Almost 40 years have passed, yet Tim Lofton vividly remembers the moment that fueled his motivation.
Growing up in a small Kentucky town, The Cornerstone Group founder and owner was raised by a devoted and loving single mother. One particular Sunday – February 11, 1979, to be exact – Lofton was a 10-year-old sitting in Sunday School. The teacher announced it was time for the annual youth group ski trip, an event that he had dreamed about for three years. The minimum age for attending was 10, and Lofton was finally old enough.
“Sunday School ended, and I gripped my permission slip like it was the golden ticket in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” Lofton recalled. “I left the room at a full sprint, almost knocking down a teacher on my exit from the room. I weaved my way through the adults, up the stairs and into the main sanctuary of The First Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky. I immediately spotted my mom in the back and made a bee line to the one person that could make my ski dreams a reality. All I needed was her signature on my form and I was in.”
Brimming with excitement, Lofton shook the “golden ticket” and spoke so fast his mom could not understand him. He caught his breath, and explained that he was old enough for the ski trip, and this was the permission slip. His mom got down on one knee, wrapped her arms around him and pulled back to where they were face to face. Then his mother told him that she could not afford it this year.
“You would think that the feeling I felt would be disappointment, but I felt something else,” Lofton said. “My heart broke for my mom, and the sadness she felt for having to deliver the news. Her eyes reflected her inner feelings of somehow failing me.
“That was a defining moment in my life. It was the first time I discovered what not having money felt like,” he added. “I decided that I would find a career that would allow me to never have a conversation like that with my kids,” he added. “As I grew older, my career goal expanded to include making sure other families had security for the short term and the long term, and that hallmark moment remains pivotal in my mind. I think about it every day.”
Today, he is the founder and owner of The Cornerstone Group, a thriving wealth management firm that he manages with his wife, Karrie. The couple has three children, and they are active in their church and community. As Lofton celebrates 25 years in the industry in 2018, he emphasizes the value and importance of “The 5 Cornerstone Principles,” which is the “blueprint” and process behind his commitment to providing families with financial security.
The 5 Cornerstone Essentials are:
- Income planning, which centers around the goal to ensure clients’ expenses can be paid each month with reliability for the rest of their lives
- Investment planning, which features an investment plan for the remaining assets after an income plan is established and anchored in a defensive and tactical approach
- Tax planning, which is designed to decrease tax liabilities
- Health care planning, which addresses current and long-term health care costs
- Estate planning, which ensures that assets go to beneficiaries instead of taxes or nursing homes
Life is a journey. People are living longer. Having an income plan, is essential, but many Americans who are nearing retirement do not have that blueprint.
“When you transition from pre-retirement to post-retirement, not losing money is the focus. It is about maintaining lifestyle and not running out of money,” Lofton said. “The ultimate goal is to sustain lifestyle and prepare for contingencies, like the death of a spouse, long-term care, losing a pension and other unknowns.
“When you are in your pre-retirement years, you know how much money you make, you know how much you need to save, you know when you will retire and you know your monthly expenses. Life changes when you retire. Since you do not know your lifespan, or your spouse’s lifespan, you do not know how long your money needs to last, and what unexpected life situations will arise,” he added. “This is why it is vital to have a blueprint – an income plan that allows you to be proactive and have peace of mind instead of being reactive and feeling worried about running out of money.”
Lofton’s days after high school continued to shape the values and principals behind The Cornerstone Group. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business and achieved two conference swim championships at Morehead State University before earning his Series 7, 9, 10, 31, 63 and 66 securities registrations. Lofton served as an Army officer in the reserves for 15 years, receiving multiple commendations. He also competed in more than 100 triathlons as well as four Ironmans, 10 marathons and a 50-mile ultra-marathon. Lofton continued his education by gaining the prestigious AAMS® Designation from the College of Financial Planning and completing the Certified Financial Planner® curriculum at Wright State University. He hosts seminars and speaks at colleges and universities about retirement planning and other finance topics.
Long before Lofton founded The Cornerstone Group, he worked for some of the largest financial companies in the country. His experience with those firms left him uneasy and feeling that he was not remotely fulfilling that purpose for helping families that stemmed from the hallmark moment when he first learned what it was like to not have money. Lofton learned that the focus of the large financial firms was benefitting shareholders, CEOs, regional managers, branch managers and advisors before clients. He launched The Cornerstone Group to serve as an independent firm that provided personal, customized retirement planning based on each client’s respective lives.
As a fiduciary, Lofton’s firm has carved a niche. The Cornerstone Group is the only wealth management firm in Ohio to have wealth management experts, CPAs and estate planning and elder law attorneys working together under one roof.
“Simply put, we are the CEO of our clients’ retirement planning, and because we are an independent firm, our clients are our sole focus,” Lofton said. “I remember what it was like to see the concern in my mom’s face over struggling for money, and I am still motivated by making sure that our clients have peace of mind as they are planning for retirement and then living in their retirement years. Peace of mind is one of the greatest gifts you can give, and feel.”