How a police union nabbed fleeing funds

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NASHVILLE — Chris Monahan, a captain for the New York Police Department and senior official of the New York Police Department’s Lieutenants Benevolent Association, had a problem. The organization’s annuity was shrinking, in large part because retiring police lieutenants were being persuaded by retirement fund managers to move their lump-sum retirement funds from the union’s tax-exempt annuity account into other types of financial vehicles.

“We found that our members retired early and had money in a 457 account, a defined benefit plan, and then the sharks came in and said, ‘we want your money,’ said Monahan, referring to advisers who advised the officers to invest in other investment plans. “And they cost them a lot of money. We found that they lost money,” said Monahan, speaking this week at the NAPA 401(k) Summit in Nashville.

Although he works in a union that engages in collective bargaining, Monahan believes he has a responsibility to the 5,000 active-duty and retired union members who served as NYPD lieutenants and captains.

“The retirement they thought they were going to have, they didn't have, and they had to go back to work. We felt there was a need for them and for us as a union. [We thought] ‘we need to make sure you are financially stable,’ he said.

So the association turned to Barbara Delaney, principal of retirement adviser StoneStreet Renaissance, who with her team was able to restore $125 million back into the fund.

The key, Monahan said, was one-on-one education sessions with union members. For one financial wellness seminar, the union held a raffle to attract participants: $2,000 to pay for one month’s rent or mortgage.

The group also held seminars for parents of students about to enter college. “It wasn’t about paying for college but about applying for grants, FISA forms, and scholarships,” Monahan said. “They asked a rep from New York State to come down and spend four hours at the police academy, and they had 500 members in attendance to hear about getting a kid through college.”

According to Delaney, who also spoke at the conference, the union preferred one-on-one sessions with financial advisers instead of interacting solely with apps and web portals.

“We saw the wellness wave coming, and this is why we moved to a one-on-one basis. We needed to address employee needs,” she said, adding that financial advisers need to staff specifically for financial wellness.

Monahan noted that the trust factor drives the relationship between the financial wellness adviser and the employee.

“What we find in one-on-one [sessions] is that everyone is different. Maybe your wife works, maybe they don't work,” he said. “How many assets do you have? Any outside stocks? Can we put that all into a computer system? Maybe one day we’ll be there. But right now, we find that sitting down, one-on-one, works the best.”

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Retirement planning Retirement benefits Retirement income Retirement education Financial planning Financial literacy