Steve Olson learned the hard way about the need for law enforcement officers to account for their financial well-being. On July 4, 1991, Olson’s father was on the job in Virginia Beach, having moved from the NYPD, when he was hit by a drunk driver at 31 years old. “That forced my family into financial turmoil they were not prepared for,” explains Olson, the founder and family wealth advisor for Atlantic Wealth Partners in Jupiter, which also has an office at the Palm Beach County PBA.
His father had to take early disability retirement. And experiencing the financial perils of being an ill-prepared law enforcement family as a child started Olson on a path to help as many officers as possible secure solid financial futures from the time they step foot on the job until long after retirement.
“I became extremely passionate about providing objective, unbiased and accurate guidance to law enforcement officers,” Olson relates. “People think their financial lives are simple, that they have everything figured out. We have to help them discover and uncover many opportunities and gaps they haven’t planned for and need to plan for.”
To perpetuate that passion, Atlantic Wealth Partners continues a practice that its legacy firm began in 2009, by holding complimentary financial planning, retirement and investment workshops exclusively for PBA members at the PBA Hall several times each year. Four of those two-hour seminars took place on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1 and served to educate members about the ins and outs of the intricate retirement plans and programs agencies offers.
To keep it simple, the goal of the workshops is to make sure members don’t have to learn the hard way about what happens as a result of failing to prepare and plan. Atlantic Wealth Partners has also conducted similar sessions at various agencies in Palm Beach and Martin counties through requests from their human resources or training departments.
Given the nature of officers having to make decisions about contributing portions of their paychecks to 457(b) deferred compensation funds and understanding pension management, retirement and investment workshops probably should be mandatory training. But since it’s not coming at the academy, getting the information at one of the Atlantic Wealth is a productive option.
“The goal is for members to take the information and knowledge and make it applicable to their individual circumstances,” Olson details. “We make it a no-cost planning process and give them advice and analysis about estate planning, asset protection, income protection, cash flow and debt management, investment management pension planning and tie it into their retirement.”
Members who want to invest two hours to attend a retirement and investment workshop become educated in these essential components of financial and retirement planning. The session also delve into specific investment scenarios, such as what the outcome would be for investing a $100 per paycheck in 457(b) deferred compensation plan during a 30-year career.
The answer: $282,162 in investment assets averaging an 8 percent return. If you miss the first 10 years of contributions, however, then it would require an investment of $247 per pay period to hit the same number. If you wait until the last 10 years, it would require $780 per period.
Olson provides about 90 minutes of similar content and case studies to motivate members about how to secure their financial futures. The sessions typically get into some illuminating questions and answers. From his perspective, it’s not only what officers need, it’s what they deserve for serving with the dedication they bring to the job every day.
“We find that there is not enough proactivity from members to optimize and enhance their personal financial success until they are a couple of years from retirement,” Olson reports. “In many cases, that is too late.”
Another objective of the retirement planning sessions is to address the mindset officers have regarding reliance on their pension plan. The pension planning resource Atlantic Wealth provides helps estimate what the pension benefit might be, calculate if an FRS pension conversion to investment can provide enough income to support a family, estimate the DROP accumulation and make recommendations for rollover of DROP and 457(b) assets.
“We want to determine how much income they can generate from those assets,” Olson adds. “And educate members about how to protect those assets from creditors, predators, divorces and taxes.”
The bottom line is that law enforcement officers have complex financial situations. For a member with a $100,000 pension, a person in the private sector would have to accumulate $2.5 million in assets to generate similar retirement income.
Add in DROP and 457(b) assets, home values and perhaps other personal property or other businesses/investments, and it could add up quickly to $3.5-to-$4 million in overall investible assets. In that respect, Olson says, an officer can have similar planning needs as a wealthy attorney or successful private business owner. But most of officers’ wealth is dropped in their hands at the end of their careers, and they are ill-prepared to deal with it.
So to get to the bottom line, start thinking about it now. Before it’s too late. If it’s not already too late.
“It can absolutely be intimidating, so we try to provide a personal, customized planning session free from the influence of trying to sell products and more about making sense of every product or piece of financial advice a member has ever received,” Olson emphasizes.
And he points to the outcome all officers should be striving for regarding their financial futures: “If you have this valuable resource, at least seek out the no-cost meeting to get a different perspective or development of a plan of action,” Olson says. “It is all part of making sure that your 30-year career is meaningful and important to you and your families in all the ways that are important to you. Remember, it’s not you. It’s we.