John Mitsis is a senior financial advisor, vice president and retirement benefits consultant with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Ponte Vedra Beach. Mitsis was recently named to the Financial Times’ "Top 401 Retirement Advisers" list for the second time.
Can you please briefly tell us about your background?
I am originally from Chicago. I am a first-generation American. Both of my parents were born in Greece and immigrated to the United States. My family moved to Florida more than 30 years ago, and I have lived in the First Coast area since 1999. Both of my children were born here, and this is home. I graduated from the University of Florida with a BSBA (Bachelor of Science in business administration), and I received my MBA from the University of Florida with a specialization in finance. I live in Ponte Vedra Beach with my wife, Shirin, and my two daughters, Magdalene and Alexandria.
What are your primary roles and responsibilities as vice president and retirement benefits consultant?
Our main objective and focus as a team is to help make financial lives better. Defined contribution arrangements, primarily 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, are essential retirement savings vehicles for American workers. While these plans are extremely valuable benefits for employees, from the plan sponsor's perspective, they can be complex and time-consuming to manage. Making a defined contribution plan work for employees requires good plan design, administration, communication and education.
Our approach is simple, transparent and supported by industry-leading investment guidance. We perform a thorough needs assessment and plan evaluation; we take an objective approach to plan design and implementation; we develop a communications strategy that encourages enrollment and helps employees get the most out of their retirement plan and we coordinate and conduct education meetings to help drive financial wellness.
You recently received recognition from the Financial Times. Can you please tell us about that and what that means to you?
This is a career milestone for me. The Financial Times "Top 401 Retirement Advisers" is a roundup of the top 401k advisors in the country, and I feel blessed to be nominated, let alone recognized. My fellow advisors are focused and dedicated to the corporate retirement plan marketplace, and I am happy to be listed amongst them for the second time. I was recognized on the Financial Times’ inaugural “Top 401 Retirement Advisers” list in 2015.
According to the Financial Times, the list is a roundup of top professionals who specialize in advising on US employers’ contribution plans. The FT 401 is based on data gathered from financial advisors, regulatory disclosures and the FT’s research. The listing reflects each advisor’s status in seven primary areas, including Defined Contribution (DC) plan assets under management, growth in DC plan business, specialization in DC plan business and other factors.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a retirement advisor?
My inspiration comes from my family. Both of my parents came to United States as immigrants looking for a better life, to realize the American Dream. When I think about the courage it took to leave everything you have ever known for the promise of a better life for you and your future family, I am incredibly motivated. In realizing their American Dream, my parents became small business owners. I witnessed trials and tribulations of owning several different service-based companies. I have a keen understanding of the unique struggles that business owners face. The entrepreneurial spirit that was engrained in me by my parents is why I have chosen to focus on working with business owners within the financial services industry.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone regarding retirement planning, trust and estate planning?
The hardest part of any financial planning is taking the initial first step. We talk to business owners, CEOs, CFOs and their employees every day about starting the process. One of my sayings is that if you “fail to plan … you plan to fail.”
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra?
The initial reaction is the beach or some of the best golf courses in the world. I have always said that if we are going to live in Florida, we should take advantage of it. We live in paradise, and we should enjoy it every day. In addition, Ponte Vedra is a fantastic place to raise a family. We have great schools, great community programs and a true sense of community and pride that comes from living at the beach. I feel that this is shaping my daughters’ vision of their own American Dream.