In this podcast Ed Dressel interviews Cassie Knight, founder of Fed Options out of Nashville, Tennessee. Cassie shares some of her insights on the complexities and misunderstandings of the federal plans along with an opportunity her company can provide to advisors working in the federal marketplace.
Ed Dressel 0:08
Welcome to another episode of our podcast, Grow RetireReady Clients. This is Ed Dressel with RetireReady Solutions. I'm excited to have with me Cassie Knight out of Nashville, Tennessee. Cassie, welcome. Good to have you.
Cassie Knight 0:19
Hi. And thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your podcast.
Ed Dressel 0:24
We've been working together six or seven years now. Known about each other and working more and more. I've been more impressed with your services. I like what you provide. It's a little different than anything out there. Why don't you tell the audience a little bit about what you do.
Cassie Knight 0:38
So we provide back office support services for financial advisors, working in the federal employee space. These benefits are complex. And there's so many different exceptions and everything else to rules and regulations for different types of employees, and what have you. And, of course, within the benefits as well. So we really just felt like it would be beneficial for financial advisors to have a support system that laid it all out for them. And it got down to the nitty gritty on some of those things. And just really to help advisors save time, money and energy throughout this process. And it's always interesting to me to when I talk with financial advisors, whether I work with them or not how much they appreciate having a service like this out there. And for those who are not working with, they're like, great when I'm when I'm ready to grow, I'll let you know, because there's just not a lot of this type of service out there. There's a lot of speakers and lead generation sources, but there's nobody on the backend to help them with that.
Ed Dressel 1:46
And I've heard that over and over where it's like, they want us to do that for them. And I'm glad to see somebody like you. There's a number of things I want to talk about that you alluded to in that introduction. But before we go there, how did you get involved with federal benefits?
Cassie Knight 2:00
I originally got it started with the federal benefits when I had taken a class. And it was Shawn McCoy's class, actually. And it was through an IMO that I was getting started with as an independent insurance professional. And I took the class because I was the spouse of a federal employee. And I thought not only would this be good for me, but I have a lot of friends and family as well that are federal employees. And I just thought I would like to know more about how I can help them in the future. So that's when I originally took the class and got started with the federal benefits. But it was so interesting when I took that class, though, how much information was misunderstood by my husband and friends and families. And I just thought, how many other employees are there that don't understand the federal benefits. And that was when I originally started my mission on helping employees and their spouses be educated on their benefits and how they actually work for them individually, because it can be different person to person, employee to employee. And so that was when we originally started, or how I originally started with the federal employee community.
Ed Dressel 3:17
How have you progressed and moving forward with that?
Cassie Knight 3:20
Well after about a couple years of meeting with employees and traveling, I had figured out a kind of natural conversation or journey on how I would take employees through a process when I would meet with them to the closing. But at the time, I was traveling four to six hours from home. And with two little babies at home, that wasn't exciting for me. So I got in touch with a marketing company who offered me a position as a federal benefits specialist. And it was kind of a win win because I was able to still continue on my mission of educating employees and, and helping that at an exponential rate, but also be home with my babies too. So it was a great fit. And that's when I started Fed Options.
Ed Dressel 4:07
And what does Fed Options do? I mean, if you're going to give somebody in a nutshell. We said a little bit in the beginning. Give us a little bit more.
Cassie Knight 4:14
Sure. So Fed Option provides a back office support service for financial advisors working with federal employees. Originally again, we started working for a marketing company and providing the back office support for just their financial advisors. But it was so interesting when I started meeting these advisors, whether they were new to the business or had been around for a while how much of them didn't quite understand what an individual needed case by case. And so we help pair a benefit analysis that is strategically put together to just focus on the benefits themselves to get to the point where a financial adviser can go from the benefits and transition into the bigger planning conversation. We also do consulting and retirement application reviews and that sort of thing with financial professionals.
Ed Dressel 5:06
It almost sounds like you're a financial advisor. How do you do different things yourself?
Cassie Knight 5:11
We don't do any of the recommendations on the insurance or the securities or anything like that. We just do the benefit analysis pertaining to the employee benefits.
Ed Dressel 5:24
Do you see yourself wanting to be an advisor?
Cassie Knight 5:26
Maybe in the future, but probably not. If Fed Options continues to grow in at the rate that it's going.
Ed Dressel 5:35
Why do you enjoy doing what you do?
Cassie Knight 5:38
I enjoy it because I get to help others. I get to help folks understand certain complexities to where I feel like employees might not have otherwise gotten that information. Because we're doing the due diligence on the back end, and making sure that the advisors have all of the information pertaining to the case plus any extras. I know that they don't get paid for doing beneficiary forms or anything like that but that's always something that we like to include in our information back to the financial advisor is what else is missing that they wouldn't have otherwise thought about. In fact, I just had a case a couple weeks ago, where an advisor had reached out for a one off case, and she's in the DC area, and this employee had come to her and they're looking at going out on a disability retirement. And so she connected with me and how to prepare the benefit analysis. And through that, I was able to give her three different options for this employee. Not just the disability retirement, which is what she would have focus on, but another two options and that word, regular reduced retirement, and or staying in service and what that financial impact would be for their spouse as well and what that would look like. And so we're distilling down, not just focusing on what the employee is looking at, but what are their other options to set them up in a better financial situation? Or what does it look like either way, so that way the advisor can go through and say, "Hey, here's your options based on these other products that you have or policies that you have." You know, they can really go through and figure out what is the best scenario for that employee. So that's part of our job is just helping them understand what are the different options that an employee has, whether it's for retirement, or the benefits, or what have you, and coordinating all of that into a really robust plan for them. So that way they can choose what is going to be the best for them and their scenario moving forward in retirement.
Ed Dressel 7:51
In something you said in the introduction, it kind of alluded to there indirectly was how complex the federal benefit system is, and I will concur with you. It is amazingly complex. We do 700 public pension plans, and there's nothing that comes close. There's some complex defined benefit plans out there at the state level, but the federal benefits is by far, much more complex. Do you have an example that could help the audience understand, yeah, this is something you need to be aware of that will impact your client. And if you're not, it could be detrimental? And have them not make the best choices?
Cassie Knight 8:26
Yeah, and I think one of the things is helping financial advisors understand the difference between a deferred retirement and a postponed,. Those are two very different types of retirement and they're most often confused. And I think that if a employee is coming to you and say, "Yeah, I'm going to postpone my retirement" and you're thinking, okay, they're not going to lose their benefits or anything like that. But maybe they're talking about a different type of retirement because they haven't met their MRA and then they separate from service. They're losing all those benefits and that can be really detrimental to somebody who's financial security later on, especially their spouse if they were relying on their FEHB. So I think that's just the tip of the iceberg on misconceptions with financial advisors even in the types of retirements there are. There's so much with the federal benefits system and how it's going to work for an employee that we really have to make sure what is the retirement they're going after? And how does that affect the benefits? And then furthermore, how is that going to affect their spouse as well?
Ed Dressel 9:35
And I think you provide a great service. I can see people getting started in the federal benefits world and going Cassie's got a great resource. She'll help me get started. But I know you're helping some advisors that have had experience in the federal benefits world and you're helping them increase their sales. Can you share a story of an experienced advisor you know?
Cassie Knight 9:54
Yeah, I actually have a couple of groups that I'm working with, but I want to focus on this one group that I help in the New England area of the United States. And it was originally just a two advisor team. And I've worked with them for a number of years. And they followed me over from another company. And anyways, I started working with them, and actually, let's see, just after COVID really started becoming a deal. And it's interesting, because now a year and a half later, they are growing their team at an exponential rate through their system and the process that they have in place. And with using our company as our back office support system. I have at least another 10 advisors coming on board, just from that two person team. So they're growing at an exponential rate, because their IMO noticed what they were doing and wants to help make that available nationally, with advisors. So they're actually in a position to train more advisors and grow their business at the same time.
Ed Dressel 11:03
So that is a really fun story--helping engage, helping grow a business, and helping advisors getting going. For those of people that aren't in the federal marketplace--they haven't thought about it, they don't know much about it--what's the opportunity look like for working with federal employees?
Cassie Knight 11:18
The opportunity is fantastic. And I would encourage you to make the jump. I know that right now--I mean, federal employees are going to be retiring for the next few years because of all the baby boomers, but I really feel like a lot of them are making an exit sooner rather than later for a number of different political reasons, with, you know, the vaccine. And then, of course, the social security deferral that happened last year at the end of the quarter. And so there's just a number of things where people aren't having a good feeling working for the government. And they're not looking at making this--I mean, it's a career--but they're not looking at making this something that they stay in longer than they have to.
Ed Dressel 12:03
So tell me, what do you do to illustrate federal benefits?
Cassie Knight 12:06
So we use a couple of different softwares to illustrate these benefits. One that I'm very fond of is the RetireReady program that you guys offer. And I just love how easy on the eyes it is. It's very visually appealing. And I love that we can put it together in an easy fashion. And it just really illustrates every piece of the of the pie for these guys on their benefits. I also love that you guys have those other programs available to run within the software as well, because federal employees, a lot of them are married to state and local employees, or they might have a state local pension that they themselves have as well. And so I love the fact that we can run so many different types of employees within your system.
Ed Dressel 12:56
So Cassie, if somebody is interested in your services, how do they connect with you?
Cassie Knight 13:01
They can give me a call at 206-414-8374 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, that's email@example.com
Ed Dressel 13:16
Well, thank you for taking the time today. It was pleasure to have you. I appreciate you spending some time and talking to us a little bit about the federal benefits world and the opportunities there for advisors, and I wish you the best in today's marketplace.
Cassie Knight 13:28
Perfect. Thank you so much, Ed. Have a great day.