts but bring a holistic approach and have a team to be able to maximize each individual's expertise.
Ed Dressel 7:53
I've enjoyed talking to you over the time we've known each other and how you're using the software TRAK-- our solution, how it's helped you. What difference does TRAK bring to you when you go out and market in the industry?
Tom Walker 8:07
It's a major, major impact that it has. And it's been great in the time that we've worked together to be able to give you some feedback--hey, here's something I would love to be able to illustrate or narrate you know, to a client--and see those subsequent tweaks or updates rolled out and and being able to apply them. So that has certainly been phenomenal. It really allows us to go macro with the people who want to see the forest and it allows us to peel back the layers and get down into the trees for the engineer mindset that really wants to know, hey, I'd like to see the Excel sheet that makes all of this thing work. So being able to go from high level to granular and having the flexibility to play with different "what if" scenarios and move between them pretty seamlessly in one visual there on that retirement calculator. All of that has allowed us to really get people a sense of understanding. And that, I think, is lacking in the industry. And I think that's the foundation that has people overcoming the natural tendency for a little bit of concern about someone who isn't maybe right down the street or right around the neighborhood. So adding that has been something that the education has brought the credibility and that has allowed people to have the confidence in working with us in a way that we're just thrilled with.
Ed Dressel 9:27
Well, Tom, I really appreciate you taking the time today. I really appreciate your sharing about your business--the success you're having, the fun you're having. I think I've heard that from you. And thanks for sharing with the audience about where you're headed. I wish you the best in today's marketplace.
Tom Walker 9:42
Thank you so much. Thanks for everything you do as well.
Ed Dressel 9:45
Have a great day. Thank you everybody. Thank you for listening to another podcast with RetireReady Solutions and grow retire ready clients. Wishing you the best in today's marketplace.