A former teacher is not necessarily who you’d expect to be advising you on small business planning, retirement or life insurance, but Paulette Retsinas says her background as a teacher and school administrator makes her an empathetic and detail-oriented personal financial planner who can put herself in the shoes of her clients.

Retsinas, a certified financial planner with Chelsea Groton Financial Services, a division of Chelsea Groton Bank, has worked in the financial services industry for more than 25 years – but all that came after years of working in the public education system.

“[Teachers] like to impart knowledge, to teach people things,” she explained. “I feel like I’m still a teacher every day when I’m explaining a Roth IRA or other kind of savings plan.”

Retsinas started in the industry with companies that work on real estate limited partnerships, and then moved to a small boutique financial planning firm, where her boss took her under his wing. Then, she says, she wanted to live in the Westerly area “and wanted to be near the beach,” so in 1994, she went to work for Citizens Bank and started the bank’s first personal investment branch in the state.

To help her clients achieve their financial goals, Retsinas sits down with them and creates a personal profile of each customer, asking probing questions to find out where they are now with their finances and where they want to be.

“I try to really get a good feeling … about what it’s like to be them and put myself in their shoes,” she said. “I invest quite a bit of time with each client, gathering information regarding that client’s unique goals, time frame and risk tolerance. This process allows me both to understand my client’s needs and to offer the recommendations that are best suited for my client.”

Today, one of the biggest challenges in her industry is that people are generally more negative in their financial outlook, given that the country is still working through the issues caused by the Great Recession. Medical insurance and costs are also huge financial strains, Retsinas added. Since Medicare doesn’t kick in until a person turns 65, they can’t retire early because they need medical coverage.

“I like seeing people enjoy their retirement and not be worried about what’s going to happen to them financially,” she said. “It’s difficult giving certain recommendations to people, but a lot of times it can be joyous work.”

Retsinas serves on the board of directors for the Jonnycake Center in Westerly, and is on the finance and investment committees of the Westerly Memorial Library.

Paulette Retsinas

by James Cronin time to read: 2 min