Retirement Planning

Taking Care of Others

The heart of financial planning

In his State of the Union address on March 1, President Biden made an appeal to end the nation’s political divisions inflamed by COVID-19 safety restrictions. “We’ve lost so much in COVID-19 — time with one another and, worst of all, much loss of life. Let’s use this moment to reset,” Biden said. “So stop looking at COVID as a partisan dividing line.”

After nationwide masking-versus-unmasking and vax-versus-unvax debates, Biden’s underlying message was that it’s high time to show some caring and respect for each other. In fact, many people insist that beyond the politics, the pandemic has shown some of the best of humanity.

One of those people is James Rukstalis, president, CLU, ChFC, CFP® at J.R. Financial & Insurance Services in Santa Clara/San Jose, California.

JR headshot round“When the pandemic first happened, our first focus wasn’t actually on reaching out to our clients,” Rukstalis told Advisors Magazine in a recent interview. “It was to make sure our staff felt safe.” And the county’s mandatory quarantine affected them all.

“We made a personal commitment—and every employee knew—that no employee would be terminated during the mandatory quarantine,” he said.

Everyone could rest easy that their jobs were secure. “We would all figure it out together,” Rukstalis noted, adding, “We sent weekly gifts to our staff, and we even did some fun team building by setting up a weekly Dungeon & Dragons meeting to keep up the morale.”

Such an approach reflects a personal credo of Rukstalis: If you take care of others, you’ll be taken care of as an entrepreneur/business owner.

“It’s not just about trying to maximize profit,” he explained. “First and foremost, it’s about taking care of people, taking care of staff, and taking care of your clients. As long as my focus is truly on helping people—my staff, my clients—everyone will be better off and that’s a win-win situation.”

With J.R. Financial & Insurance Services’ staff reassured and upbeat at the outset of the pandemic, they could then turn their attention to putting clients’ minds at ease and providing better service.

Like most financial planning practices before the pandemic, Rukstalis and his team met with clients in person at the office. Most of the firm’s clients are in California, but clients are also situated in several other far away states like Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, Washington and Texas. “Getting signatures, even a simple initial, created big hurdles for our clients that lived far away,” he recalled.

Regarding clients who were concerned about the stock market’s massive drop when COVID-19 hit, J.R. Financial & Insurance Services called them, but also adopted the technology and tools to connect with clients everywhere in an ongoing manner—using things like video conferencing as well as DocuSign.

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“This streamlined the business,” Rukstalis said. “It made it really easy to meet clients anywhere; no one had to leave their homes. It allowed us to reach out to more clients and respond to issues much quicker.”
There is no minimum investment required by J.R. Financial & Insurance Services – and the reason why is simple.

“I believe that everyone deserves financial planning, and everyone needs financial planning,” Rukstalis emphasized. “We believe in taking a broader view of someone’s estate to identify clear goals for our clients’ wants and desires.”

Rukstalis’ own specialties include planning for retirement, setting up guaranteed retirement income, estate transfer planning, FERS & CERS Governmental planning, and planning social security strategies. He has worked with individuals from all types of professions including federal employees, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Kaiser, San Jose State teachers and football coaches, Cal Berkeley football coaches, and several San Francisco 49ers.

“We don’t want to simply help people with lessons,” he stressed. “We want people to succeed in their planning. Our goal is to help clients reset their own potential and the life they could be living, rather than being handcuffed to their investments and current circumstances.”

Far more than lessons, education is a major aspect of the work done by J.R. Financial & Insurance Services.

One of his clients is a doctor, surgeon and a professor at Stanford University, and Rukstalis is astounded by the fact that through all his client’s training and experience, from childhood through the doctorate level, he has never once had a required financial course.

In fact, when considering the growth of online trading platforms, handheld investing apps, and robo-advisors along with a general lack of financial knowledge, Rukstalis said: “Without understanding finance, all the tools in the world aren’t going to help you.”

He acknowledges that the more information someone has, the better decisions they will make.

“And if someone is structuring a plan for their financial life and future, the right investments tend to make themselves known to the client as the best available options,” Rukstalis said.

He also doesn’t think anyone should be pressured to invest in anything.

“I find that there is rarely a strong sense of urgency to do something right away,” Rukstalis observed. “I think the most important thing to do is figure out their plan and for how they want to live their life. It’s important that before anyone makes a decision to move forward, that they evaluate all of the available options and understand the benefits and drawbacks of each.”

JR teamEvery J.R. Financial & Insurance Services client gets a custom-built report for their estate because, as Rukstalis says, no two estates are alike. “We also do a custom laddering plan to structure retirement income,” he said.

Over the last year, the company has expanded and doubled in size. The office is now more than 6,000 square feet, and four new hires are planned for this year.

Recently hired was a director of education. There will be an emphasis on podcasts and webinars as marketing tools. Rukstalis said, however, the role of the director of education is to actually go out into the community and provide pro bono education to local schools.

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