Justin Curtis, the founder and owner of the Franklin-based Curtis Financial Group, received a 4 Under 40 Award from NAIFA’s (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors) Advisor Today magazine this month.

He advises and helps individuals and businesses manage wealth, grow it and ensure their future.

Curtis Financial Group, founded in 2010 with his father, Daniel P. Curtis, serves more than 1,000 clients, including pro athletes, country singers, and prominent local businesses, but also focuses on giving back to the community.

So, who are you, what do you do?

I have a family-owned practice based here in the Cool Springs area, right off Carothers Parkway. We specialize in financial strategies and insurance strategies. So we predominantly work with business owners and affluent individuals, mainly in the Middle Tennessee, Williamson, Wilson and Davidson County areas, serving about 1,000 clients here and nationally.

Our forte is working with small- to medium-sized business owners in the community, on trying to help them from a planning perspective and from a business benefits perspective. We really kind of run the gambit on anything financial and insurance related.

An example of that is, we worked on a case where we met with a law firm, and met on the basis of helping them with some insurance needs. But we are also able to help them with some of the group benefits, employees educational seminars, and overall help them build a little stronger retention within their company by educating and helping their employees understand what is available and the best interests their company puts in them, and also help the owners put a strategic plan in place.

A lot of business owners, especially small- to medium-sized, a lot of times they are the business. While they spend a lot of time trying to take care of their employees, customers, etc, a lot of times what we find is no one is really taking care of them.

We go in and make sure, when they are building something in the community and the area, something is in place financially and insurance wise to take care of them.

What do you do financially for people?

On the investment side we really run the gambit. We can provide planning and wealth and asset planning.

If someone came to you with a million dollars and said, do what you will, what would you do with it in Williamson County?

It is a great question and one we get a lot of times from our clients. They are busy, and they understand the value of having someone manage it for them versus trying to do it themselves. That is a really a tough question to answer, because we don’t take a shotgun approach or just a one-shot type deal like some other advisers do. We don’t have a product-driven approach. I am going to have to ask them what do you want this money to do for you? What are your goals? How comfortable are you with risk?

What does a perfect picture of the next 5 to 10 years, or retirement, look like. And how does that compare with where we are today.

Based on the answers and the education-first role we take, we know we can position the money in places that will accomplish those goals.

Ok, but still, what would you do a little more specifically- what is a good investment industry in the county?

There are a lot of opportunities out there. This area is booming.  Obviously we have a lot of clients who are starting businesses, a lot of people put their money into a business as an entrepreneur and try to grow a business in the community. There are a ton of those out here. There are a lot of people that get into real estate, though that is something I don’t really advise people on. But obviously that is a growing area, and doing well in that capacity. There are a lot of different things.

Me, I am an entrepreneur, so I think that if someone really wants to invest in themselves and really wants to invest in the local community, then the best advice I can give them is go after something you are passionate about, something you believe in and enjoy, and for a lot of people that it just starting a business or something like that. Most of our clients are business owners who don’t mind risk.

One thing is unique about us is we do a lot of giving, and charitable work, back to the community. And put money into growing the community and building relationships with other leaders and business owners and executives and individuals, to help each other grow.

What is higher-risk investment- or what is something you would tell someone NOT to do with their money?

Well, if you want super high risk, you can go buy some Powerball tickets. What would you not do with your money, or not want to do? One of the things we still see in the community or just with clients as a whole is a lot of people still have, are still scared of, and they very vividly remember is the financial crash back in ’09. And a lot are still scared of any investments, because it is all too fresh how much money they lost back then, and what happened back then, and it made a significant impact on people’s retirement portfolios. That being the case, one thing we tell people not to do with their money is just sit on it. At least try to find ways to use it, now I’m not saying what investment that would be, but we want to help people understand the opportunity cost of a dollar. Sitting on a dollar, and you are not really going to make anything obviously. We help people understand the power of what a dollar does. We can show them it will grow over time, when you go put a dollar into a Coke machine or put $100,000 into a project or whatever it may be, how much are you really paying for that? If you put a dollar in a Coke machine, if you are in your 30s, it will cost you about $8 because of the lost value of growing that dollar over time.

So when people are sitting their with money still scared to do anything, and I am not saying they have to go out there and invest, but don’t bury it under your mattress. Because you are giving up the opportunity to be able to grow wealth long term.

I tell people, don’t be so scared that you don’t do anything. Don’t let fear of the past to keep you from moving forward.

Can you talk about the problem, from a strategy standpoint, of businesses having trouble keeping low-wage workers in Williamson County, since they more and more can’t afford to live here?

The understanding of how people respond to things…when you hire people and you have rank-and-file employees… some people respond well to money, some to praise, some to appreciation and gratitude for their service. I think what is very important for most small to medium-sized business owners to understand is, number one, what motivates your employees? Because they are each going to be a little different and you can’t motivate them all the same way. And that being the case, what we can tell you employees are looking for is they are looking to be valued. One of the biggest issues all companies face, and we have faced it over the years, is hiring quality people when there is a lot of demand out there and being able to retain those people. Something we help business owners with from our side of the spectrum is we go in and educate them on the value of providing benefits for their employees. But employees like having the security that sometimes they have some added benefits through the company. We also implement that with work-site education …

With a lot of companies because of our varied backgrounds we are able a lot of times with the operation and not just financial side to reward employees in a way that is very cost-efficient for the company.

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