Basam Mailk, Enrollment Specialist at Rehmann Financial, shares some of his success stories using TRAK to help 401(k) plan participants in their retirement readiness planning. Basam says that the first time Rehmann tested out TRAK, "[the]feedback was phenomenal, their eyes lit up and everyone in that group, I believe it was all 15 for 15, had increased their contribution by at least double if not by three to four times".
TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF.
My name is Basam Mailk I work with Rehmann in their retirement build division. I’ve been with Rehmann for almost 6 years. I started out in their wealth management division and transitioned over to retirement planning which is where I currently work as an enrollment specialist working with fiduciary aspect of due diligence with investment analysis with the majority of my time spent in education and retirement readiness for their participants and making sure that we can move the needle forward from where they may be currently regardless of their experience towards whatever their retirement goal might be.
TELL ME ABOUT REHMANN.
Rehmann is the foremost choice in the mid-west. We started out initially in Saginaw but our footprint ranges from northern Michigan area throughout Detroit region, out over in the west side of Michigan, and down into Ohio and also offices down in Florida. So we have a wide footprint over there and services Rehmann includes are accounting, tax audit work, wealth management, retirement planning, TPA services. So that’s the whole encompassing service model that we offer you including investigative services. A customer can come in the door and we can offer them a full portfolio of services. All the way from accounting to investigative services, wealth management, retirement planning, anything that can help them as an individual or a business practice.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR JOB AS AN ENROLLMENT SPECIALIST.
As an enrollment specialist I work with onboarding new plans when they come on board to educate the participants as to the benefit being provided through their company’s 401k retirement plan, how that benefits them, how they can take advantage of that, someone who is already in there how we can help them to make their retirement portfolio, their retirement plan or for someone who is maybe just entering the workforce, maybe never experienced the 401k plan, what that means to them and how they can use that to help them achieve their retirement goals, whatever they may be down the road. To help as supplemental income and so that they will not have to rely on Social Security only and they can have control over what that retirement looks like for them. For plans where they are already established I help them with ongoing education which may entail what are some of the hot topics in this industry, for that specific practice or that demographic that I am working with what are some of the hot topics that they want to touch on. If it’s a younger employment force we focus more on contribution investments. If the demographic is more ready towards retirement, along that age group, we work towards what is life like after retirement. Help guide them through and open up their paths as to what options are there for them to follow, how we can assist them to transition to that retirement phase.
IN YOUR POSITION WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN EVOLVE?
Over the past several years what I have experienced is we’ve gone from a very generic education where one of the big questions I would encounter a lot of times was we talked about increasing their contributions so that they are able to meet their retirement goals. That was a very arbitrary question or thought process for them because in a room full of people a 2% increase would be very different from one individual to the next. We weren’t ever able to pinpoint what that means for that individual that they can take home and be meaningful to them. So over the past couple of years, what I have noticed is that we are able to talk to individuals and tell them how their contributions affect not only their take-home pay, because in this day and age unfortunately that is what they’re worried about, how can I make ends meet, how can I pay all my bills but yet have an eye on retirement and be able to fulfill that goal as well. So be able to utilize a tool or something where we can take that unknown and put something tangible in their hands that is more meaningful to them, has been the biggest step forward that we have made in moving the needle forward towards retirement planning as far as an individual.
HOW HAVE THE TRAK REPORTS IMPACTED YOUR MEETINGS?
One of the things I’ve noticed in particular with a couple of clients that we’ve been kind of running a beta test, I’ve gone about 3 cycles with them, we just had their third meeting recently and the outcome from that has been absolutely phenomenal. One of the biggest take-aways from this practice was, there’s a smaller group of about 15 individuals in this practice. They were doing well; they were contributing but prior to TRAK the question always was “Am I doing enough? How much should I be doing?” Outside of sitting down with a financial advisor or financial consultant that was something that was just kind of “out there” they didn’t really have a good feel for so we brought on TRAK and presented this as our beta test group. And right off the bat feedback was phenomenal, their eyes lit up and everyone in that group, I believe it was all 15 for 15, had increased their contribution by at least double if not by three to four times, which is great. The plan sponsor, they were absolutely blown away because they were very paternalistic so for them to see that sort of response from their employees was a huge source of affirmation that, yes, they’re doing something right and that there was such a positive response. So we’ve followed that up two more times, two more cycles since then and every time the employees enjoy that, seeing something that they’re doing by taking the information they extracted from TRAK, because it was meaningful, because they saw if I do an X percent increase, what that take-home difference is for me. That is something they can take to the bank. That was a big thing for them to be able to see that and that’s why, when they saw those numbers, they could jump not just 1% or twice, they went double what they were previously contributing or four times that. That was huge for them. And consistently since then they have continued to increase their contributions. Some of them have met their goals of where they need to be contributing; now their seeing kind of like the snow-ball effect happening, they’re seeing what has happened and they’re seeing the results of their baby-steps towards their retirement goal. So that has been very powerful seeing that.
WHAT IMPACT HAS THE BATCH GAP AND CONTRIBUTION ANALYSIS REPORT HAD ON THE PARTICIPANTS?
Initially when I roll out a report, when I sit down with a participant all of my meetings when I sit down with the participants are based on one-on-one, this way we can devote time to them; look at their situation and how this affects them. I think that’s powerful in and of itself. So the first time I sit down with them the first thing that we go over is their Gap Analysis. It’s a very visual report; it’s nice, clean and concise because it’s all on one page. What they pick out right off the bat is either A) its green which is they’re funded and that brings a smile on their face. Second is, it’s pink and that’s never good. So that spurs more questions and often I can look on their face and then they look down and see “OK, I’m contributing this and my contribution needs to be what??” Oftentimes it’s multiple folds of what they’re currently contributing. So there is that sense of “Thanks for just confirming what I already knew. I can’t make it to retirement or I won’t have enough for retirement.” But taking that information and then turning over to the contribution analysis that’s where they really light up all over again because they can see that based on where their starting point is how we can break that down further into “If you do X, Y, Z, the goal might be over here. It might be 20% that you need to contribute or 15% to meet your retirement goals, however if they’re only doing 2 or 4% currently, that’s a big gap for the majority of the population, of the demographics that we work with. But then we take a step back and say “OK, you don’t need to take that big, huge jump. How about if we increase by a percent or two? Let’s just look at that, let’s just take that. They know what their long-term goal is but let’s bring it back to something that they can see moving the needle forward positively for them in the short-term. They see that and that will start a new conversation about “It says that if you increase by X percent, 2%, what does that look to you in your take-home pay. It’s this dollar difference. Do you have it within your budget to be able to accommodate that in some manner?” Then we can go on to another discussion about “Do you have a budget? Do you have a working budget? If so, great. What are some of the items that we can look at? If not, well great, maybe we need to look at a budget and track your income between a couple pay periods, track your spending and see is there any areas in there where we can maybe capitalize on, let change some of our buying habits or maybe some of our habits that we currently have and free up some of our money. One example I’ll use, often times everyone gets a chuckle out of but this is true. This is what I had to do, this is true. Coffee, I love coffee, if it were up to me I would go and get a boutique coffee every day and you don’t get that for less than five or eight dollars a cup. This is not a .99 cent cup from McDonalds. You go to Starbucks and that’s what you get. For me, if I do that on a daily basis, 5 dollars over a period of a week, that’s fifteen dollars. That can be up to fifteen, twenty dollars that frees up. What about going out to lunch? If everybody goes out to lunch that can be about 5 to 10 dollars per lunch. So we have that conversation and say ok, if we eliminate some of that how can we open up some of that discretionary income we have. Now that frees up boutique coffee every day, I buy Folgers for 6.99 and that provides coffee for a month. Now you’ve just captured that 15, 25, 50 dollars every week or maybe 50 dollars over a 2 week period, now you’ve got that in your hand. Now we go back to the contribution analysis and you’re looking at a difference of 50 dollars, well, we just captured that. Is that something that you can put in? Well now their wheels start turning and they start thinking. Yeah! Again, it’s not that they are – they don’t know what they don’t know. So we open up a dialogue and this kind of brings it to the fore front. We are, in essence, empowering them to make a decision that we know that’s right for them. They may not of ever had the experience of someone walking them through the process to show them you are capable of making these decisions, you know what the decision is. You’ve maybe just never had the thought process or someone to kind of guide you through it. And once you laid it out logically and take all the fluff away, it becomes second nature to them. They know they can do it, they do it with all the other spending habits they’ve already developed because of certain thought processes. Now we can just kind of clarify it and bring it to light, they can see that. Once we show them here is where your needs are, here’s where we can open up and fulfill that need, when going forward can you do that, continue to do that- absolutely. And now you’ve got the wheel in motion where they’re empowered and you’re not making the decision for them. You’re just opening up one option, they can look at the entire battery of options in front of them, in the contribution analysis, and they can take that, pretty much to the bank. Like I’ve said, in that one practice, we gone through 3 cycles and they’re seeing progression of where they were 3 cycles ago and where they are currently, and they’ve got a big ole smile on their face and they’re happy you continue to do that. As someone working in retirement plans, seeing that look of gloom go away from the eyes, this cloudiness kind of dissipates, and yes, they’ve got control- ability to control their future going forward. That’s very powerful and word gets around. We’ve gone back to several organizations where, maybe a small percentage of their population in that practice or that group actually wanted to even sit down and even review that reports. But now that word has gotten out, we get people signing up all over the place – saying can I get that report, can you sit down with me, can you email that report to me. I really would like to – instead of retiring at 65 I’d like to retire at 55. Is that possible? You know so we start running through these different scenarios and now they’re thinking, they’re being proactive on that. Again it’s about empowering them, about teaching them, showing them you are capable, you are worthy of this, you are capable of doing this. We’re just providing them with the tools to be able to do that – get that control in their hands and show them the progress they are able to make towards that.
ONE CRITICISM OF THE CONTRIBUTION ANALYSIS REPORT IS THERE IS TOO MUCH DATA, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THAT?
I would agree, yes, there is a lot of information on there, a lot of data, it’s just a matter of how you go about mining that, making that relevant to that individual. Because a lot of time you can be sitting down with the same individual, two people, same everything, but one is more risk adverse than the other, well you want to have that on the form because if you’ve never met with that individual, you don’t know what their aversion to risk is, but having that data available right then and there, instead of having to go back and say you know what I have to come back to you on that one. You’ve got all the relevant information, the data right there. So I guess it’s just a matter of, to me, taking that information and putting it into context that is relevant to that individual and make that the priority. There is all that other information and you can educate them to where, as we go through this process, you may go from this area that is more relevant today, maybe in 2 years a different sector of that report is more relevant to you. So again, you can put it all in front of them and they’ve got all the information they need and we just guide them through, how do you take advantage of that information when it becomes relevant to you at that point in time.
HAVE TRAK REPORTS HELPED YOU FIND UNMANAGED RESOURCES FOR PARTICIPANTS?
Absolutely. On a handful of occasions we’ve come across individuals where we may not have a calculation available for them, be it they are too close to retirement age, they made too much money, their income is off the chart. Or something just doesn’t make sense and we aren’t able to give them a solution, a retirement solution. That opens up the door for us to ask, do you have outside assets, because if you have outside assets we can populate those into these reports and generate a new report that would be more indicative of where you truly are rather than say I’m sorry we don’t have a solution for you. Cause often times that’s not the case. If someone’s close to retirement, they just happen to change toward the end of their career from one position to another, they may not have any assets in this plan currently but they may have a fully funded retirement in another asset from their previous employer or other assets outside. So we can bring that all into the equation and open up a discussion. We have had instances where we have been able to utilize that and someone will say well my spouse has a 401(k), we’ve got another portfolio outside of here, can you look at this as a holistic, a complete picture. Absolutely we can do that. And that kind of opens up doors for us, now we can direct some of that business, some of that referral down to our other Rehmann Advisors; because some of those individuals really have never sat down with an advisor or a financial professional to look at the overall portfolio to access where they are currently. They’ve been working around the clock getting their work done but they’ve never actually anticipated where is all this leading up to: are we financially secure, financial health wise are we doing well or do we need to change something, what should we be doing as we get close to retirement, kind of fine tune that towards the end. So that kind of opens up a venue for us to be able to refer some of that business to our Rehmann Advisors as well: on the wealth management side. So again, we’re providing services for the participants, for the employee, because they’re coming to a point where they’re looking for a solution that is meaningful and relevant to them and their scenarios specifically. They’re not looking for something that is a generic broad stroke, so then we can go and fine tune and help them with whatever they need assistance with. And again, all the goes to moving the needle forward towards hitting their retirement readiness goals.
WHAT HAS YOUR SUPPORT EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE WITH THE TRAK TEAM?
The TRAK team support has been very good. And we’ve run into some, some of it is just lack of training, or not having a good understanding of what the system is capable of providing: or we’ve run into some hiccups. We’ve never had an instance that I can pinpoint to, where the support hasn’t been there. It is pretty prompt, often times I’ve heard directly from you (Ed Dressel, President) it the other support hasn’t been available or questions they aren’t comfortable or have the understanding of, or how they can be of assistance; we’ve heard directly from you. Again, the response has been prompt, and we get to the point where if there isn’t a solution there is always an OK, here is how we can make this work. And one thing I do appreciate is that you take feedback: what works for you, what doesn’t work. Can we fix something, so the dialogue is two ways. It’s not like, this is what we have – work with it. You ask for our feedback and I’m hoping that gets integrated into bettering the final product that you continue to develop forward.
WHAT’S A TRAK SUCCESS STORY FOR YOU?
I’ve had individuals from our firm approach me because they’ve gotten wind of what’s happening and they’ve asked me to run some personal TRAK reports on them and I’ve done a couple of them. There is that intrigue over there, well this is working because I’m hearing success stories from you, and from other advisors on the plan. So there is that level even within the firm itself where that is increasing. In a recent meeting we had a manufacturing firm, when their arms crossed, fingers crossed, eyes crossed, everything crossed, and there was a gentleman who was just not ready to have a discussion about anything. Went through the presentation and sat down with him and presented the TRAK report and it turned out to be where his concern was: he was in a bad situation, and he just never saw the light at the end of the tunnel. He had pretty much given up. So just having that discussion and being open to where there is a solution to whatever you may be going through: we have a solution for it. At least help you overcome whatever obstacles you maybe have. Can we do that every single time? Maybe, maybe not. But in this instance, at least the dialogue to where he went from being totally closed up and to not even wanting to listen, being there because he had to, to where he saw a time individually and said here’s my situation, I want to start saving, I know I’m always going to be working, but at least I can make it a little more comfortable for me down the road. So changing that mind set from absolutely no way, to yes I’m open to suggestion and will you help us. Will you help me go through this? It’s great to be able to see someone come up, especially who doesn’t see an end in sight, finally come around and say there’s hope, I can do this. Which is great. I think we’re going to start seeing more and more, as word gets out, already advisors are asking for that. The employers, the feedback we get from the HR managers has been good because referrals are going up. And they know that the benefit that they work hard towards, putting together as a package for their employees, isn’t being wasted in vain. They are taking a true benefit off of that and is having an impact in their lives. A happy employee means a more productively and hopefully happy employer as well. So what all comes around in a big circle is, if we’re able to assist the employee, which hopefully doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, we take care of the employer, let’s not lose sight of who the personnel, who’s creating the production, putting their best foot forward at all times. If we can make them happy and keep them happy and help them attain their goals, I think it benefits everyone in the mix.