By Marcia Z. Siegal
Financial services expert Tema Steele is fond of saying that her clients are like extended family. Family is also at the heart of the mother-son business she runs in partnership with her son, Joel Steele.
A Philadelphia native, Tema Steele founded Steele Financial Solutions in 1981 after a career in banking management. She was a single mother struggling to raise her two sons, ages two and four, and to regain her own financial footing in those start-up days. “I was on food stamps at the time. I had nothing to fall back on,” she remembers. “But I had determination and drive, and failure was not an option.”
In the 30 years since this Cherry Hill business began, it has served an estimated 3,000 clients. Those clients have included many women who “following a divorce or death of a spouse, need to know they will be in good shape financially," Tema Steele says.
“The issue for all clients,” she continues, “isn’t just how much money you have, but what will it do for you. Your assets should be like a faucet. You should be able to turn it on and off, so the money is available for whatever you need.”
Her son, Joel, came on board as co-owner and partner at Steele Financial Solutions in 2002. (Her other son, Jay, is a professional musician.)
“My mom always wanted me to get into the business," Joel Steele remembers, "but initially I looked the other way.” Instead, he went on to create and operate a restaurant chain, Thinkers Grille. After the restaurants closed, he followed his mother’s example by becoming an agent with New York Life Insurance Company. At Steele Financial Solutions, the two collaborate on behalf of almost every client.
Tema Steele says she often focuses on both the financial and emotional factors surrounding clients’ money issues, honing in on clients’ retirement/life goals and what they want their money do to for them. Joel Steele is typically the analytical numbers cruncher, who focuses on the income-producing and tax-savings aspects of clients’ financial options.
While Steele Financial Solutions serves clients of varying ages, the firm has developed a particular niche in working with individuals 50+ to help them plan retirement strategies before and/or during retirement. Such strategies can include insurance, investments, bonds and other financial products.
“People 50 and up have the most amount of money, but, more importantly, they have the biggest number of decisions to make,” Tema Steele points out. “They stand to lose the most if they make poor financial decisions, like investment selections and pension options. The wrong move or even procrastination can result in tens of thousands of dollars in losses."
“All of our recommendations have to do with the individual’s risk tolerance, liquidity needs, growth or income objectives, expenses, and time horizons,” she continues. “People are afraid of outliving their savings, so they often ask if they can afford to retire.”
Here’s Tema’s advice on how to a avoid two common pitfalls:
"Leaving assets of a 401K plan with a former employer after retirement is not a good idea,"
she says. You
may be better off taking this 401K money in a lump sum and investing it more appropriately for your situation. In addition, 401K plans often have hidden fees.
Electing a pension option without considering a lump sum distribution can pose another problem. In the event of the retiree’s death (and that of any spouse beneficiary), the retiree’s children would get nothing. “Consult with your retirement planner beforehand, because these decisions are irrevocable,” Tema Steele advises.
In addition to working together in their business, this mother-son duo co-hosts a radio show “Your Money Matters with Tema and Joel Steele” that airs on WVLT, “Cruisin’ 92.1” FM in Vineland, New Jersey on Sunday afternoons from 2 to 3 p.m.
The secret to a successful family business partnership, says Tema Steele “is being on the same page. We both have the same goals. Sometimes things flare up a little, but we both want the same things and care about each other. We always work things out and keep moving forward.”
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