Beverly Kossum, CEBS, PFP, has more than 35 years of experience in retirement and employee benefits, and personal financial planning. Her areas of expertise are in consulting related to regulatory compliance for retirement plans and health and welfare benefits. She is owner of Write Business Solutions, specializing in employee benefits, insurance and retirement planning.
Bev was recently elected to chairman of the Board of Advisors at Duquesne University's School of Leadership and Professional Development and she has served as president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of Employee Benefit Specialists. She has a B.S in finance from Robert Morris University and earned the Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) designation sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.
Which courses do you teach for the Center for Continuing and Professional Education? What do you cover?
I teach Insurance and Employee Benefits and Retirement Planning in the Financial Planning Certificate program. The course titles speak for themselves, but the goal is to introduce students to various planning tools to assist their clients/employers/individuals in financial planning.
What is your career story? How did you get to be where you are now?
My career began in retirement planning. I worked for a large Fortune 500 company where I was the liaison with our actuaries and record-keeper for our own retirement programs. I then moved on to the servicing environment where I worked for an actuarial consulting firm preparing valuations for defined benefit programs. In that firm, I moved on to manage the 401(k)/Defined Contribution Department. This was exciting since it was the very beginning of 401(k) plans that have since become the leading retirement program offered by employers today. I eventually moved to a brokerage firm where I assisted employers in their benefit programs, including retirement as well as health and welfare programs. Eleven years ago, I started my own technical writing firm, specializing in retirement planning and employee benefits. In my practice I also assist individual clients in those areas as well as assisting clients in required documentation and compliance advice.
What has opened up doors and opportunities for you professionally over the years?
Nothing is more important than your reputation in the business community. Referrals and word of mouth are the best way to begin any new relationship! With the movement of employees from company to company, it also pays to keep in touch with former co-workers, they too can open a door for you to walk through and begin new relationships.
What trends are you most excited about in your field?
While I do work with individual financial planning clients in my areas of expertise, I also work with small employers assisting them in analysis of their current employee benefit and retirement programs. I also introduce them to programs that allow them to individualize their own programs to everyone’s needs. I find that with greater compliance burdens for employers more and more every day, the trend is employers are seeking advice from consultants like me to assist them in offering the most meaningful programs that are best suited to their employees and most effective for everyone.
What developments or innovations do you feel need to happen in your field?
Technology/innovation has been happening at an accelerated pace in recent years requiring everyone to learn and adapt. What I would like most to happen is to reach individuals at an early stage in life educating them in their financial futures. No matter what anyone chooses to do with their life, personal financial issues will always have an impact on their success. I would like to see high school education include readiness for young people to deal financial topics such as budgeting, planning, saving, and general financial management. Something as basic as balancing a checkbook or knowing what types of taxes are being deducted from that first paycheck is key and often left unattended until you get your first job.
Do you have any advice for professionals in your field? What about those looking to find jobs in your field?
I see high school as a menu, where you can narrow your choices from all you need to learn to what you like to do. Then we narrow our field (no pun intended) in college or any advanced education to what we think we might like to do. I would prefer that everyone change their mind if need be, explore the many choices you have, get your feet wet by trying new things. Nothing is more rewarding than a job you like doing! So many people go from day to day not taking the leap that might get them to where their hearts and minds want to be.
What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your job?
My challenge, particularly in adult learning is to make coursework equally as challenging for those who work in that particular field as it is to those who do not. My reward is an attentive and engaged classroom, even after a long day at work!
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Students—I learn from them as much as I hope they learn from me.
What do you do that creates a strong learning environment for your students?
Everyone sharing—whether it is their own understanding and knowledge of a certain topic, personal experience, or just asking compelling and thoughtful questions that result in a community discussion.