Advisers Giving Back: Rita Fiumara and the Financial Literacy Gap

Providing Barron’s magazine subscriptions to graduate students at her alma mater is one way Rita Fiumara, a retirement plan specialist at UBS, hopes to help improve financial literacy in the U.S.

Art by Shannon Wright

It seems like more than a coincidence that many of the subjects of the PLANADVISER Advisers Giving Back profile series are also winners of our Top 100 or Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year awards.

After all, people who are highly successful in business are often also generous supporters of charities and philanthropic organizations, and that is certainly true in the retirement plan services industry. To name just a few, leading firms such as SageView, CAPTRUST, Atlanta Retirement Partners and Chepenik Financial have all been named Advisers of the Year while also being highly active in their local, regional and international giving efforts.

Another adviser in this estimable camp is Rita Fiumara. Since being named the PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year in 2015, Fiumara, senior vice president of investments at UBS Financial Services Inc. in Chicago, says her goals have not changed, nor has her engagement with such causes as the Boys & Girls Club, Feeding America and Save the Children.

“I’ve been involved with these organizations for years now, but what I’m most excited about at the moment is actually something new,” Fiumara says. “Back in July, I was contacted by Barron’s magazine representatives, and they asked me to participate in an educational program they were launching. The program provides donated magazine subscriptions to schools—undergraduate programs, graduate degree programs and even high schools. The goal is to promote financial literacy and education for young people.”

Fiumara says her day job has clearly shown her the need for this type of program. She consistently hears about the fact that short-term and long-term financial challenges—from student loan and credit card debts to mortgage payments and medical emergencies—too often prevent people from taking full advantage of their employer-sponsored retirement plan. That was true before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, she notes, and it is doubly true now.

“I have to say, their request really resonated with me at this difficult moment,” she recalls. “It is important for those of us focused on retirement planning to remember to look at the big picture. A lot of people, regardless of their educational level, simply don’t understand how to analyze their everyday finances—how to start to build real financial stability and security.”

Though no magazine or book can teach people everything they need to know about finances, Fiumara says, getting high-quality reading materials into the hands of high school and college students is a good idea. Indeed, the earlier people learn about these topics, the more they can accomplish, she says. In that spirit, the Barron’s program invites advisers and other financial professionals to sponsor two-year subscriptions for the school of their choice.

“I chose to support the Illinois Institute of Technology, where I graduated from, here in Chicago,” Fiumara explains. “I’ve committed for two years to provide a subscription to their entire business graduate class. I think this can make a small but important difference, and I would encourage other advisers to do this sort of thing. It’s a different way to give back—equipping people with financial literacy early on in their lives and careers. It all comes back to the fact that we need to address the shorter-term financial issues before we can make retirement planning a reality.”