October 30, 2017
Faces of Business

Peterkin's life plan shifts to helping people save money

HBJ Photos | Steve Laschever
HBJ Photos | Steve Laschever
Financial planner Nicole Peterkin recently spoke at an entrepreneurs-empowerment summit in Hartford, teaching audience members how to use their money to build a desired lifestyle.
Among the topics Nicole Peterkin discusses with clients is whether or not its financially smart to buy a home or rent.
Stan Simpson

At 21, Nicole Peterkin's life plan was set. The Montreal, Canada native was a pre-med student at Boson University in 2008 with aspirations of being a surgeon. She would follow in a long line of doctors on her father's side.

Those plans changed suddenly when her dad, Heron Peterkin, died unexpectedly at age 47 and there was no cause of death. He was not sick, worked out regularly and was not on medication. A chemical engineer, Heron Peterkin, the father of four children, earned a high six-figure income. But his savings were paltry.

"It made me re-evaluate everything," said Nicole Peterkin. "I felt that the tomorrow my dad was working so hard for never came. And I just didn't want to do that same thing. When my mom and I were looking at the financial situation, we realized that picture was not what we thought it was; that his professional success had nothing to do with his financial savvy.''

In March 2011, she launched Peterkin Financial, based in Boston. Instead of saving lives in the emergency room, her new goal was to develop personal financial plans to improve the lives of families.

"I wanted something that would give me more of a lifestyle and I thought being an entrepreneur would do that,'' said Peterkin, 29, a certified financial planner. "I wanted to own something and control my own schedule.''

She was the keynote speaker at a recent entrepreneurs-empowerment summit in Harford. Peterkin is also author of the book "If You Love Your Family, Save Like it." Over the years, Peterkin said she has helped more than 500 clients establish financial plans that fit their lifestyles.

"It's about using your money to get the lifestyle you want,'' she said. "And how you use that money is usually by leverage. It isn't as simple as do I have enough money in my pay check to afford this? There are creative strategies. Most people look at their money as the obstacle to get whatever they want."

For example, Peterkin outlines how there are obvious financial benefits to refinancing a residential or rental property at the right time to lower monthly payments and pull out cash that can be used for other investments or personal ventures.

People who buy a new car every three or four years are likely better off leasing, than owning, she said, noting a car's decline in value as it ages. The same philosophy applies to whether you should own or rent a residential property. If the occupant only plans to stay a few years, Peterkin advises that renting may be a better option, particularly if the property does not appreciate in value as expected and the market-value rent can't cover the monthly mortgage. Reassessing and shopping insurance coverages can be another way to generate savings.

Opening home equity loans — but not necessarily using them — is another way, Peterkin said, to leverage money.

"The mentality is 'I need to make more to have more,' '' Peterkin said, offering this rebuttal: "No, if you make more you can have more, but you can use what you have more efficiently and still get more than what you have."

She charges $300 an hour for her services; or a flat-fee ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, depending on the scope of the project. When developing a financial plan for a client, an array of financial documents is requested, including tax returns, bank accounts, life insurance, outstanding loans, bills — and assets.

Once a financial plan is established, there are check-in meetings with clients every four months. They go over the client's identified values, goals, budget and spending habits.

When reviewing a client's financial portfolio "there is no emotional attachment for me,'' Peterkin said.

"I get to figure out what a client wants to do and really get to know them, their families, and what their goals and dreams are. I take something that seems intimidating, like money, look at it objectively — and line it up. The outcome is (the clients) get what they want in life."

For now, Peterkin Financial is a two-person operation — there is also an office manager. Core clients are those 40-and-older looking ahead to retirement. Each week, she is meeting with clients, networking to build new clients or developing financial plans. Her message to clients: "Be conscious about your spending."

Peterkin's definition of wealth: "Being able to spend your time how you want, with who you want, when you want.''

She understands the pain of realizing that making money and building wealth are two different things.

Stan Simpson is the principal of Stan Simpson Enterprises LLC, a strategic communications consulting firm. He is also host of "The Stan Simpson Show," on Fox 61.

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