Members, money, and a mission

The story of OSSTF/FEESO-owned Educators Financial Group

“How can we know who we are and where we are going if we don’t know anything about where we have come from and what we have been through, the courage shown and the costs paid, to get where we are today?”
– David McCullough, author

In August of 1974, a motion was passed at the OSSTF/FEESO annual assembly with one very specific mission—to look out for the financial interests of members.

It is a mission that started out as a simple retirement savings plan, specifically designed for members and their immediate families. Little did anyone know that this mission would eventually grow into a professionally-run organization with the capacity to provide a full scope of financial products and planning services to over 18,000 Ontario educational workers across all affiliates.

But then again, Frank Mandeville—the original Chairman of the plan who had the vision and the drive to make it all happen—had an inkling that they “were on to something good for the Federation.”

He was right.

By January of 1975 (when the plan was officially launched), OSSTF/FEESO was receiving a minimum of 100 calls a day from members interested in taking part in what was originally known as the Ontario Teachers Group Retirement Savings Plan.

Two of these members were Daryl and Gord Cook, a married couple who were both teaching for the Peel District School Board in 1975.

Still a client to this day, Daryl remembers first hearing about the plan through OSSTF/FEESO Update newsletter. “Neither Gord nor I understood very much about investments, so we felt investing with a company established by OSSTF/FEESO would be a safe option.”

It seemed their colleagues within the education community were in agreement.

At the end of 1975, the Ontario Teachers Retirement Savings Plan had already grown to over $1.5 million in assets.

With membership in the plan steadily increasing across all affiliates, it was decided to use money from the RRSP portion of the plan to fund a limited number of mortgages for first-time home buyers.

This became known as the Ontario Teachers Group Home Ownership Plan.

In addition to the investment accounts they opened, Daryl and Gord also heard about the ability to put money into the Ontario Teachers Group Home Ownership Plan, tax-free.

“Gord and I both contributed to the home ownership fund in those early days,” Daryl recalls. “Thanks to that fund, we ended up saving approximately $10,000 in the first few years.”

Because of Daryl and Gord (and other members) contributing to that plan, in 1976, Ian Cameron, a Scarborough-based teacher at the time, became the very first person to benefit from a mortgage under the Ontario Teachers Group Home Ownership Plan.

It’s one of the earliest examples of how this member-based financial services program, created by OSSTF/FEESO, differed from typical financial institutions.

The differentiation was particularly important to educational workers of the 1970s, as this was a time when financial institutions had the perception that all education members were occasional workers (due to their September to June schedules). Therefore, they were considered too ‘high-risk’ to be given mortgages. So when OSSTF/FEESO chose to include mortgages as part of its mission to look out for the financial interests of members—this was a monumental turning point. That’s because for many educational workers, the Ontario Teachers Group Home Ownership Plan made their dreams of owning a home, a reality.

As the decade of disco drew to a close, the Ontario Teachers Group Retirement Savings Plan and Home Ownership Plan had collectively grown to just under $24 million in assets.

With assets continuing to grow exponentially, and more and more members wanting to take advantage of this educator-specific benefit, the increased demands of the plan started becoming too great for the eight-person committee originally tasked with managing it.

To accommodate these quickly evolving demands, an advisory committee was created to render advice on all aspects of funds managed under the plan.

By the time 1984 rolled around, the Ontario Teachers Group Retirement Savings Plan was reorganized and renamed the Ontario Teachers Group Investment Fund.

In just 10 short years, the company had grown from a simple motion that was passed during an annual assembly, to a fully-fledged financial services organization—one that was geared exclusively to the Ontario education community. With a newly relocated office in the basement of OSSTF/FEESO headquarters on Mobile Drive in Toronto, a handful of specialized staff were employed to better handle the growing day-to-day needs and demands of the organization.

The 1980s then gave way to the 1990s and the name had changed yet again—to Ontario Teachers Group.

With assets up significantly from the start of the previous decade ($140 million by the end of 1990), staff presentations with the schools and school boards were making noticeable strides at building awareness of the unique services being offered.

One of these services included group payroll plans through the school boards.

It was through the group payroll plan that Julie and Marc Goulet, a teacher couple from northern Ontario, first heard of OSSTF/FEESO’s member-centric financial services.

“When I first started teaching in the 1990s, my school board offered a $3,500 RRSP upon the fifth anniversary of working with them,” explains Julie. “It was a really nice incentive to stay with that particular school board—who then highly recommended investing the RRSP with Ontario Teachers Group.”

Julie naturally shared the information regarding the RRSP incentive with her husband, Marc.

The more they learned about Ontario Teachers Group, the more they realized there was a genuine understanding for the financial needs of education members.

So Julie and Marc continued to invest in RRSPs through the organization.

With the dawning of a new millennium and a few more name and office changes, OSSTF/FEESO selected ‘Educators Financial Group’ as being a more all-encompassing title to represent educational workers.

Throughout all of the changes and evolutions over the years, clients such as the Cooks and the Goulets have stayed with the organization because its commitment to members has always remained strong.

For now-retired educator Daryl Cook, that commitment provided a measure of comfort to help her through a difficult time.

“The investment advice I received from Educators Financial Group over the years ended up helping me through a period when Gord was facing many health challenges. Thanks to early planning, I was able to afford the incremental costs of care and treatment.”

For Julie and Marc Goulet, it’s the kind of commitment that realized their dream of taking advantage of a deferred salary plan to travel the world.

“We definitely needed guidance on how to financially plan for a trip of this magnitude. Plus we also had very specific questions about income tax and RRSPs. Our Educators advisor answered our numerous questions, which helped us feel so much better prepared,” says Julie.

Now that they’re both retired, neither time nor money has slowed them down from living their dream. Marc goes on to illuminate how Educators Financial Group assisted them in that area. “Over the years, we participated in several Educators retirement workshops. Our goal was to better understand how to plan, save, and invest to put us in the best financial position possible upon retirement, especially since we love to travel. Through these workshops and our Educators advisor, we’ve been able to invest wisely so that we can continue to travel and explore the world in retirement.”

For relatively new clients Peter and Madison MacLeod, it’s a goal-achieving commitment that helped them become homeowners for the first time.

“The decision to purchase a home was a big deal for Madison and I. Yet thanks to Educators, there were never any moments of panic. They’ve always been very direct and clear about everything and we quickly learned that were getting so much more than just a great mortgage rate.” Peter goes on to explain, “I had always wanted to own a piece of property and it was such a tremendous feeling to achieve that goal.”

Gord, Julie, Marc, Peter, Madison. These are just a handful of names in a history of providing financial solutions to education members and their families—a history that, to date, spans 44 years.

There are still so many more members to help…and stories left to tell.

Under the name Educators Financial Group and a promise to provide peace of mind through financial solutions that are tailored to the unique needs of education members, OSSTF/FEESO’s original mission to look out for the financial interests of its members remains just as strong today, as it was back then.

As we celebrate OSSTF/FEESO’s 100-year milestone, Educators Financial Group salutes all members past and present—as well as the ones who are yet to come.

Our mission continues. Get in touch, plan your goals, share your stories:
educatorsfinancialgroup.ca/OSSTF100

Facebook: Educators Financial Group
Twitter: @EducatorsFG

 

Infographic: Provided by Educators Financial Group

Infographic: Provided by Educators Financial Group

We would like to acknowledge and thank the following for contributing to the creation of this story:

Daryl (and in memory of Gord) Cook
Julie and Marc Goulet
Peter MacLeod
Educators Financial Group Staff (past and present)
Educators Board of Directors (past and present)
OSSTF/FEESO Update archives

About Educators Financial Group
Educators Financial Group is a financial specialist dedicated to the education community and offering financial planning, investing and lending products.

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