On April 19, 1976, at OSSTF/FEESO’s annual general meeting, the provincial assembly was brought to its feet with applause as a member, Ian Cameron, was granted a mortgage for his family’s new house.
Why was the seemingly simple act cause for such fanfare? Well, first this was the 1970s and at this time, banks saw teachers as financial risks because they were considered seasonal workers. Secondly, the mortgage received by Mr. Cameron and his family was the very first arranged through OSSTF/FEESO’s new financial arm, the Ontario Teachers Group. One year earlier, Treasurer Frank Mandeville had overseen the creation of four investment funds for members and their families. Within one year, members had invested over $1-million in these funds and almost half that amount was made available to other members in the form of mortgages. With no finders’ fees, no front-end or rear-end loading charges and no hidden fees, Mandeville’s plan was to offer secure investments and affordable mortgages to all members.
Fast forward almost 40 years and it’s a blizzardy morning in Stratford. I find myself trudging through the foot-high snow, my brow whipped with sleet. I wasn’t feeling very festive as I approached the huge cruising bus parked outside Stratford Northwestern Secondary School. I was invited to this, one of 40 stops across Ontario, to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Educators Financial Group.
Climbing on board I was greeted warmly and was seated by the electric fireplace to have a chat with Chuck Hamilton, President and CEO of what was once called the Ontario Teachers Group.
“We’ve been having great success with our district outreach, really getting out to the districts more frequently, presenting at workshops, getting to meet with executives,” says Hamilton. “But we recognize there are a lot of members we don’t get to talk to or see. So we thought this would be a good way to get to know more of the members of OSSTF/FEESO and meet them face to face. As a membership organization, it’s all about connecting with the members.”
And that’s exactly what this birthday road-trip tour has been about. Educators Financial has been meeting hundreds of OSSTF/FEESO members face to face at their places of work. Starting in Dryden at the beginning of October and ending in Toronto at the end of November, its anniversary bus set out to travel to 40 cities in 40 days and make stops at over 80 schools.
At this stop in Stratford, a steady stream of members hops on the bus. The first member who peeks into the bus is Diane Lichty, who doesn’t presently use services offered by Educators Financial Group but she had heard they were coming. Like many members of OSSTF/FEESO, she was unaware her union owned a financial company that not only provided advice free of charge but also offered mortgages and investment funds. “I heard about the bus tour through Facebook and was contacted by a financial advisor,” says Lichty. “We met about a week and a half ago.”
Such quick and personal service is the norm for Educators Financial. With 10 accredited financial planners and four mortgage specialists, Educators Financial eagerly reaches out to all education workers in Ontario and their families.
“We want our financial planners to establish a working relationship with their clients,” says Chuck Hamilton. “Generally they arrange an annual meeting either in a client’s home or at a local office. They ask clients what their pressing needs are and help them to articulate their financial goals and then help them plan to achieve these goals.”
He goes on to explain that while working with a financial planner. “Ideally we’d like to start talking with clients when they first begin working and defi- nitely when they are three to five years away from retirement, but there are also life-planning stages where we can help: purchasing your first home, getting married, getting divorced, planning for your kids’ education…. Those are times when we can offer advice.”
Hamilton believes that because Educators Financial Group is owned by OSSTF/FEESO, it is a natural fit for members. “We only deal with the education community so we understand the specific issues that face them. Sometimes we will know about the issues an educator will face in the future that the educators themselves are not presently aware of. The advice we give is educatorspecific and comes with the over 10,000 conversations we have every year with educators. We get them. We understand them. Our financial planners are salaried so our advice is objective. We’re not pushing products. We do have a line of investment mutual funds but we think that’s an advantage for investors because we have a low price and we have a robust oversight system. So rather than have an educator chase the best performing fund each year, we introduce them to funds we manage. We do the research work for our clients to find the best fit.”
In order to better understand its retired members, Educators Financial work survey uncovered some interesting data, including the fact that 60 per cent of retired educators work in some capacity in retirement but only 15 per cent do so for financial reasons. The survey also found that 55 per cent of retired members would advise others to put as much thought into what they plan to do in their retirement as they do planning their financial needs.
Educators Financial highly recommends Roadburg’s book, Retiring from Education: Your Key to Retirement Happiness. If you’re interested, see the review of the book included at the back of this issue.
Finally, when asked his opinion on their 40-day tour, Chuck Hamilton smiles and says, “It’s been fantastic! Our goal has been to raise awareness of our services. It’s pretty hard to miss this bus when it’s parked outside your school. For the people who came out, they get to have a meaningful conversation with one of my financial planners. So we get to build awareness.”
And what surprised him the most? “Oh, how busy everyone is,” he admitted. “I learned how busy educators are before school, at lunch and after school. Rhythm class at Glebe Collegiate before school. Ping-pong club at Longfields Davidson Heights in Ottawa at lunch. Track and field club after school in Brockville. It’s no wonder we have to meet our clients at their convenience. Their work days are very full.”