What would you do if you found out you had a million dollars in an account you didn’t even know existed? For one of Eric Berner’s clients, this was not a hypothetical question– this was her reality.
This incredible finding will one day bless several charitable organizations, thanks to some recent investigative work from Eric. This type of research and assistance, although not technically in his scope of work when financially advising clients, is a service he offers out of the goodness of his heart because it’s the right thing to do.
Eric’s job, as Co-owner of Rock Castle Wealth Advisors, is one he finds rewarding. “It comes down to helping people,” says Eric. “I’m helping people; plan for their future, care for a parent or spouse, if they’ve lost a spouse, or are planning to buy a house, or are sending a child to school, most anything that involves managing their financial assets in some way.”
His drive to help others in this way comes from when he witnessed his own mother become a widow when he was 24 years old. He was motivated to support her at that time and, since then, has found a passion for assisting others in a similar fashion. While Eric has had other careers in fields such as transportation and distribution, his forté has and always will be interacting with and helping people.
This is evident in the way Eric conducts business. “I always try to do what I say I’m going to do,” he says. “I always try to return calls and emails as soon as possible and to be available. I’m a bulldog to make sure people keep up with their finances for themselves… I enforce that for my clients.”
For this specific client, Eric has been a great and trusted resource for over twelve years now. “I’ve learned a lot about her– what motivates her, what she needs. Her husband passed away, and I had aided in moving accounts into her name in the most tax efficient way,” Eric explains. “I see her quite a bit, and we talk on the phone often. I’m here for anything she needs.”
One day, when she needed someone to determine whether a four-year-old letter that she had found in an old stack of mail was a scam or not, she brought it to Eric. The letter in question stated that the client had an annuity that was now being serviced by a new insurance company. There was no contract number on it, nor any specifics. It was basically a form letter, and Eric’s client did not recognize the name of either insurance company mentioned in the letter.
Knowing that he would not be compensated if this annuity contract turned out to be genuine, Eric still volunteered to contact the insurance company and get to the bottom of this. After multiple phone calls over a span of three days, Eric was able to learn that the cost basis, or original amount paid for the annuity, was $229,000. Evidently, her late husband had purchased the annuity, and she either didn’t know about that or didn’t recall it.
Here is where it gets good: Eric and his client then learned that the current value of the annuity was $1.4 million!
Eric said discovering the existence of the annuity was tricky. “Initially, the insurance company could not find any record of a contract, but I still sensed that there was something there based on how the letter was written. I knew the right questions to ask and just kept pressing them.”
In response to learning she now had $1.4 million more in her name, Eric’s client was quite surprised but not overwhelmed. “She has no other living relatives and had recently set up a trust to give her money to charity,” says Eric. “While it won’t alter her life drastically, it will make a huge difference in the charity work after she passes.” Eric assisted her with getting the annuity connected to her newly established trust so this would be possible.
While most of us aren’t lucky enough to have hidden million-dollar annuities, we all are subject to scams every day through mail, e-mail, text messages, and the internet. Eric encourages everyone to always ask for help if they are unsure whether something is too good to be true.
“For safety’s sake, get a professional opinion in determining what is and what is not legitimate,” encourages Eric. “I’m trained to identify when something is a scam and have experience in identifying when letters are legitimate. I know what questions to ask and what information NOT to give when inquiring.”
Eric offers that type of service for his clients as an added value of working with him. “When managing money for my clients, I consider myself as if I were employed by them. If I receive compensation from managing their investments, I am here when they need me,” he says. “Morally and ethically, it’s my job to act in the best interest of my client, and I take strong measures to understand exactly what is in the best interest for each of them.”
It takes a person who genuinely cares about the well-being of their clients to offer such great customer service as witnessed in the story above. To think, if Eric had said no to lending a hand or had pushed it off, this incredible finding would have been forever lost. Now, many others will be blessed because of it.
About Eric Berner, Co-owner of Rock Castle Wealth Advisors:
Prior to working in financial services, Eric managed operations in the transportation and distribution industries. In these roles, he managed large employee populations and spent hundreds of hours with individuals facing wage garnishments, levies, income tax arrearages, and foreclosures. Eric’s experiences helping employees work through these issues, as well as a variety of personal tragedies, gave him an appreciation and understanding of the impact financial wellness has on individuals and their families during times of stress and suffering. Eric is one of the owners of Rock Castle Wealth Advisors and is a Certified Divorce Financial Advisor (CDFA).