Craig J. Ferrantino, Certified Financial Fiduciary® & Certified Wealth Strategist® is the founder and president of Craig James Financial Services, LLC. Craig started his career on Wall Street at JP Morgan Private Banking Group in New York City performing asset management and assisting high net-worth clients. Since then, he has amassed more than 32 years of experience in the financial services industry.
Russ Alan Prince: Your practice serves all types of pre-retirees and retirees in Long Island, but I understand you’ve also carved out a unique niche, serving local law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs. Tell us about Craig James Financial and how it became the go-to resource for financial advice among first responders.
Craig Ferrantino: First let me state I have been an EMS volunteer for 20+ years and I enjoy volunteering! While working with other volunteers I started to notice that first responders tend to seek advice from one another. Once people knew that I also was a financial advisor, I started to field questions from other first responders about their pensions, qualified distributions, college saving plans, and the like. Now, I was able to give them some general information in the beginning but the responders wanted more specific actions for their own personal financial situation.
At that point, I had to do specific research into the various union employment contracts and I met with numerous local law enforcement leaders and others who know the ins and out of the retirement system. Together we put a set of protocols in place to help first responders prepare and protect their future.
Once a handful of first responders met with me, went through my process, witnessed for themselves our client-first approach, and met my amazing team, word spread quickly. If I did a good job helping one police officer, then it was likely I would be recommended to his partner or even the entire squad because they trusted me enough to make a recommendation. Trust is a value that we take very seriously at Craig James Financial. We thank our clients for their trust and we work hard to keep it.
Prince: What are the unique financial challenges first responders face and how do you help them?
Ferrantino: Their schedules are hectic. Between the demands of the job, overtime, juggling family, or on the off-chance getting to work out or do something they enjoy there is little time left to focus on planning for their future. By understanding the demands of first responders and the different directions they are pulled in daily, I have made the process of meeting and planning as easy and convenient as possible.
I am not a “9 to 5 office” and I did not close my office during COVID; I wanted to ensure I was available to first responders who work many hours. They still had to go to work every day, so I wanted to be available to allow them to meet someone in person, as well.
Aside from their schedules, many first responders are also part of some retirement system and are offered a pension. When becoming a first responder, you are aware that after X number of years, you will get a pension, but you are not told about the numerous different options available to you when deciding how to take your pension. Some questions they ask are: Do I take the pension on myself or add my spouse, and if so, at what percentage? How much will I keep in the future after taxation? Now add in kids going to college and applying for financial aid to the mix, or the question of when to take their Social Security benefit and you can see it gets very complex very quickly. We utilize a comprehensive approach with our own protocols that reviews all these moving parts and creates actions to help first responders pick the best options to plan for their future.
Prince: What will financial planning look like for first responders in the future? Will the demand for more advisors such as yourself rise?
Ferrantino: There will always be first responders and therefore there will be a need for future financial professionals who can address their needs. Sadly, some municipalities will be cutting budgets and decreasing funds for law enforcement and first responders, leading to fewer new first responders but I think that is a trend that will reverse in the near future as the demand for health care and public safety grows. Regardless of what the future holds, my team and I will be here, ready to continue serving those who serve us.
Securities and Advisory Services offered through United Planners Financial Services, Member FINRA/SIPC. United Planners and Craig James Financial Services are not affiliated.
RUSS ALAN PRINCE is the Executive Director of Private Wealth magazine (pw-mag.com) and Chief Content Officer for High-Net-Worth Genius (hnwgenius.com). He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs, and select professionals.