PA: What is your mission statement?
Thomas Ming: At Tower Rock Advisors – Pensionmark Retirement Group, we believe in enhancing the lives of each participant we serve by being fair, honest, reliable, and providing quality and sound financial guidance.
PA: How is your team/process/structure unique?
TM:Tower Rock Advisors – Pensionmark Retirement Group is made up of a network of specialists. We have a suite of tools and resources that make the retirement planning process understandable. As a network, we provide advisory services such as quarterly one-on-one investment reviews; retirement plan analysis technology, which provides future financial scenarios; qualified representatives who make up our Financial Wellness Help Center; and assortments of financial education resources such as financial and investment trackers, including our Personal Financial Portal, market updates, newsletters, articles and even social media outlets.
What makes us unique is our ability to reach any person at any time, no matter what portion of our business those individuals or corporations fall under; our dedicated team of experts will meet in one-on-one or group consultation settings to provide the information and tools clients need to stay connected to their future.
PA: What have you done in the past year to improve participants’ retirement readiness?
TM: Planning for retirement is more about time than it is about money. Similarly, results for retirement readiness take time—and yet, there are plenty of strategies and healthy financial practices to start implementing now so that, over time, the payout of developing those habits of saving will equate to a well-thought-out and planned retirement.
Human behavioral studies have shown that participants are more likely to participate at a higher percentage if there is an enhanced matching component and an incentive to the plan itself. My team and I have introduced this matching option to plan participants through various methods throughout the 2014 year as well as presently. From automatic enrollment to auto-increase, we run stretch matching scenarios that engage the plan committees on reaching higher deferral rates. In the opinion of various investment committees, they see potential for deferral rates as high as 30% to 40% over the next few years.
PA: Please describe any special education or communication initiatives you’ve undertaken with plan sponsors or participants.
TM: The trend I see throughout the retirement planning process is the lack of financial education provided to individuals ages 50 and older. More often than not, these hardworking employees have been focusing on saving for college, building a career, raising children and juggling all kinds of other major life events that occur. For the past several years, my team and I have introduced “Pre-Retiree Workshops” that target this particular retirement planning sector. We facilitate focused educational meetings that include topics such as budgeting, debt consolidation and attainable retirement readiness strategies.
Initial meetings involve the employee filling out a budgeting spreadsheet, discussions on debt, and conversations on desired retirement timelines. In our follow-up meetings, we provide a gap analysis for each participant, which we review with them.
“Retirement readiness” is the scoreboard for our industry’s success or failure. This hands-on approach not only helps plan participants, but it also brings to light the importance of personalized financial attention and the benefit of automatic plan features.
PA: As a retirement plan adviser, what do you take the most pride in?
TM: I take the most pride in building relationships and partnerships with my clients, while working together to help their employees learn healthy spending and saving habits. I’m passionate about my job and compassionate for the people I have the opportunity to educate and help guide toward retirement.
BUSINESS AT A GLANCE
PLAN ASSETS UNDER ADVISEMENT: $358 million
MEDIAN PLAN SIZE (IN ASSETS): $3.8 million
TOTAL PLANS UNDER ADVISEMENT: 61
TOTAL PARTICIPANTS IN PLANS SERVED: 7,300