Investment Advisor Representative Christy Smith
Since launching The Presley Group in 2006, Christy Smith has helped hundreds of retirement age people protect and grow their nest eggs and secure their financial futures – but she prefers not to use the limiting term “financial planner” in describing her role in their lives and her company’s array of services. The sign on The Presley Group’s building in Denham Springs, Louisiana (just outside of Baton Rouge) pegs those services just right: Insurance and Retirement Specialists.
Taking a personal approach to each client based on their unique needs, Christy’s stated mission is to help them clarify their goals and realize their dreams based on current and long-term financial needs. She also embraces the term “teacher” because she devotes much of her consultation time to making people aware that they can use insurance products to help plan their retirement.
“Though there are a lot of sales reps in this industry,” she says, “we’re not simply here to sell these products. What’s important is that we educate our clients how the different plans that are available can affect their lives and help them reach their goals. There are probably 100 different fixed annuities on my shelf, and sometimes we use two or three to come up with the best individual plan. On occasion, people will come in wanting us to tell them what to do on the spot, but planning a person’s retirement is not about quick fixes. We want to cultivate a long term relationship.”
For the past five years, Christy and her agent Matt Kennedy have co-hosted the popular local radio program “Your Money Matters,” which can currently be heard each Saturday at 9 a.m. on Talk Radio 107.3 FM (WBRP-FM), and again Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. on 1150 AM WJBO, serving the Greater Baton Rouge area. The two can be heard talking frankly about money, retirement, investing and what’s going on in the economy. The show is frequented by some of the nation’s top financial experts like former U.S. Comptroller David Walker and Erwin Kellner, Chief economist for Market Watch.
“We’re there to offer great information and build credibility to our brand on a larger scale,” says Christy. “What we have discovered as far as the reach of the show is concerned is that clients that come to us will tell us that they have been listening for three years, but they didn’t need us three years go. We’re excited that our show has helped them in the past, and we are eager to help develop a more personal relationship with those people as clients of our firm once they have reached out.”
One of the key factors leading Christy to launch her own company was her building frustration with being a “captive agent” with Physicians Mutual Insurance Company. When she took the position after seven years with the Postal Credit Union, the company specialized in Medicare supplements, long term care insurance and annuities. She loved working with seniors and the opportunity to use her passion for helping people to make a difference – just as she had at the Credit Union.
Starting with her early designation as “Rookie Agent of the Year,” her seven years at Physicians Mutual – in which most of her appointments were at client’s houses, allowing for thriving long term relationships – were very successful and earned her numerous awards. “While helping these clients choose their Medicare supplement plans, we would talk about things like long term care insurance,” says Christy, who launched her career in the financial industry as a bank teller, and later worked in the bank’s loan department. “I would ask, ‘Have you planned for all of your needs? In that process of learning about their financial situation, I realized that some didn’t need long term care insurance. In certain cases, I would offer them life insurance. The annuities I would sell them had a seven year surrender charge period, where they could move their money or reinvest.
“Over those seven years, I learned of all of the available plans out there, but being a ‘captive agent’ meant I could only sell the ones the company I worked for approved of,” she adds. “I would get all the knowledge about the plans they sold, but no training on the other ones that exist and which might have been more conducive to my client’s needs. I realized that if I wanted to help my clients to the best of my ability, I needed to become an independent agent. That would give me the freedom to contract with many other companies so that I could truly offer my clients the best plans on the market.”
Throughout her career, Christy — an approved member of the National Ethics Bureau (NEB) and Certified Long Term Care Specialist – has encountered many people who were lured into the stock market with the hope of large gains, only to suffer the exact opposite depending on the volatility of the stock market. With this in mind, The Presley Group specializes in insurance based annuity products that are custom tailored to meet each person’s unique financial situation.
The products Christy and her team represent are issued by top-rated companies with long track records of stability, security and preservation of capital. Most importantly, by using these products, her clients are never subject to the fluctuations that occur in the stock market – instead, they protect and grow their wealth. The plans offer the best of all worlds – letting clients share in stock market gains in good years, while protecting them from market losses in bad ones.
As explained succinctly on The Presley Group’s website, fixed indexed annuities are tied to major stock market indexes and not to the performance of individual stocks or mutual funds, providing complete safety of principal. They are a life insurance product, not a securities product – thus they are an excellent alternative savings vehicle, a choice for people who are planning to retire, or are already retired. Not only is there “zero market risk” associated with fixed indexed annuities, but when the market goes up and clients have gains in their accounts, it’s locked-in each year and theirs to keep.
“Their money is protected principle, and the interest that is generated is based on the performances of different indexes, such as the S&P (Standard & Poor’s) 500, which tracks market capitalizations of the 500 leading publicly traded U.S. companies,” says Christy. “We’re linking our return to the performance of those indexes. We don’t own the stock but we may make five percent in fixed annuity money from our insurance company contract that inks return to the performance of that index. If the index produces a 10 percent gain on average for a year, we may see a five percent gain from that.
“On the other hand, and very much to the client’s benefit, if the S&P 500 goes down 30-40 percent as it did in 2008, because we don’t actually own stock, we don’t lose any money. The principle and interest are protected and this offers a great deal of certainty to a client’s retirement plan. We don’t usually put all of our clients’ money in fixed index annuities, but it’s a great environment for money that they need to count on.”
Christy brings her experience as a Certified Estate Planner to another of The Presley Group’s key service areas, Estate Planning. Her experience guiding clients in all related areas – trusts, wills, living wills, durable power of attorney – led her to write her new book “Plan, Protect & Preserve,” which helps clear up the misconception that estate planning is only “for when you die…it’s actually very important to think about for the years you are still alive.” The book offers good general information about the choices people have – and naturally finds Christy discussing protecting money via annuities.
A third area of specialty for The Presley Group is Life Insurance, and Christy and her team can compare rates among dozens of companies to find the perfect plan to fit her clients’ specific needs. In this realm as well, she plays the role of an educator. In addition to the standard value of life insurance – where beneficiaries can use funds from a policy to pay funeral, burial and later living expenses in the wake of one’s death – she teaches clients that whole life insurance can also be used as a source of cash in the event that clients need to access the funds during their lifetimes. Many types of permanent life insurance build cash value that can be borrowed from or withdrawn at the policy owner’s request.
Besides Christy’s decades of industry experience, powerful people skills and her ever growing passion to help people, what sets The Presley Group apart can be explained as good old Southern Hospitality. “Everyone we meet has a different goal,” she says. “A lady came in this morning who is retiring next month and looking for help. She has a 401 (k) and pension and needs a guaranteed income, looking to replace her paycheck. We’re gonna find her the best plan available to achieve that so she doesn’t have to worry about it for the rest of her life. And when she came in, we served her hot baked cookies and the non alcoholic beverage of her choice! We have always believed that the clients we have are extended family members.”
Faith is the foundation of both Christy’s personal life and The Presley Group’s mission to serve and, in line with the Bible verse “everything in heaven and earth is yours” (1 Chronicles 29:11), she believes that people should be good stewards with their money – and that includes making responsible decisions about putting it in environments where it can best serve people’s needs during their later years. “Our money is God’s money, and when you come in our office, you’re going to learn that is the core philosophy that drives our work and service,” says Christy, who has donated thousands of dollars to organizations like United Way and the Tocqueville Society over the years, in addition to donating to the church she, her husband and her children belong to.
“During that first visit, we will ask a lot of questions about goals, dreams, how much money they’re making now, when they’re planning to retire and other related things. What we want after that visit is to get a clear picture of their needs and desires. It may take a few visits before we agree to forge a mutually beneficial relationship. And then our goal becomes to be of service for the rest of the client’s life. All I ever wanted was to make a difference in people’s lives, and I believe God gave me this business I love so much so I would have the opportunity to do just that.”