One of Terrance Meyer’s college majors pointed to what he would end up doing for a living, while the other offers some insight into how he does it.
After two years at College of the Canyons, Meyer, who has gone by “T” since he was a kid, graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in business and biblical studies.
“My heart and my passion are in financial planning, so I went to UCLA for post-graduate study that led to a professional designation in financial planning,” he said.
For the last decade, Meyer has been a financial planner with Northwestern Mutual, and since May, he’s headed up the firm’s Santa Clarita office, after working in downtown Los Angeles.
“I treat financial planning vocationally, he said. “When I go to my doctor, auto mechanic or pastor, I know just enough about their area of specialty to be dangerous. The same is true when people come to talk to a financial planner. People don’t know what they don’t know.”
Meyer was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, in Granada Hills, and graduated from Bishop Alemeny High School. He and his family lived in Burbank for 15 years, “but there weren’t a lot of kids our daughter’s age in the neighborhood.” He moved with his wife and daughter to Valencia in 2014.
“We’ve been coming up here to attend Real Life Church for a while, so a lot of her play pals are here. My parents moved here in 1994, and my target clients are Santa Clarita families. Setting up meetings at our office in downtown LA didn’t have a lot of appeal to clients in Valencia. So the move made sense on a lot of levels.”
A majority of Meyer’s roughly 500 clients are families, “and about half are in the entertainment business, in part because my previous job was in that field, so I already had a network of connections.” His clients are across the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys.
Small business owners make up another set of his clients. “With them, I help with key-person planning, strategies for retaining key employees, and providing the right incentives so they’ll stay. We also talk about what they want as a legacy, and what kind of community involvement they’re looking for.”
For Meyer, that involvement includes being on the operations team at his church and helping to organize a softball league.
His office sponsors grandparents and family day at Trinity Classical Academy, which he described as “a morning of breakfast and fellowship which showcases the school’s music and programs.”
Helping people save
Asked to essence of what he does for his clients, Meyer had a ready reply: “I help people save money. Typically, that’s money for retirement, for financial independence, for their children’s education, and to meet real estate goals.”
The other key element to his work, he said, “is helping my clients protect what they’ve got. If someone becomes ill or dies, our goal is to protect that person’s savings.”
At the end of meeting with a client, after spending 45 minutes or an hour with them, I check in with them, and it can be emotional, because they’re sharing their hopes and dreams.
A financial planning analysis has four parts, he said: gaining an awareness of where you are today, quantifying where you want to get to, articulating a strategy to get there, and remaining accountable for following the plan.
The biggest difference he’s seen among different generations of clients involves attitudes toward saving. “Our industry has done a great job of beating people over the head with the importance to save, save, save. Now I’ve got clients who are 55 or 60 who are looking to draw that money down. They need help with the distribution of their savings to help them live out the last 25 or however many years they have remaining.”
Planning and connecting
Meyer has been with Northwestern Mutual for ten years, and says among the firm’s distinguishing qualities are planning and connecting with clients.
The company is best known as a mutual life insurer, but dropped life insurance from its name in 2000 to reflect its expansion into a broader financial services provider.
A year later it launched the unit that Meyer works at, Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co. It is organized as a limited-purpose federal savings bank that is not a broker and does not sell insurance.
Meyer spends time every few months teaching the company’s new financial advisers. “It’s not just about fact finding. We have to be feeling finders, make sure we connect to our clients’ sense of self.”