“Retirement and financial goals are moving targets, which means my role is to provide new ideas and flexible guidance,” says Dan Peluse, director of retirement plan services, at Wintrust, in Chicago. “We set attainable goals and work tirelessly to achieve them. Whether that’s at the plan sponsor or participant level, my goal is to ensure that my clients understand the options available to them and how to best utilize those options to produce financial flexibility.”
To find plan sponsor clients, Peluse markets through Wintrust’s internal referral sources, which include traditional wealth/financial advisers along with commercial bankers and lenders, and works closely with each partner to help it better understand his service model, the value he offers and what he considers the ideal prospective client.
Once a client is on board, Peluse emphasizes retirement readiness and sets a goal of getting participants comfortably on track to replace 80% of income. He factors in all of the person’s existing retirement savings including current plan assets, outside assets and Social Security, current savings rate and asset allocation.
To help the plan sponsor also work toward this goal, he promotes and utilizes: automatic plan features including automatic enrollment, automatic escalation and re-enrollment; individual meetings with participants to assist in establishing appropriate retirement savings rates and investment asset allocation; analysis of individual participant retirement income projections to better identify retirement spending needs, including health care costs; and the use of targeted participant communication materials.
“Our industry and regulations have forced plan sponsors and their employees to be experts in an area that is overwhelmed by acronyms, terms and strategies. I work proactively to provide clarity, insight and effective solutions to accomplish a level of comfort and a path toward achieving financial milestones,” Peluse says. To that end, he also works with plan sponsors to improve participant financial wellness and literacy, integrating topics such as budgeting and emergency savings, health savings accounts (HSAs), 529 college savings plans, Social Security planning, insurance planning and estate planning.
“Participant interaction is the most important aspect of my service model,” he says. “There’s no better feeling than seeing a participant’s reaction when you’ve helped them remove financial stressors from their life.”The next challenge for the industry, he says, will be to address the decumulation challenge. Many of the plan design initiatives have been successful in improving participant outcomes, so now “our focus must move to creating integrated, affordable and understandable decumulation options to provide participants with sustainable and reliable monthly income post-retirement.”