No Day Like Today: A Look at Financial Wellness with Mary Lyons

My good friend and neighbor has a very favorite joke… “When is the best day to plant a tree? Yesterday. When is the second best day to plant a tree? Today.” And then he laughs and laughs and I kick myself that we didn’t plant trees the year we moved into our house like he did! But he is a great friend and he is right: you just can’t get a 100-year-old oak tree without planting it as an itty-bitty seedling at some point. There is no better moment than now to start planting (a.k.a. “planning”) for the future. And if your squirrels are like ours, they do their best job of trying to hide some occasional nuts in the garden …but that just adds to the chaos of it all. Ultimately, we all need a little thought put into this.

Enter Mary Lyons and her team at Benchmark Income Group. True story – I took WAY TOO LONG to write this article because when I spoke to Mary, I told my husband that we need to get on her calendar asap and are in the process of becoming a client. And the staff I spoke to had similar stories! Many were customers first who then loved what she was doing so much, they joined the team. I am not sure that a financial advisor and wealth manager can have a better introduction than that. So at the beginning, I had a chance to connect with Mary and ask her what all this is about and how it is possible.

Thank you for your time, Mary. Jumping in: we see so much in the headlines right now and we hear these really crazy words like “volatility” and “risk” and, of course, grocery prices are going up daily.  This financial stuff is really scary. So what are we dealing with, exactly, went it comes to financial planning? What are we talking about in plain language? 

In general, financial planning is a comprehensive picture of your current finances, your financial goals, and any strategies you’ve set to achieve those goals. Most of the country is pursuing financial advice that’s designed to keep them from being broke but isn’t designed to make them truly wealthy. We use economics-based planning to help you plan no matter what happens in the future.

What makes your approach to financial management so different?

Our approach to financial management is “holistic.” And by that, I mean, let’s back up and look at the financial industry as a whole. The biggest problem that the financial industry has right now is that only has a conventional approach. The approach has not been updated in a very long time. Basically, financial planners have decided, “When the market does this, I manage money this way. When the market does that, I do this other thing.” And all of those techniques are tactical; they are not strategic.

Our approach to financial management is “holistic.” […] The more income we create, the better you will be able to enjoy life when you are in your retirement age.

So, really, what we end up with is just somebody rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Financial planners talk about “rate of return, rate of return, rate of return” because that’s all they really know to say. That’s really old school. Rate of return maybe doesn’t mean that much to you right now. A few generations ago, planning for the future meant having a pension, Social Security, and any savings that were managed by a financial manager. 

Now, there are very few pensions, and the future of Social Security is uncertain […]. So, there is a lot of pressure on your current income, a lot of demand on what you are making now to somehow cover everything for you in the future. And the questions for you are, “How do you structure your spending? What do you spend today, what are your spending strategies today, so that you can have a retirement that makes sense for you?” How can you do that on your own without help?

Our solution is to not necessarily focus on what you would call your net worth, [meaning all the wealth that you’ve built up] but to focus on your income creation. Let me give you an example: having net worth is like owning a piece of land. That piece of land overtime might be increasing in value. It may be worth $100 today and worth $110 next year. But that piece of land is not producing income. Instead let’s own a piece of a vacation rental home. That $100 piece of vacation rental may create $20 of income every year. So, one of these examples is much more efficient at producing more in one year. Overtime, one has a larger impact on your quality of life. The more income we create, the better you will be able to enjoy life when you are in your retirement age.

So that’s the addition to managing your finances in the “holistic” approach. We look much larger at your overall investment strategy. We are not just looking at what you have in the stock market, we are also looking at what is creating income to add to the overall picture of creating wealth for you and your future. 

Mary, when I hear you talk this, I think of some mythical money making experience that I just don’t get to participate in. It sounds amazing and I want to be a part of it, but I worry that I am not somebody who gets to do this. It’s like there’s a certain percentage of people that get to participate in this type of activity. I’ve heard you have to have a minimum investment of a certain dollar value to go and talk to a financial planner …and sometimes that dollar value could be in the millions! I’m just going, “Well, that’s just not for me.” So what you talk about sounds amazing, but who is this for exactly? Who gets to do this?

Is it weird to say this is for everybody? The truth is that Benchmark is designed to work with people who are looking at the status quo of how to manage money and are saying to themselves there has got to be something better than this. We work best with people who are ready to save some money and willing to do some different things to create income now. If you’re looking at the investment world, in general, and you say, “You know, I think that’s pretty good. It’s not great and I don’t know that it is for me. There must be a better way,” then you probably want to give us a call.   

… but who wants to retire with a bunch of money if you wasted your entire life not being able to do anything worth doing at all? 

And when we meet with you, that’s actually what we talk about first.

This doesn’t mean you have to be wealthy already. There is no minimum. You may be someone who wants to live an unconventional life with financial freedom and needs to take an unconventional approach to get there. But that unconventional approach doesn’t mean minimizing your expenses completely. You know there are these TikTok influencers out there saying, “If you just don’t spend any of your money, you will have it all when you are older” … but who wants to retire with a bunch of money if you wasted your entire life not being able to do anything worth doing at all? 

And when we meet with you, that’s actually what we talk about first. We talk about – not how much money you want when you retire – but what you want to do. It’s less about the pressure to earn money and more about designing a plan to figure out how to enjoy your future. And that applies to a lot of different people: whether you are high-income earner and you don’t feel like you’re made it yet, or you’re an individual who saves but you don’t know how to retire, or you just want a better life for you and your kids.

Because the reality is money is just a tool. Money is meant to be used to build something. If you know what you want to build, then we can help you use those financial tools to make that happen.

OK Mary, I want to build stuff. Let’s get started. Who am I working with? What are the people like at Benchmark? …Because I feel like if we’re going to get together and I’m going to tell you my dreams and show you all my financial troubles, then you’re going to know a lot about me. So I need to be able to trust you. What makes the team at Benchmark so dynamic?

There’s an old Truman quote, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish, if you do not care who gets the credit.” […] We’re here to serve people and we need to stay in that mindset.

We love to work with anybody at any stage of life in any stage of the game because we believe in growth. If your mindset is right, we will do the work. We are here to shift the paradigm in the financial industry. We are driven by a sense of purpose, and we look for advisors on our team that are driven by this sense of growth. 

There’s an old Truman quote, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish, if you do not care who gets the credit.” And that’s what we look for on our team – more talent, less ego. We’re here to serve people and we need to stay in that mindset. We’re not about keeping score, we’re about how to make things better. We are not here to focus on your goals, we’re here to try and help you reach your dreams.

Yep, that sounds great. So how do we do that? What do we need to do to make something like this happen?

Start by going to our website,, and filling out the contact form.  We will reach out to you with the next available spot on the calendar. When we meet with you it is helpful to have an idea of what your dreams look like in that first meeting. After that, we will walk you through understanding where you are today and what your options would be to get you there.

Well, all of this certainly sounds easy enough!  Thank you so much, again, for your time. I am certain we will be in touch soon! (And then we were…)

Written by Brigid Seay

Mary Lyons is a Registered Representative and Investment Advisor Representative of and securities offered through OneAmerica Securities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA, SIPC. Benchmark Income Group is not an affiliate of OneAmerica Securities and is not a broker dealer or Registered Investment Advisor.

Investing involves risk which includes potential loss of principal.

All numeric examples and any individuals shown are hypothetical and were used for explanatory purposes only. Actual results may vary.

Provided content is for overview and informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be relied upon as individualized tax, legal, fiduciary, or investment advice.