SIOUX CENTER—There’s a lot of thinking ahead when it comes to financial planning. But as one Sioux Center couple ready for semiretirement, there’s not much in the way of plans yet, and that’s all right with them.
Roger Kroll, 67, and wife Maryls, 65, have been in the financial planning business for a combined 65 years.
On Dec. 31, 2019, Roger stepped back as owner of Money Concepts - The Planning Firm in Sioux Center. He’ll still work at the business he started in 2008, but the main responsibilities will pass to new owner, Tom De Jong of Sioux Center.
Maryls, too, stepped back that same day. She worked as the business’s office manager, helping operations run smoothly.
The husband and wife have come far in their careers from when they first met while attending Dordt College in the mid-1970s. Roger, who grew up in Colton, SD, was a 1974 graduate, and Marlys was an Edgerton, MN, native who graduated in 1976.
Roger started out teaching special education for three years. He quit teaching with no business experience to his name and began working for a Hudson, SD, grain elevator for three years, first as a laborer and then as a bookkeeper.
He became a manager of one of the elevators, a bit of trial by fire, he said: “I learned a lot about business in those three years.”
In the early 1980s, he started work with Wesselink Insurance Agency in Sioux Center as a life and health insurance agent.
“When I started this career, we worked with a lot of farmers struggling because of the farm crisis in the early 1980s. There were a lot of struggles then — high interest rates,” Roger said. “I really learned a lot about the emotional impact of a lot of the financial issues that people have, and that gave me a bit of sympathy toward what these families go through.”
That affected him, and it made him work to create opportunities for his clients by making financial plans that helped minimize their money worries.
He also became a career agent for Prudential for 27 years before retiring from them in 2008.
“One of the things about being a financial planner is you have to be very objective,” Roger said.
But working for a corporation means sacrificing some independence and the ability to make decisions as you see fit, Roger said, and so in 2008, he went on to start his own financial planning business.
He opened his own office under the larger network of financial planning company, Money Concepts.
“Money Concepts really provides us the compliance, the products and all that good stuff, but we operate it in the way we see fit, independent of the other branches. And we share the good name of the company,” Roger said. “When I started, we incorporated and we are incorporated as The Planning Firm. We chose the name because we felt that name really showed what we did.”
And what they did, in Roger’s words, is offer a fee-based financial planning service.
“That means we try to give advice in all areas of financial life, including cash flow, risk management, estate planning, wills and trusts and we manage money for individuals,” Roger said.
When Marlys began working as an office manager alongside her husband, it was supposed to be a temporary arrangement.
“But then it kept going, I guess,” she said.
Roger praised her ability to think ahead and her attention to detail, calling Marlys his key to success.
“We would not run near as smooth without what she’s done,” Roger said.
Having worked under the same roof for so long, they know to keep their work lives and home lives separate. But they worked to welcome clients into their business as if they were being welcomed into their home.
“I honestly believe that because of that, we’ve developed a friendship with almost all of our clients,” Roger said. “They’re not just our clients, they’re our friends.”
“When I look back, that was by far the best part of work, getting to know people I otherwise would not have gotten to know,” Marlys said.
As they both know, money isn’t everything, and that’s part of the reason for implementing these changes to their work and personal lives.
After working with De Jong for years to plan this transfer in ownership, Roger is pleased with what he’s accomplished since The Planning Firm began.
“If I had to say in 1980 that I was going to build a business that has several reps in multiple cities and the amount of clients we have and the number of dollars we invest and amount of insurance we have in the books, if I had to look at those numbers, I’d have said it can’t be possible,” Roger said.
“It’s also true when I look back at what I’m most proud of, it’s the individual cases where we made a difference for this one person,” Marlys said.
It’s definitely a change in pace for Roger not to have to be responsible for payroll or employees or taxes anymore, but it’s a change he can get used to, he said.
To help make sure he stays more of a background figure in the business going forward, he set up a new office for himself at home.
“I seem to have a lot of energy for my age, so I don’t want to lose the ability to do something if I can,” Roger said.
With Marlys retired and Roger gaining a bit more time and freedom, they want to do some more traveling.
“Our kids are scattered throughout the U.S., and we haven’t been able to spend as much time as we want with them,” Roger said.
They have four kids and three grandchildren. Their children live in Wisconsin, Missouri, Utah and Washington state.