In this edition of The Plexus Groupe's Executive’s Chair interview series, we caught up with Plexus Financial Services Practice Leader and Executive Vice President Allison Winge, who joined the firm in October 2015. Recently, Allison sat down with Plexus to talk about her passion for corporate retirement planning, including educating plan participants to make the right savings decisions.
Here is an edited transcript of her remarks:
PLEXUS: What intrigued you about the opportunity at Plexus?
Winge: When the Affordable Care Act passed, I started thinking in terms of total benefits, about how it made sense from a planning standpoint. You know, when we're already coming in and talking to the C-suite, why aren’t we talking to them about their health insurance?
And so I started thinking about what kind of firm I wanted to align myself with. And truly, it was a firm that had employee benefits that also had corporate retirement. And so when the opportunity with Plexus (came about), with us being 100 percent devoted to corporate retirement, it was like, ‘Wow, this is exactly what I’m looking for.’
PLEXUS: What’s the biggest mistake retirement plan participants make?
Winge: Number one is not getting in the plan [laughs]. Two is chasing returns. We’re in a volatile market right now, and just veering off course by hearing the noise on the news. So really, it’s (staying) the course. Understand (these) things. ‘What do I need for sufficient retirement income? How do I feel about investing? What's my risk tolerance? Am I OK with maybe losing some, or am I very conservative? And what investment vehicle is appropriate?’
PLEXUS: You’re passionate about educating retirement plan participants. Why is this a vital cause?
Winge: Overall, it could be an epidemic, quite frankly, for Americans to not have sufficient savings. If you look at the average retirement savings, it’s gone up, so as an industry, we're moving the needle a little bit, but not enough. Average savings, I think I saw a recent stat that it was around $90,000 — still clearly not enough for people to retire on. And with the number of baby boomers retiring, it could be very scary.
I think we need a complete overhaul in our system, starting with not only what we're doing from an employee benefit standpoint, but starting, very young, (with) financial literacy in schools. So PFS has actually gone through the National Financial Educators Council to be certified to teach financial literacy courses on budgeting, on teaching money concepts to kids, and hopefully we can make a difference that way.
PLEXUS: Your mother had a mortgage business, and you worked with her early in your career. What’s the most important business lesson you learned from her?
Winge: I always admired her because she was a female in a man’s world, especially back in the 80s. There weren't very many women business owners. I just saw her working extremely hard and persevering and overcoming challenges. For her, it was never, ‘I can't do that.’ It was, ‘Let me figure out how.’ And I think she instilled that in me, thinking outside the box a little bit about how you can solve things.
PLEXUS: You’re the co-owner of a carpentry firm. Tell us about it.
Winge: My husband, Nate, started out with a union, building residential homes, then worked with a custom framer. Back in 2008, the union disbanded, the home prices were down, a lot of people left the carpentry world to find other work. It just wasn’t lucrative. He stuck with it, and decided that, ‘I can do this on my own. I can do a better job than my competition out here.’
So we opened up our business three years ago. It’s custom framing, so everything that we do is hand-cut. Nothing's delivered pre-built from a truck. It’s an interesting field in the sense that right now, as I mentioned, all the folks that had the skill set left the industry. So finding people that know how to actually cut stairs, build a roof — a lot of them just think, ‘When is the truck coming, and we’re just going to nail it up?’ And that’s not how we do things. Everything’s custom built.
PLEXUS: We’ll end this way. Let’s suppose you have an unlimited budget. Describe your dream home, built from the ground up.
Winge: Well, it would actually be built into a mountain out West. (A green) home. There's literally building techniques that you can have your heating bill total (at) $50 a year. It's air-tight. But I would want it to be built into the side of the mountain and pretty much windows and solar panels and more of a modern approach.