Helping people plan and protect their financial future to ensure that her clients have a fulfilling retirement. That is the passion that drives Tara Hemsing Woitalla, FIC, CLTC, a financial representative with Thrivent Financial.
“I have developed a passion for coming alongside those who are about five to 10 years from retirement and walking them through retirement,” she said.
Woitalla has been in the financial industry since 2001. She has a background in banking, mortgages and accounting and also worked alongside another financial advisor. In 2011, she went on her own, partnering with Thrivent Financial and opening up an office in Baxter.
“The big thing for me was and still is… how can I help people?” she said. “And Thrivent was a great fit for me. They are Fortune 500, a Christian organization of community-minded generosity. They are a strong company that continues to win awards. I value Thrivent — helping people be wise with their money. And Thrivent provides the tools needed to make these things happen, including everything from insurance to investments.”
Woitalla specializes in preretirement and retirement and is a certified long-term care professional. She encourages people to start talking with her about their retirement plan at least five to 10 years before they retire. The earlier the better, she said, so a plan can be put in place and clients can start working toward those goals. For many, their first meeting with Woitalla is the first time they have worked through a true retirement plan.
“I consider my job to be a coach, as I want to give my clients all the options,” she said. “I think it is important to understand the financial industry and give them a clear reason why I may be doing something this way opposed to another way. I spell it out for them and provide them a road map for the next 30-40 years.” Each plan is tailored to that client.
“There are no cookie cutter plans. Every situation is unique and different. Some have pensions. Some don’t. Some need a better understanding of their retirement package. There are many different factors involved in retirement planning,” she said.
“I think some people have a date in mind, a specific age, but I found that people can retire a few years earlier than that date with just having a good plan in place,” she said. “Some will jump at an early retirement and see it as an opportunity. Some may just stay the course with the same retirement date and then have a little extra when they do retire.”
“For estate planning, we ask questions like, how do our assets transfer? Are they taxable? Tax free? What about your kids? Your grandkids? Anything charitable? We go through all the options,” she said. “I also encourage my clients to have a will or trust and other legal documents in place, like power of attorney or an advance directive.”
Woitalla also helps build a customized long-term care plan.
“A plan needs to be in place,” she said. “Whether it is purchasing insurance, self-insuring or relying on family. It is a conversation that needs to be had.”
For couples, the discussion will also include what life will look like after the death of a spouse.
“It is going to happen, so it is important to plan for how the survivor is going to manage after it happens,” she said. “What is the situation going to be like for the survivor? It is an uncomfortable conversation, but it is a very important conversation.”
Sometimes, this is the first time a couple has had this discussion, and they often don’t realize its true importance until years later.
“I had a client call me seven years after we talked about it because her husband had died,” said Woitalla. “She said, ‘You know Tara, I knew immediately that I was going to be OK because we have talked about this for the past seven years.’ She said ‘Yeah, I’m going to grieve. It is going to be hard. But financially, I know I am going to be OK.’”
And when her clients reach retirement, Woitalla is there to help them through the transition.
“I encourage everyone to have a plan and purpose going into retirement,” she said “Waking up and turning on the TV every day will only last so long. Eventually that will eat away at the quality of retirement. There has to be something to get up for — a part-time job, working in the woodshop, helping with grandkids, volunteering, whatever it is. And that will definitely help with longevity and a successful retirement.”
Along the way, before retirement, during the transition and into retirement, Woitalla and her clients will review the plan together and make adjustments as needed.
“Reviews depend on what the client wants,” she said. “If the client wants to meet every four to six months because they are coming up on their retirement, that makes sense, since there are so many things changing with going into retirement. For some, this time creates some anxiety. On the back side, once someone retires, I like to meet every four or six months just to make sure the comfort is there and everything is in place as they make that transition. I encourage my clients to meet with me at any point along the way.”
When Woitalla first meets with new clients, she is looking to get to know the clients and also let the clients learn about her.
“I want people to feel they can trust me and feel like they can ask me questions. I want them to be honest with me and tell me if they like a concept that I am presenting or not. Honesty is a big part of it, both ways.”
To get to that point, there is a level of comfort that needs to be developed.
“What is important to you? What are your goals? We need to create an open conversation where they can ask me questions, and they can share information with me. Eventually, we will need to talk about more difficult questions, like health history and financial history, so it is important so there is that level of comfort and a trust of confidentiality. I want my clients to be honest with me and to trust me.”
Once that level of comfort is reached, clients can talk about their wants and needs, and Woitalla can start getting all their ducks in a row.
“I think my greatest strength is being able to talk to and understand my clients. People often tell me that I am easy to talk to, and they feel comfortable asking ‘stupid’ questions. Part of that comfort in asking questions may be me, that I am female in a male-dominated industry. But more importantly, I let my clients talk, and I listen. My greatest strength may be that people feel comfortable to ask me questions and I am able to explain how things work, both pros and cons, on each move we are considering.”
Woitalla believes some people seek her out because she offers many educational seminars, as well as so many clients speaking about how easy she is to work with.
“Those seminars give people the opportunity to see who I am. I also help educate people. Most people don’t know where to start, and I can help them with that,” she said. “Some people have no idea what they should be doing with their money. It is important that people are educated on what they can do with their money. I like to help people. That is probably first and foremost, and I think people can see that.”
Picking the right financial advisor is an important part of the financial planning process, and Woitalla encourages everyone to shop around and ask questions before picking one.
“People should be interviewing and finding the right person. Just because you sit down with a financial advisor, it doesn’t mean that you automatically need to work with or commit to them. You want to find the right fit for you,” she said. “Find out what they charge for their services and what services they can provide to you.”
Tara and her husband, Tony, live near Little Falls with their three kids. She enjoys spending time on the water, with her family, quiet time and helping with charitable events.
Woitalla’s office is located at14410 Golf Course Drive, Suite 105, in Baxter. Her office number is 218-454-8272.
“I welcome the opportunity to have a complimentary visit with you to get to know you and what’s important to you,” she said. “Together, we can create a financial plan that will meet your needs now, and your hopes and dreams for the future.”