Investing & Economy

Revealing an Advisor's Work Ethic

Check under the hood

TV host and podcaster Mike Rowe – of Dirty Jobs fame – likes to say: “Work ethic is important because, unlike intelligence, athleticism, charisma, or any other natural attribute, it’s a choice.” It’s also that intangible quality that many people look for when choosing someone to manage their money.

Mike Bensey, MBA and president of Good Life Financial Advisors of Orlando, gets that. And a work ethic forged during his youth is something on which he now bases his firm’s central philosophy.

“I grew up in West Virginia where my father and grandfather ran a gas station back when everything was full service,” Bensey recently told Advisors Magazine in an interview, “And I learned a work ethic where you help everybody.”

It’s one of the reasons his firm does not require any minimum investment. In addition to comprehensive wealth management services, Good Life Financial Advisors of Orlando specializes in 401(k) planning, which is a relatively large part of the practice.

Bensey estimates the firm has about 60-70 percent of assets in its 401(k) practice, but 60-70 percent of the firm’s income is from wealth management. That split, he claimed, is unique from a lot of advisors.

“And in that 401(k) practice, you help people at all levels,” he said, adding, “And we end up helping people that many advisors will turn away. But we want to treat them like everybody else.”

Bensey figures the firm handles about $150 million in 401(k) assets. His firm manages the plans with the sponsors and providers by conducting quarterly trustee meetings and helping them fulfill their fiduciary responsibility for the plans. For plan participants, individual educational meetings are scheduled to review accounts, or discuss pretty much anything else besides 401(k)s.

Bensey“We have a very smooth-running operation on the 401(k) side, which brings in a lot of personal business to the wealth management side,” noted Bensey, who has been a wealth advisor for over 30 years. “We really have those two lines of business and I think we do the 401(k) side better than 90% of advisors out there who do it a little bit – some don’t do it at all.”

An independent firm, Good Life Financial Advisors of Orlando is affiliated with publicly traded LPL Financial and able to draw on the major company’s tools and resources to provide financial research, guidance and recommendations. LPL doesn’t offer proprietary investment products or engage in investment banking activities, which means advisors are not pressured or influenced by LPL to sell its products.

Still, like his family’s gas station years ago in West Virginia, Bensey keeps things simple, grounded in personal service.

“Our client service philosophy is to make it so easy to do business with us that you wouldn’t want to go anywhere else,” he said, emphasizing that it’s the little things that matter, but which may be big things to clients – like including a return envelope for mailings, even though electronic signatures are common today, or streamlining paperwork, returning phone calls promptly, and responding quickly to emails and texts.

“Even if we don’t have an immediate answer, we let clients know we’re working on it,” Bensey said. “It comes down to providing clear communication; whatever it takes to make sure that they’re well serviced and well taken care of.”

One upside of the pandemic, in fact, was the opportunity to reach out and take even greater care of clients. The three-person firm includes Bensey, his son Drew as an investment analyst, and son-in-law Daniel Thornton is director of client relations. They all worked remotely during COVID and proactively called clients, or responded to requests for information. Such increased communication led to adjustments in clients’ financial strategies, as needed.

It also led Bensey to reinvent the firm’s approach to managing money for clients.

“With our reinvention, we now have one core model in which we alter the amount of bonds or conservative money to fit a client’s risk profile,” he explained.

If a client profiles as aggressive growth or growth, then the investment portfolio might be as much as 98 percent equity and 2 percent cash and bonds. More conservative clients might have 10-20 percent in bonds or a fixed income category.

The firm’s simplified core model now may be based on bonds and conservative investments, with varying components matched to risk, but more work and greater attention to detail is actually involved. For one, the current low interest rate environment and the lack of high interest-earning CDs, money markets, and so on, makes it all the more challenging.

“We narrowed our focus, but within that there is a lot of flexibility in terms of risk tolerance and we’ve become much more focused on ETFs and individual stocks, as opposed to just using mutual funds where there was less activity,” Bensey explained. “More strategy and tactical moves are now made throughout the year,” he said. “More profit taking and then reinvesting and shifting things around, instead of just a long-term strategy that’s just tweaked based on trends.”

He added: “But the next time there’s a 30 percent downturn or greater—like 2008—we and our clients don’t have to go through some of the same pain and agony like we did in ’08 and last March and April. With the core model’s foundation rooted in conservative vehicles and individual risk tolerance, a lot of the fear, worry and stress is mitigated.”

And while a singular core model has been adopted, the firm’s core value has not changed.

“I value every person and situation as unique,” Bensey said. “We try not to impose our values on the client; meaning we may agree with certain things that they think or believe, and we may disagree on others. But if there’s a way they want to plan and do what they want to do, we work to help them achieve that —even if our values are not aligned with theirs.”

One thing most all agree upon is the increasing challenge to not outlive one’s retirement money. According to Nationwide’s sixth annual Advisor Authority study, some 72 percent of investors say the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on how long they are able to live off their current retirement savings.

For many clients, Good Life Financial Advisors of Orlando will do a formal financial plan to project out where they are heading in terms of their assets, what they will save and grow, and what they might have in new income opportunities from social security or defined income benefit plans.

“In that planning, we always plan for somebody to live a minimum of 90 years old, sometimes we’ll do longer,” Bensey said.

For clients that have the resources and the cash flow, the firm may explore multi-care insurance alternatives, which Bensey says are harder to come by these days because most traditional insurance companies have gotten out of that business. Hybrid insurance products now proliferate and could be an answer for some people.

“So, we work through all the options and let them figure out what they want to spend their money on or not spend their money on.” He added: “We explain what the alternatives are if you don’t insure; if you’re self-insuring, it can be using assets like selling the house to pay for care. So, we just walk them through their options and sometimes they have the resources and sometimes they don’t – and it’s kind of decided for them and you make the best of it.”

Despite the pandemic, Bensey said the work never really slowed down, and in fact, business has grown. He noted that he’s grown also, by adapting and now having two younger employees who look at the world a little differently than he does, who are very good in their areas of specialty, and who are preparing to carry on the West Virginia gas station work ethic.

For more information on Good Life Financial Advisors of Orlando, visit:


Related Articles

© 2017-2021 Advisors Magazine. All Rights Reserved.Design & Development by The Web Empire