Teaching clients ‘how money works’
Teaching clients ‘how money works’
Grace Himmelright • Eastlake, OH
Transamerica Financial Advisors Inc.
Read full biography below
Proactive Advisor Magazine: Grace, what do you see as your overall mission in working with clients?
Knowing how money works can positively impact just about every area of people’s lives. I believe that when you can change a person’s financial literacy, you can change that person’s life. I am driven every day to help families build a future that matches their goals.
I am a true believer in the power of financial education and empowering people to be knowledgeable about financial decision-making. One of the primary reasons I entered the financial-services industry was because my husband and I had a transformative experience working with a financial advisor from the firm I eventually joined. My husband was able to retire at a relatively early age due in large part to the planning process we went through, and we were able to totally restructure our family’s finances. Having seen this approach work for us, and looking to make a career transition after a 20-year career in the health-care field, I entered the financial-services industry. My husband and one of our sons have since joined me on our team, and we all take great satisfaction in helping clients build confidence for their financial future.
I ask people I meet who want to hear about what I do a couple of key questions: “How many people do you know who have reviewed their financials in the last few years? How many people do you know who have a current financial road map for retirement?” The answer most people give is “not many.” That is one of the reasons why so many people are suffering financially and struggling to build wealth. The old model of retiring on personal savings, a company pension, and government pensions has become obsolete, in my opinion. People need a new strategy for generating income during their retirement years and a new game plan for their financial future. That is what we strive to deliver for all of our clients, along with a variety of products and services, such as helping plan for college funding for their children.
How do you approach the financial-planning process?
There are three general principles I use in financial planning:
- Plans should be goals-based and address an individual’s or family’s total financial needs. How much money will they need to live the way they do now when retired—or to provide for their family in case of job loss or death? I tell clients that they can build the best financial plan in the world, but it will not matter if their protection and risk-management needs are also not considered fully. We are backed by the resources of a multifaceted financial organization that can help provide a wide range of financial solutions for their families today, in the future, and for generations to come.
- Planning needs to be a customized process, geared to the way a client best takes in information and their specific financial knowledge. If there are significant gaps in that knowledge, I will obviously spend more time on the financial education piece. If client “A” is someone who is very quantitatively oriented, I am happy to go as deep into the analysis as they would like. If client “B” is more visual and conceptual in their learning approach, I will work with them in that fashion.
- Clients should be fully involved in the planning process. It is their money, their life savings, and their financial future. I am there to guide them, provide the pros and cons of various options, and probe what-if scenarios. Ultimately, they need to be the decision-makers. Nothing makes me happier than when a client reaches a level of education where they are making informed suggestions or asking probing questions that help build a better financial plan. With knowledge, strategy, and action, we can work together with clients to help them reach their objectives.
My goal by the end of the planning process is for each client to be able to answer three questions: (1) What are they doing? (2) Why are they doing it? (3) How is it going to help them proceed more successfully on the path toward their goals? These goals should be clearly articulated and quantified wherever possible. I am not necessarily looking for the detailed answers that a professional might give, but we will not proceed with implementing a plan until I am convinced the client has a firm grasp of these issues. It is very important in our process to explain financial concepts and the role of various tools and strategies to clients.
Talk about your broad philosophy in financial planning.
I am conservative in working with clients and value risk management. Depending on the client’s quantifiable goals, realistic risk profile, and time horizon, I would say my philosophy is seeking reasonable, conservative returns that will help them meet their objectives while mitigating risk as much as possible.
I think a client’s time frame, goals, and objectives drive the process when looking at potential return scenarios and assumption of risk. Assets that are earmarked for emergency funds or that must provide living expenses early in retirement would be viewed differently than assets that can go to work for 15 to 30 years. I also believe there can be roles for many types of investment or insurance vehicles in a plan. Annuities and various types of insurance might play a valuable role for clients along with equity and fixed-income investments. We also need to consider retirement plans, pensions, and government benefits and find the right role for those as part of the overall picture. For many clients planning for retirement, especially dual wage-earners, those with complex retirement plan options, or cases involving a special need of some kind, there can be a lot of moving parts that need to be addressed in financial planning. We also need to be mindful of tax consequences when considering various financial-planning options.
“I believe that when you can change a person’s financial literacy, you can change that person’s life.”
From a big-picture perspective, do we really believe years such as those seen during the financial crisis are not going to happen again?
I do not profess to have a crystal ball. But I firmly believe that clients are far more likely to stick with their financial plan if they use an overall approach and strategies that can help mitigate risk. At the end of the day, it is really the client’s decision. I am there to explain the pros and cons of each type of financial-planning approach under consideration, so they can make well-informed decisions.
When a current client introduces you to a prospective client, what would you like them to say about you and your practice?
That we work hard to understand their needs and help them articulate their overall financial objectives in a meaningful way; that I help them understand how money works, and specifically, how their money works; and that they felt comfortable with the planning that we did together because they understood it and have confidence that their financial future is on a well-considered track. Those would be the major takeaways that we strive to deliver on for all of our clients. I would feel very grateful knowing they consider that to be true and also that they are comfortable sharing those thoughts with friends and family.
Boost your firm’s efficiency with 5 time-management tips
As a financial advisor, Grace Himmelright of Transamerica Financial Advisors finds effective time management is critical to running her practice. She says she “is a student of time-management theory” and tries to stay up to date on the literature in the field. She feels it is important to:
- always have a plan for annual business development and growth;
- make sure shorter-term activities are aligned with long-term goals;
- identify deliverables in the context of achieving business development objectives;
- make progress toward annual goals consistently throughout the year; and
- emphasize the activities that matter most, minimizing time and effort on low-value work.
Grace Himmelright is a financial advisor with Transamerica Financial Advisors, located in Eastlake, Ohio. She is also a senior marketing director with World Financial Group, Inc. (WFG). In addition to working with her own client base, she leads a team of financial professionals who “serve clients from all walks of life.” Ms. Himmelright and her team employ a goals-based and holistic financial-planning approach by offering a wide range of products and services for clients appropriate to their needs at various stages of life.
A native of Toledo, Ohio, Ms. Himmelright was the seventh of eight children in her family. Her mother was an educator and school counselor for several decades and later a volunteer tutor for a faith-based program to help disadvantaged women. Her father was an entrepreneur who owned his own service business and “always successfully wore several business hats.” She says she learned the value of hard work at an early age, making a significant contribution to both her high school and college tuition costs.
Ms. Himmelright graduated from the University of Toledo with a Bachelor of Science degree, focusing on business and statistics, and later obtained an MBA from Heidelberg College. She spent approximately 20 years in the health-care field, working in administration and management in positions of increasing responsibility. Looking to establish her own independent business practice, Ms. Himmelright entered the financial-services field in 2004. She says she “feels fortunate to have joined a firm with extensive training and mentoring.”
Ms. Himmelright and her husband have three adult children and two grandchildren. They enjoy travel, reading, and spending quality time with the family. Ms. Himmelright is active in church, civic, and volunteer activities in her community, including efforts on behalf of 100+ Women Who Care, in Lake County, Ohio, and the foundation board of Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. She also serves on the Mentor Area Chamber of Commerce legislative committee.
Disclosure: Grace Himmelright is a registered representative and an investment advisor representative with Transamerica Financial Advisors Inc. (TFA). Securities and investment advisory services offered through TFA, member FINRA, SIPC, and a registered investment advisor. World Financial Group, Inc. (WFG), is a financial services marketing company whose affiliates offer a broad array of financial products and services. Insurance products offered through World Financial Group Insurance Agency, Inc. (WFGIA). WFG, WFGIA, and TFA are affiliated companies.
Tax and/or legal advice not offered by Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc., or their affiliated companies. Please consult with your personal tax professional or legal advisor for further guidance on tax or legal matters. TFA2075949-0418.
Photography by Kristine Lang