James Mason, Financial Advisor, SunTrust Investment Services, Inc.
I’m 45 years old, married with three teenage boys and live in Knoxville, Tennessee. I started my career at the University of Tennessee as the assistant director of retirement services, where I worked with all sorts of retirement plans. From there, I was recruited by TIAA-CREF as an institutional pension consultant. A few years later, I came back to Knoxville, where I started with SunTrust in the institutional retirement plans division. In 1999 I joined the investment side of SunTrust. That’s when I started working with small businesses to help craft their retirement plans. Naturally I worked with the owners and employees on their individual retirement plans as well.
If you want credentials, I’ve got them: I earned my Certified Employment Benefit Specialist designation from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and I am also a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor.
I like to use a financial planning approach, pulling together retirement planning software and tools. That way, I can help my clients visualize what retirement will look like. And when I say retirement, I’m not just talking about the year they retire or five years later. I want a plan that sees them through their entire retirement. That’s what a good financial advisor focuses on: the financial planning tools help put everyone on the same page. You don’t just plan for your retirement date, you plan for your money to last for the rest of your lifetime. That’s my goal as a financial advisor.
Why I love my job:
I’ve had some clients who were really discouraged and worried about their retirement income during the past couple of down markets. Together, we were able to come up with some different strategies—using bonds or variable annuities or managed money—to get them back on track. That’s really gratifying.
Because of my diverse background, I can see retirement planning from both the employer’s and the employee’s perspective. That helps me answer their questions and handle their retirement distributions in the right way.
My proudest moment:
Back in 2002, I had a client come to me because he wanted to retire in five years at an early age. I had to go back to him and say it just wasn’t possible. He had lost too much money in the recent market downturn. He simply didn’t have enough to retire comfortably. But we put a plan in place with the appropriate asset allocation and managed risk that got him back on track. He retired recently at age 65 and has been enjoying life ever since.