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Targeting teachers' pension pays off

Matt Pais

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Finding a niche increased Hosford's client base
Sometimes opportunity is like a landscaper driving by your house after a giant tree fell on it. Do you wave down this person to help or turn away from what could be the solution to the problem?

That situation literally happened to Michael Paul Hosford, a 12-year MDRT member from Bastrop, Texas, who wisely got the landscaper’s attention. After learning he did many large jobs in the area, Hosford asked the landscaper for a recommendation. The landscaper agreed to mention to his clients how Hosford could help them with tax-efficient wealth distribution. That is how he landed his first professional athlete (former Buffalo Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel) as a client.

Serving those who serve
Of course, this was not the first time Hosford discovered how to turn a negative into a positive. He opens each client meeting by showing his birth certificate, which has asterisks where his dad’s name is supposed to be (now in his late 30s, Hosford only met his father once) and indicates his mom was only 19. “That was a bad start,” Hosford said, adding that when he was 14, his mother left the state. “That was worse.”

Living with a friend’s family during high school, Hosford observed as his surrogate mom, a schoolteacher of 28 years, was not properly educated about meeting her pension requirement and wound up losing out on receiving a guaranteed monthly income for life.

While working at Walmart to put himself through college, Hosford got licensed to be an advisor. After meeting some local advisors who taught him about pension maximization, he was off and running. He targeted small-town Texas schools and explained the following:
  1. A life-only option pays you more, but if you die, your spouse and kids get nothing.
  2. A joint-life survivor option pays less and covers your spouse if you die first, but is taxable and pays nothing if your spouse dies first; regardless, your kids cannot be beneficiaries.
  3. Therefore, the best route is to choose the life-only option and use the extra money received to buy a tax-free life insurance policy to protect your family.
This created a fact-based presentation that required little variation from person to person.

"The pension situation must be clearly explained and solved or the job simply has not been done."

Keep it simple
These discussions are meant to be so simple that Hosford’s 8-year-old daughter could explain the terms. Hosford makes sure to use both pictures and language to connect with visual and audio learners simultaneously.

“I know the relationship will grow and develop after helping a client protect their family,” he said. “While having that long-term relationship is extremely important to me, the pension situation must be clearly explained and solved or the job simply has not been done.”

As someone who grew up with no benefits for himself, Hosford prides himself on delivering these family-supporting benefits to schoolteachers as well as police officers and firefighters. The advisor clearly has a knack for creating referrals; not only does he thrive on this among people serving their communities, he also has benefited from referrals among professional athletes. He accomplished this by demonstrating how annuities and whole life insurance can essentially serve as their pension.

“You know your agent tried their hardest to get you as much guaranteed money as possible in your contract; doesn’t it make sense you should grow it guaranteed?” Hosford tells them. “With teachers and athletes, the solution is the same. One is just bigger than the other.”

Expansion team
Yet even as he has connected with these high-net-worth clients — his well-known clients include Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, former Chicago White Sox pitcher John Danks and country singer Ashley Monroe, Danks’ wife — and maintained separate arms of his company for his two markets, the focus remains on the teachers.

In fact, after watching the movie “The Founder” about McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, Hosford was inspired to take his service national.

Synergy PhD (which stands for Hosford’s mantra, “Poor, hungry, determined”) will be a nationwide franchise of storefronts in which specialists work with educators and anyone else who needs help with their pension and, by extension, insurance. Hosford said he expects to have five locations up and running (in Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana) by the end of 2017, and 100 in place in the next 10 years.

For now, though, the married father of four tries to spend less time on the road and more time in his office. It’s located only five minutes from his house.

“I never had a parent to take me to school or pick me up from school,” he said, before turning his focus, as always, toward a brighter future. “I want my kids to take advantage of stuff I didn’t get.”

Michael Hosford

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