Gregory R. Sheehan, AIF®, Certified Financial Fiduciary®
After high school, I knew I wasn’t ready to be a serious college student, so I entered the full-time workforce. It was during this year that I learned if I wasn’t going to further my education, I needed a skill set that would be in demand and transferable throughout my life. That’s when I decided to join the United States Air Force. After serving in support of the First Gulf War, I came back to Western Massachusetts with a renewed purpose and direction. Having been trained and licensed as a heavy equipment operator, I now had a skill set to fall back on as I pursued my college education. I had begun working full-time on the third shift at a paper mill, simultaneously becoming a full-time college student during the day. Shortly before I was set to graduate, my mother was notified that she was going to be downsized after 25 years with the same company. Her plan before that was to work five more years. Unfortunately, we all know that things don’t always go as planned. This news created immediate stress in my parents' household.
Thankfully, my mother had saved in her 401(k) plan. There was also a profit-sharing plan that was quite robust until hard times hit the company. My father was an entrepreneur who had expanded his business into commercial real estate in the late '70s and early '80s. The housing collapse in the late-1980s nearly wiped him out. Shortly after my mother was downsized, she was notified that she needed to do something with her retirement plan. I could tell that these major life transitions were worrisome to them both. Never having really engaged an advisor, they didn’t know if they had properly planned for the future. They were referred by a friend to a trusted advisor, where they learned that although not a planned life event, past years of disciplined saving and modest lifestyle would allow them to maintain their independence in retirement. I could tell there was a sense of immediate relief associated with what had been the stress of the unknown. It was at that point that I decided I wanted to work with people in a similar fashion. I began looking for opportunities in the financial services industry.
I transitioned from college graduate to a position with a MassMutual General Agency. During this time in the agency, I learned the ins and outs of life and disability insurance. I also discovered the importance of life insurance in financial planning. Wanting to learn more about the industry in general, I transitioned to Cigna Bank & Trust. It was at CB&T that I began working with beneficiaries of corporate-owned life insurance policies. In most cases, widows, and widowers. Most times, these people had no direction for moving forward. This is where I learned to appreciate a solid financial planning process. I truly enjoyed the gratification of helping people during one of the most difficult times of their lives. Although I thrived during my time at Cigna Bank & Trust, the one-hour commute each way began to take its toll.
Wanting to help business owners and families develop solid financial plans, I began looking for opportunities closer to home. After a short search, I transitioned to assistant vice president of investments and insurance for Peoplesbank in Holyoke, Massachusetts. This allowed me to work close to home and become more involved in my community.
Having formed many meaningful relationships with bank staff and clients, I was still searching for that missing piece. My entrepreneurial mindset gave me the confidence to transition out on my own. I had formed SFG, Inc, and began working in partnership with Pension & Benefits Associates, Inc. (PBA). It was during this transition that I would meet the love of my life and future wife, Heidi.
Heidi was an operating room nurse and had spent many years at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as at Mass Eye & Ear before accepting the same position at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. Heidi and I would marry one year after meeting and begin our lives together. We began making plans for our future, and for the next seven years, we would both excel in our chosen professions. Life was good, and everything was progressing as planned.
We sold our condominium and bought our “forever home” in South Hadley. We rescued our dog, Maximus, from a shelter, and he became family right away. On June 2, 2017, Heidi was terminally diagnosed with cancer. On August 13, 2017, Heidi, my best friend, soulmate, and partner passed away in our home.
During the previous decade, my practice had expanded from wealth management to advising business owners on their fiduciary duties associated with their company 401(k) plans. In partnership with Pension & Benefits Associates, we were providing advice and education to more than 60 business and 3,000 participants.
To say Heidi’s passing would make for my most difficult transition to date would be an understatement. Tragedies often lead to an internal audit and review of priorities. I have spent the last year evaluating what is most important to me going forward. Where will I find the most purpose in my life? I’ve sought counsel from mentors, trusted colleagues, and close confidants. From this came an idea—and a decision. I would narrow my focus back to where it all began. From my parents' kitchen to Heidi’s passing, I have been reminded of the good work we do for people in transition. Whether it’s a wedding, a new home, a first child, a career change, or the passing of a loved one, we are always in a state of, or planning our next, transition.
Heidi decided on nursing after caring for her grandmother who passed from ALS. I decided on financial planning after my mother’s unexpected downsizing. Perhaps that’s why Heidi and I were drawn together, to help make people's lives better through our chosen professions.
Heidi and I had hoped for the best but planned for the worst. Proper planning is why my next transition is possible. It’s why I can share my story with you, and countless others, now and in the years to come. Planning for life’s ups and downs is why The Wealth Transition Collective was created. We hope you will think of us when you are planning for your next transition.
Gregory R. Sheehan, AIF®
"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well"
"You come much closer to meeting your goals when you set the goals in the first place"
"Pay yourself first, and save more than your highest bill per month."
Growing up in a conservative, middle-class family, I heard many of these quotes from my parents during conversations at Sunday dinner. I didn't realize (at the time) that these were great concepts to live by. I wish I could say I realized right away what some of these quotes actually meant, but it wasn't until I had a family of my own that I understood. One day, as I repositioned money in my savings account to cover my automatic investment plans, it suddenly occurred to me that I was paying myself first-and saving more than I paid out in my highest bills! So guess what I find myself telling my kids? That's right, I may have turned into my parents.
Not only have I instilled a goal-setting tradition on my family of four, but I have also brought this to our firm. Your goals, and planning to achieve them, form the basis for our work with our clients. Now, numbers have always come easily to me, and that is probably why I got my college degree in mathematics. But I understand that many people find numbers confusing, or intimidating. One of the things that I love about my work is explaining financial concepts simply, in a consultative way, so that the numbers have meaning to our clients… (Did I mention that I also taught math to high school students?)
Our process empowers our clients to feel comfortable with both the numbers and the decisions they face. The meeting is relaxed and the financial planning concepts are discussed before implementing strategies. It is also highly likely that the topic of food will come up. Being a "foodie", I do enjoy talking about food as much as consuming it. Almost! I've aptly augmented a beloved childhood quote, "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well," into "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing it with food." So don't be surprised if our meetings include tuna steak or scallops.
Food is often followed up with family, or is it the other way around? I enjoy spending time with my wife of 25 years, Maria, and our children, Kimberly and Joey. We are very familiar with the college planning process, as Kim has recently graduated from college and Joey is starting his junior year. It seemed a lot to save at the time, but I am glad I planned for college when the kids were young. Those monthly 529 plan deposits didn't cover all of their schoolings but eased the burden significantly. Ask me any questions about the FAFSA forms and I could probably answer from first-hand experience.
From banking to financial planning, I have been in the financial service business for over 30 years. In addition to my mathematics degree from Westfield State University, I am an Investment Advisor Representative with Commonwealth Financial Network®, an independent broker/dealer. Along with holding FINRA Series 7 and 65 securities registrations, I am also licensed in life and long-term care. I gained this additional expertise because planning concerns surrounding health and longevity of life are paramount to a sound financial plan and legacy. Just look around at how long people are living nowadays, and you'll understand why we seek to provide additional peace of mind and protection when implementing your plan.
While I once thought I would be teaching math as a profession, I have far more enjoyment and satisfaction helping people understand the numbers behind their financial independence. I invite you to call us and share your story, and perhaps see how easily we can make your numbers work for you.
Money was tight when Jean Kelley was growing up, and she learned early on the importance of financial education and planning. When she was young, Jean's family found ways to have fun that didn't involve money, and Jean has fond memories of weekly picnics and camping trips with her parents and four siblings. But, as she grew older, Jean began to understand her family's financial limitations and realized that if she wanted anything, she would need to earn the money herself. As a result, Jean started working young, first babysitting, then delivering newspapers, then working at a local McDonald's while in high school.
Jean's parents married young and had five children to care for. Her father worked hard to provide for the family, and Jean (as the oldest) had a lot of responsibility as the big sister. Jean remembers that as each child graduated high school, they were required to pay a nominal amount for rent, to teach the kids a lesson in financial responsibility. Later, when each child married, their parents returned the saved money to them as a gift. Jean's father was able to retire at age 55, and Jean learned (somewhat to her surprise) that her father had understood the importance of regular savings, building a nest egg a little bit at a time.
Married for almost 40 years to Robert, the Kelleys live in Westfield. Bob is the contract coordinator for the Big E in West Springfield, his employer for more than 45 years. Their daughter, Katelyn, is a licensed realtor in Boulder, Colorado, a place Jean enjoys visiting. Like her mother, Kate learned financial responsibility early on; she worked while going to school, was disciplined, paid her bills on time, and built her savings. The result was that at the age of 25, Kate purchased her own condo, and as a self-employed individual, Kate takes advantage of available tax opportunities.
When not at work, Jean enjoys spending time at her home near the shore in Rhode Island, as well as their new home in Southwest Florida. She likes to play golf, even if she's not very good at it. Traveling with friends ranks high on her list of activities. Jean and Bob frequently dine out and enjoy trying new places; if you have any suggestions, she'd love to hear them. Jean has been an active volunteer at the Springfield Rescue Mission, having worked in their clothing shelter, cooking and serving in the kitchen, packaging meals for delivery to homebound and serving meals to the homeless around the holidays. She has worked for the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a Wish Maker, helping children's wishes come true. In addition, Jean has participated in Commonwealth's Cares Programs.
In 2001, Jean earned her CFM (Certified Financial Manager) certification from Merrill Lynch. She has been recognized for outstanding services to investors in Hampshire County and for her financial expertise and dedication to principles of sound investing. She holds all required securities licenses as an Investment Advisor Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®. In addition, she holds her life and health insurance licenses. Jean has also been recognized as a Winner's Circle advisor in 2013 and 2014— a distinction based on annual production attained by just 26 percent of advisors affiliated with Commonwealth.
Caring about people makes servicing her clients easy. Jean wants her clients to be comfortable working with her and with the decisions they need to make. Jean stresses to her clients, "Wealth isn't defined by portfolio performance alone; wealth is defined by what's important to you." Knowing what's important to her clients is what helps Jean craft individual solutions, and it's probably why so many clients refer her to their family and friends.
Caitlin, a lifelong resident of the Pioneer Valley comes to The Wealth Transition Collective with more than 10 years of banking and financial services experience. Caitlin’s positive attitude, attention to detail and sincere desire to create a unique client service experience make her a great fit for the firm and our clients. Caitlin’s primary responsibilities as a relationship manager include implementing the firms marketing plan and managing the day-to-day service needs of our clients.
When she isn’t delivering concierge service to our clients, Caitlin is the proud mother to Quinn and loving wife to her husband, Chase. When time allows, Caitlin enjoys hiking area trails, dining in her favorite local eateries and sipping some of the finest coffee the valley has to offer. Please reach out to Caitlin for any of your service needs…or a great coffee recommendation.