Planning for the Future

URA Group AZ wants to help make retirement comfortable

BY Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

BY Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

When John Kieber signed up for his first 401(k), he lacked the financial advice he needed to make smart investing decisions.

“I didn’t even know what I was invested in. There was no advisory expertise offered; no discussion regarding proactive planning was provided, and it was a big disappointment for me,” Kieber says.

Recently awarded “Best Financial Planning Services” by Scottsdale Progress, Kieber and fellow Midwesterner, Steve Mallory, founded Scottsdale-based URA Group AZ on great customer service and a strong work ethic. As Series 65 fiduciaries, they work diligently to assist clients in creating progressive and sound financial plans. 

“It’s important when you’re in your twenties, but it’s imperative when you’re preparing for your retirement years,” Mallory says.

“It’s really impossible to recommend anything to someone without first taking the time to understand a person’s goals and objectives. The first meeting is all about getting to know the client and asking a lot of questions. This really gives John and me an opportunity to get to know the client and understand what’s really important to them. It also helps considerably when we put the plan together for the client. This isn’t an industry where one size fits all.”

The planning process begins with deliberate discussion to determine needs assessment and retirement objectives.  Then, using the data gathered, a personalized client binder—“The Retirement Blueprint”—is prepared. Powered by C.O.R.E., (Comprehensive Objective Retirement Engineering), “The Retirement Blueprint” is organized into 10 categories—approach/whitepaper; goals/budget; assets; Social Security; Medicare; tax planning; portfolio stress test; C.O.R.E. P3 Portfolio; C.O.R.E. Fixed Principal and C.O.R.E. Blueprint.

“We go through this book and build a plan. The service is not just designed for retirement planning. Although the majority who work through the planning stage are retirement age or getting close to it, we have clients as young as age 21 also,” Mallory says.

A large percentage of Americans are not prepared for retirement.

When people learn what Kieber does for a living, he has a question for them.

“What are you invested in?” he asks.  Normally, the response is they have a self-funding retirement plan. But, most have no idea what funds they are actually invested in.

“For someone close to retirement, that is scary because they can’t afford a big downturn in the market like we saw in 2007-2008. They don’t have the time to make it back. We make sure they are knowledgeable.” 

To introduce potential clients to their company, or to provide basic financial terminology, Mallory and Kieber host regular educational workshops at the Phoenix Better Business Bureau office. 

“It really opens people’s eyes to ‘Wow! OK, I got it. There’s a strategy to Social Security.’ And, ‘Wow! I have opportunities with taxes. Maybe I can be proactive instead of reactive.’”

Workshop attendees receive a complimentary consultation during which Kieber or Mallory create “The Retirement Blueprint.”

“The ‘Blueprint’ usually takes two to three meetings,” Mallory says. “We do this because everyone’s goals and objectives are different. We need to understand what’s important to these individuals.”

Mallory and Kieber work with Nick Atkeson and Andrew Houghton from San Francisco’s Delta Investment Management for the investment portion of their business. They authored the book “Win by Not Losing.” Since its 2014 publish date, it has been in the top 1% of all books sold on Amazon.

They are also published weekly in Barron’s with their Delta Market Sentiment Indicator. This is a vehicle they’ve created to analyze the market and whether it’s appropriate or not to be invested.

“Our ultimate goal by working with Nick and Andrew is to allow our clients the opportunity to capture gains during bull markets while minimizing drawdowns in bear markets,” Mallory says.

Major market losses in the retirement years can be devastating. Those who have the same “buy and hold” investment philosophy as they did during their professional earning years might find themselves scrambling if there’s another 2007-2008 market occurrence during their retirement years.

“Most people we encounter are very intelligent, successful individuals,” Mallory says. “They just don’t understand what financial opportunities are available to them. Our job is to educate them, so they have the information to make the best decisions possible for their specific situation. That is our promise.”

The firm is about providing the education and planning tools for people to focus on and achieve personal life goals by protecting their financial health and living their best life—for all stages of life.