Fran Tarkenton, “The Mad Scrambler” NFL record-setting Vikings quarterback, was licensed to sell insurance at age 18. Back then, fellow students at the University of Georgia purchased the plan he was marketing. Today, the retired Hall of Famer is touting fixed indexed annuities as a retirement strategy to protect seniors from financial abuse.
He also recommends “building a wall” of trusted friends and advisors to keep potential fraudsters out, Tarkenton tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.
Kicking off his pro-football retirement four decades ago after throwing 342 touchdown passes, he wasted no time throwing his considerable energies into a second profession: serial entrepreneur. Over the last 30 years, he’s launched 20 successful businesses. At present, the five Tarkenton Companies include GoSmallBiz and the Tarkenton Certificate of Entrepreneurship, an online certificate program.
Tarkenton Financial, an insurance marketing company serving independent financial professionals, is also a distribution partner for fixed annuity and life insurance carriers. The firm focuses on retiree and pre-retiree income strategies.
Financial abuse of seniors perpetrated by family members chiefly prompted Tarkenton to write a new book, “Safe & Secure: 10 Essential Steps for Seniors to Protect Against Financial Abuse” (Regnery-Jan. 22), authored with Rick Gossett, Tarkenton Financial’s chief operating officer.
In the interview, the NFL Hall of Famer explains the four key steps of his game plan, which covers both offensive and defensive strategies.
About to turn 79 this Sunday — And celebrating, guess where? The Super Bowl, natch – Tarkenton suggested that FAs take the lead to help seniors “build a little wall” around them, thereby creating a system of “checks and balances.” This four-person circle can prevent the senior from becoming isolated and, consequently, preyed upon financially by a persuasive individual.
Last year, U.S. banks reported a record 24,454 suspected cases of elder financial abuse — twice the number of five years earlier, according to The Wall Street Journal.
A product that can protect seniors is the fixed indexed annuity, Tarkenton argues. He praises it as safer than investing in the stock market.
The Richmond, Virginia, native and University of Georgia grad played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1961-1966 and 1972-1978, when he took the team to the Super Bowl three times (albeit never winning). He was with the New York Giants from 1967-1972.
In 2003, he founded Tarkenton Financial. The following year, son Matt Tarkenton, now executive vice president, joined him after heavy experience in banking and wealth management with firms including Alex. Brown & Sons and the Robinson-Humphrey Co.
Right after retiring from football, Fran owned a computer software and consulting company, which later merged with a firm that subsequently sold the enterprise to a larger one. In 1999, Tarkenton reportedly settled a 1994 lawsuit that alleged accounting fraud connected with the latter sale, paying a $100,000 fine and $54,187 in restitution.
In the interview, he spoke dismissively about the case: “That was 30 years ago. We sold that company to another large company, and they sold it. That was way back in 1990.”
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Tarkenton, speaking by phone from Atlanta, where his financial firm is based. After hearing his recommendations for preventing elder financial abuse, this reporter asked him to assess the job performance of President Donald Trump, his longtime friend.
At the 2016 Republican National Convention, Tarkenton gave a speech lauding the then-full-time real estate developer and saying, “He gets stuff done,” adding, “I’ve watched him fail because all of us fail, and I’ve watched him get back up because he never quits.”
Here are highlights of our interview:
THINKADVISOR: Why were you nicknamed “The Mad Scrambler”?
FRAN TARKENTON: I had the ability to use my legs to buy more time and put a little more pressure on the defense [in order] to pick up a first down and throw the ball down the field. Patrick Mahomes [Kansas City Chiefs quarterback] plays like that. I think that’s the trend in professional football going forward.
Your 79th birthday is on Feb. 3. It’s the day of this year’s Super Bowl. Will you be there? I’m going with Roger Goodell [NFL Commissioner]. He invited me to sit with him. I like professional football and college football, but I don’t go to many games. I like watching them on television mostly. But I’m going to this one!
You got an insurance license when you were 18 years old. How come?
I majored in insurance [while] I was playing football for the University of Georgia. So I got my license and offered a plan to the students. I’d gone to one day of a sales class and never went back because it was all about twisting people’s arms to make the sale. The role of being a financial advisor, or in any business situation, is not to tell people what to do but to show them their options and build trust. It’s to help them make decisions that are best for them.
Your Tarkenton Financial website highlights fixed indexed annuities. Do you specialize in them?
We work in fixed indexed annuities and insurance products that have more certainty than the market does. We want customers to take as little risk as possible. We don’t work in securities at all. Our focus is retirement-income planning using safer alternatives than the stock market. Most people don’t understand the value and safety of fixed-indexed annuities and indexed universal life insurance products.
Why did you write a book about protecting elders against financial abuse? You define an elder as “anyone who has reached normal retirement age.”
We’ve got to stop this abuse because it’s epidemic and criminal. That includes robo-calls that scare seniors to death. But the biggest perpetrator of financial abuse is the family itself. This is the most egregious type of abuse I’ve come across. It ruins families over someone trying to make sure they get “their share” of the money.
Why are seniors such targets?
Most people of my generation have made money, and often their children — and their nieces and nephews and uncles and aunts — want part of that money. They think it belongs to them. So the next thing the senior knows, they’re isolated by one of them — and they’re taking out $5,000 here, $10,000 there. They say they’ll pay it back, but they never do.
What should be done to protect against elder financial abuse?
The main thing is that seniors shouldn’t be isolated. There are too many cases where caregivers or housekeepers get the confidence of the senior, become their sole provider and take advantage of them because they think they deserve [the money].