Q&A with Matt Sweezea
Regional vice president
Sweezea Financial Group / Primerica
Team size: 7
Brief background of your business:
Sweezea Financial Group is an independent investment and insurance agency backed by Primerica.
Primerica has been committed to helping families save and invest for their futures since 1977.
Through PFS Investments Inc., Primerica’s broker-dealer, we show people how they can achieve a better financial future by helping them learn our “How Money Works” concepts. With approximately 2.5 million client accounts, we offer the best solutions to help families achieve their financial goals.
With Primerica, no client is too big or too small. I began my career in 2001 working out of Seattle and the Yakima Valley, eventually transitioning to the Tri-Cities full time in 2007.
How did you land your current role?
Primerica provides an entrepreneurial platform for qualified and motivated individuals to open independent offices after achievement of internal promotion guidelines.
In February 2020, I was promoted to regional vice president and expanded into our current regional office in Richland in 2021.
What should Tri-Citians know about your industry?
Our industry is one of the smallest professional service industries in the U.S.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were just over 218,000 personal financial advisors across the country in 2020. With the average age of an advisor pushing 59 years of age, 38% expect to retire in the next 10 years.
This compares to 660,000 CPAs and over 1 million licensed real estate agents.
In the state of Washington, there are less than three advisors available for every 10,000 adults age 25 and older. About 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day across the U.S.
This is a significant challenge as most baby boomers are facing the reality of two to three decades of retirement and without a solid financial strategy they risk running out of money before running out of time. Now more than ever it’s a must that families have a written strategy to accumulate funds and a separate strategy at retirement to properly distribute funds.
A trusted personal financial advisor is key to maintaining confidence throughout your life and your family’s life generationally. Every family has differing values, goals and objectives around their finances. Having the ability to discuss, plan and execute on asset protection, income or cash flow generation, tax mitigation and wealth transfer are where the value of a trusted advisor is truly found.
We’re living in unique times.
What can people do to protect their financial lives when the economy is in such turmoil?
The first thing people can do to protect their financial lives is take an active role in establishing core financial goals for the short term and long term.
We have always had turmoil as a nation and more so a global economy. Data has shown that those who work with a trusted professional have done significantly better over their lifetimes than those doing it alone.
Vanguard provided a recent study of investors on its platform and found those who don’t work with an advisor tend to perform almost 3% lower on an average annual basis due to chasing alpha or best performance over working a complete strategy with a trusted professional.
What is your first question when you’re meeting a new client?
For most of our initial conversations, they start off with “What is the biggest financial goal or challenge you are looking to take care of right now?”
Most initial meetings start due to some sort of urgency created in the client’s life. Career change, major family event, financial windfall or the recommendation from a tax professional to seek out a conversation with a financial advisor.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
I think you’ll find integrity at the top of most lists. I will add one more – encouragement or the ability to push up people.
Whether you are leading an organization, a family or a sports team, your ability to look beyond personal glorification or recognition and pass that on to those around you will come back tenfold.
The great leaders I’ve had the opportunity to surround myself with have always looked at ways to recognize those who’ve made great efforts and sacrifices for the good of the team and those they serve.
What is the biggest challenge facing business owners/managers today?
I think one of the biggest challenges facing business owners/leaders today is adaptability.
We have all been thrown into this new normal and not all business models were set up to handle it. From supply chain issues to staffing and now inflation, those who can adapt and rally their teams while providing high levels of communication and care to their client base will continue to succeed. Unfortunately, those who don’t or can’t adapt will have a hard time staying in business or their current roles.
If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your industry/field?
This is a tough question to answer.
Our industry, like most professional industries, sees consistent regulatory changes that don’t always bring the level of consumer protections or enhancements they intend.
The recent WA Cares Act passage is a recent example.
As is, it takes dollars from hard-working families that may never directly see any benefit down the road. The program began taxing Washington workers in January while the state Legislature delayed the actual rollout.
Many workers across the state sought out private or group policies to opt out of the program and now find themselves spending dollars they otherwise would have put toward retirement savings, paying down debt or other financial goals.
Who are your role models or mentors?
John Wooden, John Maxwell, Nick Murray, Hector Lamarque.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Expect nothing but the best from your team.
Be the example of hard work, enthusiasm and delivering on the vision and mission. Whether you were chosen to step up within a company or have ventured out to build your own company, the quality of the leader is the quality of the team.
Every day focus on being the best you you can be.
How do you keep your team members motivated?
Having a fun and rewarding work environment where you can see the tangible difference you make in those you serve is highly motivating.
We highlight wins and milestones internally and externally on an ongoing basis. Beyond that, understanding your team members’ personal, professional and financial goals and keeping them aligned with and moving toward those help drive daily accountability and motivation.
How do you measure success in your workplace?
In our business we measure success first and foremost by the number of families we serve, second by the growth and success of our team, and third by the direct impact we make in the communities we live in.
How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today?
I could write a page on this, but ultimately it fell into my lap, and I ran with it. I had the opportunity to build a strong sense of serving others in high school as an active member and officer in my local FFA program.
What do you consider your leadership style to be?
I consider myself a servant leader. I really focus on how I can help those around me be the best version of themselves. I seek to ask questions, encourage collaboration, and focus on how I can help my team and ultimately the clients I coach maximize their potential.
How do you balance work and family life?
I would not be where I am today without the support of my wife, who I consider the hardest working career mom I know.
I don’t know that there is truly such a thing as work-family balance for most working households today. My wife and I are far from perfect in this area, but we do all we can to make sure we block quality family time in our schedules.
With three kids ranging from toddler to pre-teen, we are as busy as most. From sports to nonprofit board service, you will fit what you prioritize in life.
What do you like to do when you are not at work?
Family time – love time and experiences with my family.
What’s your best time management strategy?
Time-blocking – if it isn’t on the calendar it is not a priority.
Best tip to relieve stress?
Everyone needs a healthy outlet, especially in today’s high pace, high-tech, high-expectation world. Going back to my time-blocking time management strategy – block out time for your health, both your body and your mind, and make it a regular part of your daily, weekly and monthly schedule.
Most-used app? Favorite books?
Most used app is easily Audible. I am a recovering personal/professional development junkie. I have a huge library both at home and on my Audible app.
A few of my favorite books: “Think and Grow Rich,” “They Call Me Coach,” “Pushing up People,” “Success is Not an Accident.”
Do you have a personal mantra, phrase or quote you like to use?
Both come from John Wooden:
“Don’t try to be better than someone else. Always try to be the best you can be.”
“Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable.”