Financial Planning for Those Who Make Our Communities Work

Onsite retirement plan services for public sector employers and employees

Approximately 16 million Americans—nearly 10% of the nation’s workforce—are employed in state and local governments.1

Most public sector employees are middle-income workers and families. “They are the people who most need financial planning, but tend to get it the least,” Joshua Schwartz, AIF®, President and Co-founder of Retirement Plan Advisors (RPA), told Advisors Magazine in a recent interview.

Meet RPA

Chicago-based RPA was established in 2000 as an independent advisory practice to serve public sector employers and employees. These governmental entities—counties, cities, towns, police and fire departments, health departments, utilities, transit authorities, housing authorities, libraries, park districts, and the people they employ—provide the core services that make our communities work.

JS 295“Public employees devote their lives to public service and generally make less money than those in the private sector,” Schwartz said. “The trade-off for this is that they get good benefits. But you only have good retirement benefits if you have the knowledge, skills, experience, and expertise—either yourself or available through your plan—to actually plan for a successful retirement.”

He further noted that most people, regardless of public or private sector employment, don’t have the skill set, interest, and/or fortitude to manage their own investments, and that they tend to let emotions such as fear and greed drive their investment decisions.

“The average worker generally doesn’t know how to calculate a gap analysis and determine how much money they really need to retire comfortably, let alone turn their retirement nest-egg into an income stream for 20, 30, or more years,” Schwartz said. “So, our firm is founded on the idea that we want to help the people who devoted their lives to public service have the kind of retirement they deserve.”

That has been RPA’s mission for 20+ years, since its inception in 2000.

Employer & Employee Fiduciary Services

RPA provides two key levels of service to the public sector. The primary service is to the employer. “Many are smaller employers with 50, 100, 200 people that are very good at providing the services their communities need, but typically don’t have the internal resources and expertise to design and implement a truly competitive, effective retirement program,” Schwartz said.

RPA works directly with the employer, as a fiduciary, providing retirement plan investment advisory and consulting services, with a focus on designing, implementing, and maintaining a robust deferred compensation/defined contribution program. “But the best retirement benefit in the world doesn’t help your employees if they don’t actually use it correctly,” Schwartz emphasized. “So we simultaneously come in and work with the employees—also in a fiduciary capacity—to help them fully maximize the benefit of their participation in voluntary retirement plans so that they can achieve a financially secure future.”

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Planning for a financially secure future includes planning for longevity and health care expenses. The average retirement age in the U.S. today tends to be around age 65. For public sector employees, however, the retirement age can be much younger. Public safety personnel—police officers and firefighters—often retire in their 50s.

“One big challenge is to bridge the substantial health care expenses from retirement age to Medicare eligibility at age 65,” Schwartz said. “We work with employers, police and fire unions, and other public employee unions to identify, design, create, and implement tax-free retiree health care funding solutions.”

RPA’s Promise

In a sense, RPA itself is the bridge between employer-sponsored retirement plans and public sector employees. Among the firm’s core commitments, according to Schwartz, are:

• To provide even the smallest communities with the same high-quality retirement plans and advice found on Wall Street.
• To never forget the person sitting across the table is depending on RPA to protect their hard-earned retirement.
• To meet in person or virtually with employees, year after year.
• To offer unbiased investment advice. As an independent firm, RPA has the freedom to design retirement solutions that are right for each individual.
• To act with integrity, respect, and responsiveness to every individual.

Integrity, respect, and responsiveness are also the values RPA seeks when identifying new financial advisors and partners. “Many advisors and firms gravitate toward helping the higher-net-worth individuals, the person who has $1 million or more to invest,” Schwartz said. “But that’s a small percentage of the population. What about everybody else?”

‘Everybody else’ has been a successful niche for RPA. “These people want sound, independent financial help,” Schwartz stressed. “For advisors who can see themselves working with that firefighter, that librarian, or the guys who lay asphalt on your streets or repair your water main, this could be a great fit.”

Growth Mode

RPA’s business continues to grow, and the firm is now working with well over 500 unique employers, accounting for more than 71,000 plan participants and $5 billion in plan assets. The company has 20+ full-time staff members, as well as 50+ financial advisors across the country.

QR2“We have clients from coast to coast, and while we’re not in every state just yet, we’re growing quickly and expanding our footprint through partnerships,” Schwartz said. “Through our recently formed partnership with Cambridge Investment Research, an independent financial solutions firm with over 3,600 financial professionals, we are able to provide local onsite service to public sector employers in a fiduciary capacity in all 50 states.”

As for future goals, RPA is considering taking its public sector expertise to the private sector. The timing seems right with the expected increase in Pooled Employer Plans (PEPs) and open Multi-Employer Plans (MEPs), thanks to recent legislation making it easier for small business owners to set up retirement plans.

For more information, visit

1Public Service and the Federal Government, Brookings Institution, May 2020


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