Deliso Financial Services Spans the Gap Between Present and FutureJean Deliso has always asked questions — lots of them.
The habit began in childhood during dinnertime conversations that revolved around her family’s business, and it continues today in her role as a comprehensive financial planner.
Queries are important to the president and founder of Deliso Financial and Insurance Services in Agawam because the answers she receives are key to creating individualized plans for clients.
But she says retirement planning is something many people fail to do, even though life expectancy is much greater than it was years ago and company pensions have all but disappeared.
This is especially true for business owners and women, who tend to put retirement planning on the back burner, citing lack of time, resources, or knowledge as excuses. And although Deliso has clients from all walks of life, she has chosen to focus on these two populations.
“I really enjoy empowering women and watching them gain a sense of accomplishment by taking steps to secure their financial future. This is especially true when I see women who have just come through a divorce or the loss of a spouse,” Deliso said, adding that she works with many women who are experiencing a life transition.
“The problem with women is that they become overwhelmed,” she went on. “They say they don’t understand finances and don’t have the time to meet with a financial planner. But they live seven to eight years longer than men and make less money, so it’s critical for them to take control of their financial lives.”
Deliso noted that 90% of people in nursing homes are female, and 36% of women 65 and older are widowed, compared with 12% of men 65 and older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Women also make up half of the U.S. population, represent nearly two-thirds of the American workforce, and are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40% of households with children.
Deliso said a woman turning 65 today can expect to live to age 85. The 2010 Census counted 53,364 people age 100 and older in the United States, and for every 100 women who are centenarians, only 21 men have reached that age.
As for business owners, Deliso said many of them have their own reasons for failing to create a financial plan.
“Most think their business is their retirement. But quite often, something happens to that plan. They may not be able to sell it, or a child may not want to take over. And even if children do, they may not be as successful as the parent was. There are also industry changes and the fact that businesses go through cycles, and when the owner wants to retire, it may be in a down cycle.”
Other rationalizations include a lack of money or discretionary income. “But everyone can plan, and everyone can save. It’s a matter of priorities,” she added.
For this issue, BusinessWest examines how Deliso, by asking all those questions, helps clients establish priorities and, ultimately, plan effectively for both today and tomorrow.
Dollars and Sense
Deliso’s business education began in childhood. “My grandfather and parents were entrepreneurs who founded their own businesses, and I was washing windows at my parents’ company, ToolKraft, when I was about 7,” she explained.
She graduated to working after school at age 12, and says dinnertime conversations almost always focused on matters pertaining to Chicopee-based ToolKraft. “I worked in receivables, payables, and inventory as a teen. Being a hard-working entrepreneur is in my DNA, and I understand the challenges of owning a business.”
Deliso had always thought about starting a business herself, but the decision to take control of her life was cemented during her sophomore year in college. “I was visiting my mother, who was our company’s comptroller, when the CPA walked in and told her she had to do something. I wanted to know why, and realized I didn’t ever want that to happen to me.”
So she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting, moved to Florida, and worked for a CPA firm. Although Deliso was slated to become a partner, after eight years she made the decision to leave.
“I wanted to run my own business, and started an electronic-component distribution company,” she said, explaining that this was a division of a firm owned by her brother. “I knew nothing about electronics, but understood the guts of business because my specialty at the CPA firm had been financial planning for business owners.”
Seven years later, the two companies merged, and Deliso returned to Massachusetts. “I was in my 30s and wanted to start a family,” she explained.
Her next stint was selling long-term-care insurance. But she soon found the work unsatisfying. “I didn’t like the fact that I was just selling a product. I thrive on relationships and wanted something more comprehensive,” she explained.
So, when she received a job offer from New York Life Insurance, she accepted it, and discovered she enjoyed building relationships that helped people.
Then, in 2000, Deliso founded her own company. Deliso Financial and Insurance Services has prospered since that time, and three months ago, junior associate Trina Moskal was hired to help with the growing clientele.
Deliso said that, when her associate began working, she was surprised by the amount of time spent Deliso spent with clients. But she reiterated that it’s necessary to get to know them and understand their beliefs, expectations, needs, relationships with family members, job, attitude toward spending, as well as the amount of money they will need to live comfortably in retirement.
Deliso is passionate about financial education, and says many working adults allocate a percentage of their paycheck to a retirement fund, but don’t understand how it is being invested.
“People throw money at retirement like it’s going into a big, black box,” she said. “But they never look into the box and don’t calculate if there will be enough to pay their bills in the future. It’s important because people are living longer and can spend as many years in retirement as they did in the workforce.
“That requires a lot of money,” she went on, “especially since 50% will live past the life expectancy set up by actuarial tables.”
However, money evokes emotions, and financial decisions are not always rational. For example, a person’s primary goal may be to pay off their home mortgage by the time they retire.
“But if they don’t have cash in savings and have very little in a retirement plan, their house won’t provide them with the money they need to buy groceries,” she told BusinessWest. “Many people become too focused on one goal.”
In other instances, money is spent for purely emotional reasons, which Deliso says can be fine. “A person who has gone through a divorce may need to take a vacation or get away even though they can’t really afford it,” she explained.
But people do need to think about their future and plan for the unexpected.
She said she will never forget a client who called her hours after his wife died suddenly at age 32. “They had children, had just bought a home, and needed both incomes to make the payments. He told me he didn’t even have enough money to afford the funeral.”
Thankfully, the couple had taken out a life-insurance policy that allowed the man to meet his family’s financial needs. “He had a check two weeks later,” she said. “Although many people are afraid of life insurance, if this couple hadn’t purchased a policy, the man would have had to sell the house.”
Early in her career, it became clear to Deliso that women were an underserved population in the financial world, and she was determined to do something about that.
“As I grew my business, it became apparent that women suffer from financial paralysis,” she said. “They’re afraid to make a mistake, and many don’t understand their 401(k) or retirement plans and their risks, as well as what a secure financial future looks like.”
And they need to understand these things, she went on, because statistics show clearly that people are living longer in general, and most women can expect to live longer than their husbands.
As a result, she goes above and beyond to educate women, and has conducted free seminars for this constituency for the past 10 years. Her next free talks, titled “Creating Financial Independence,” are slated for June 5 and June 19 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Delaney House in Holyoke; call (413) 785-1100 to register.
Overall, there are many facets connected to spending and saving, and Deliso says everyone has a relationship with money that stems from their own history — and often begins in childhood.
“It’s part of the reason I ask so many questions,” she said, adding that the answers help her guide clients so she can build a bridge between their present and future needs. “I need to understand the person, so I think carefully about what I can ask because everyone’s values and life experiences are different.”
She added that many people don’t understand the difference between a financial planner and an investment banker. “The planner looks at the overall picture and competing needs of a person, while the banker focuses more on the investments,” she told BusinessWest.
Her clientele includes many business owners who appreciate the fact that she can speak their language. “Because of my background, I understand cash flow, budgets, sales projections, payroll, receivables, and inventory,” she said, adding that she has helped develop succession plans as well as company-sponsored benefit plans. She also continues to devote time to education.
“As a comprehensive financial planner, I look at cash management, risk management, investment planning, retirement planning, and estate planning, and one of my strengths is that I can take complicated topics and make them easy to understand,” Deliso explained. “Financial planning is not complicated. It can involve complex topics, but if you go through a process, it can be handled easily.”
Her work has earned her many awards, which hang on the walls of her office and include an appointment to the Million Dollar Round Table, a benchmark of achievement for insurance agents. She is a registered representative with NYLIFE Securities and a registered investment adviser with Eagle Strategies LLC.
Deliso — who was named Woman of the Year in 2013 by the Professional Women’s Chamber — also believes in giving back to the community. “It’s a value I was brought up with. I have been blessed and want to continue the legacy.”
To wit, she is chairman of the board at the Community Music School and a member of the board of Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, the Baystate Health Foundation, AAA of Pioneer Valley, Pioneer Cold, the Hampden County Estate Planning Council, the National Assoc. of Life Underwriters, and the Assoc.for Advanced Underwriting. She is also a past chairman and board member of the YMCA of Greater Springfield, the Bay Path Advisory Council, the Executive Women’s Golf Assoc., and the Community Foundation.
Sense of Accomplishment
Deliso says she went into business so she could control her own destiny. “I was able to accomplish my goal, and today I want to help others control their finances,” she said. “People need a coach to help them understand what to do, how to reach their goals, and then hold them accountable. But just having a plan provides them with a real sense of accomplishment, and I enjoy making that happen.”
Which means Deliso will continue to ask questions so she can bridge the gap between the present and the future to ensure that clients achieve financial independence without having to sacrifice the things that matter most.