Retirement Planning

Frequent contact = Satisfied clients

Regular interaction boosts advisor relationships

Financial advisors who engage with clients on a regular basis can reap greater benefits through more highly satisfied customers who perceive additional value through the professional relationship.

Almost 96 percent of advisors who connect with clients at least four times a year, including in-person, email, and phone call interactions, are perceived as providing the value customers expect – three times higher than those who met only once a year, according to Carson Coaching’s 2020 Advisor Value Survey. Those with frequent interaction also reported they were more financially literate and felt more confident that they were prepared for retirement.

At M Financial Planning Services, Inc., advisors spend about 80 percent of their time on client interactions, according to Ted Massaro CLU®, AEP®, ChFC®, president of the Marlton, New Jersey, firm. Those interactions include meeting one-on-one with clients, plus joint sessions with customers and other advisors, such as CPAs, attorneys, or estate planning professionals.

Computer work“We conduct semi-annual meetings with our clients,” Massaro said. “We dig deeper to understand as much as we can about each client and their family. It goes beyond simply knowing the name of each person. We know our clients’ priorities, problems, challenges, and goals.”

That interaction became more difficult when the in-person social environment was lost in 2020, Massaro noted. Unable to hold face-to-face meetings, the company ramped up technology-based communications, such as Zoom videoconferencing, to maintain customer contact. Periodic “reality checks” throughout 2020 kept clients aware of how the COVID-19 pandemic was evolving and how it impacted the markets. The firm has also moved its continuing educational environment to a web-based platform.

“I really miss that personal connection with people,” said Massaro. “Hopefully by summer, we will have activities where we can interact with clients in social settings. While I prefer the one-on-one meetings, we've made a lot of technology available to help our clients communicate and stay in contact with us. We have clients in nine states, so we use various types of ongoing communication with them all the time.”

Founded in 1982, the firm manages assets totaling some $350 million, about 90 percent of which is fee-based. M Financial operates as a corporate Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) registered with the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The firm is affiliated with LPL Financial, the largest independent broker/dealer in the country*, which provides securities and advisory services.

Fifty percent of M Financial’s clients are self-employed business owners, Massaro said, and most of those are family businesses. He likes working with entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking for a trusted advisor to help them address the many different issues they constantly juggle. While Ted’s minimum is $500,000, the firm works with clients at all asset levels, particularly second and third-generation clients. Massaro adds: “We pride ourselves on our client tenure – the average client has been with us for over 25 years.”

M Financial creates a complete financial plan for all clients. The Carson survey found that 65 percent of clients whose advisors provide them a written plan are confident about their own preparedness for retirement, versus 54 percent of those without a written plan. In addition, 81 percent of those with a formal plan were highly satisfied with their advisor, while only 67 percent of those without a plan were satisfied.

“When any individual comes with us – whether they are a business owner, an executive, or a family member – they must start with a comprehensive plan,” Massaro said. “That includes those in the beginning stages of developing their own profession or career. Obviously, their plan will be more rudimentary at that point. But our goal is to develop good habits early on, and then work with them and their families to establish long-term goals to meet their objectives.”

Involving family members is a priority to help identify and address client concerns. Massaro said advisors make sure they understand the chemistry within each family. Since most client families cover multiple generations, he added, it is not uncommon to hold annual family meetings that include members of each generation.

Team massaro“Our goal is to develop a long-term planning relationship,” Massaro added. “Our fee-based planning does not require that clients do any investment or insurance purchases through us.” Additionally, M Financial offers fee-only subscription services to clients who prefer that model. “Hopefully, when clients are satisfied with us, they will move their investment assets to us and allow us to address any other planning issues going forward.”

Financial education is one of the most fundamental areas advisors address from the beginning of the engagement, Massaro said. During the initial interview, advisors strive to understand the client’s overall values and goals. They create a complete client profile through a series of questions that address goals, asset levels, risk tolerance, previous investment experience, and their interest in financial advice so advisors can understand the client’s viewpoint.

“The most important thing we try to develop with our clients is a solid foundation of confidence and trust that we're going to be there whenever they need information, and that it will be independent and objective,” he said. “It's a very personalized, customized approach; we don't use anything in a template form.”

Massaro added the firm emphasizes educating children as well as adults. New Jersey high schools now require students to take a financial literacy course, and M Financial provides ongoing education to support that effort. He said the firm offers quarterly webinars on financial education topics; weekly or monthly communications on market and economic issues; and other value-added interactions to keep clients informed and up to date. Similarly, the ongoing planning process connects their personal situation with current events that may affect their finances.

Retirement planning comprises a significant component within the comprehensive approach. Rather than using a boilerplate or standard model, Massaro said, his firm finds it more valuable to customize the retirement planning process to address the goals and needs of each individual client. Strategies include finding guaranteed sources of income in retirement (i.e., annuities); understanding the tax consequences of portfolio allocation both before and during retirement; Social Security considerations; and long-term healthcare planning needs.

“When we look at retirement planning, it is critical to consider where the income is going to come from, how you're going to achieve your goals, and what a realistic timeline to retire would be,” he added.

Another vital component is estate planning. One of the first questions in the planning process is asking clients whether they have the appropriate legal documents and, if so, when they were last reviewed. For those who do not have a will and related documents, he said, advisors emphasize the risk of not having the proper estate planning documents in place.

Estate massaro“Estate planning has always been a core part of our financial planning process,” Massaro added. “Estate planning education is important to us. We help individuals understand that you don't have to be a high-net-worth individual to need estate planning. We work with a number of estate attorneys, as estate planning obviously has had a lot of evolutionary changes in recent years. We coordinate with an attorney that works with them on wills, health directives, powers of attorney, and other documents appropriate to their situation.”

Looking to the future, Massaro said his son recently joined the firm, helping M Financial expand its services to young professionals in the millennial generation. The company will further expand its technology, and plans to add two to three new advisors in addition to the three senior advisors already at the firm. He added the company is actively searching for a practice to acquire that fits their core philosophy.

For more information on M Financial Planning Services, visit:


*As reported by Financial Planning magazine, June 1996-2020, based on total revenue.


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