BIRE’s Market
Joel Goodhart, Stuart Leibowitz and the associates at BIREfinancial take a truly comprehensive approach to helping individuals and business owners achieve their goals for the future
by Jennifer Updike

For investors, prospective retirees and business owners, the last seven years have been, if nothing else, an interesting ride. The economy has shown signs of encouragement following its prolonged slump, the markets have rebounded, and the government has instituted numerous changes to the tax code and health care systems.

Within such an ever-changing landscape, it can be difficult for individuals and businesses to navigate alone. Fortunately, the team at BIREfinancial can help individuals and business owners achieve their financial goals, both in the short term and over the long haul. 

“Your company’s name should represent what you do,” says Joel Goodhart, one of the founding partners of BIRE, which is composed of five separate divisions: BIREfinancial, which provides individual and corporate clients with comprehensive support in achieving  their financial goals; BIREbenefits, which helps employers meet present and future needs as it relates to employee benefits; BIREtirement, which helps clients navigate through income planning for individuals and assists corporate clients in establishing and maintaining  their company 401(k), 403(b), 457 and cash-balance plans; BIREmanagementofwealth, which directs individual clients in creating asset allocation, portfolio strategies and hands-on money management consistent with their risk tolerance and goals; and BIREpip (Partners In Planning), which identifies financial and legal issues that need to be addressed by professionals in allied disciplines. 

BIRE is an acronym standing for the services it offers—Business, Individual, Retirement and Estate—while its logo, a white swan, stands for the phrase “Sleep Well At Night.” The firm’s seasoned advisor team manages more than $300 million in assets for its individual and business clients, on top of managing the benefits program of 125 small and medium-sized companies. BIRE is comprised of the two partners, six registered representatives (Dennis Freedman, Edward Hogan, Robert Logan, Ken Miley, Brian Quigley and Marshall Shigon) and two insurance professionals (Michael Craig and Joshua Williamson), as well as 11 support staff. They like to say that “we are small enough that each client is important, but big enough to handle all of your insurance and investment needs.”

Goodhart and fellow founding partner Stuart Leibowitz, as well as Craig, Hogan, Logan, Miley, Quigley and Shigon, maintain the AIF (Accredited Investment Fiduciaries) designation. What this means is that advisors act under what is known as the fiduciary standard. This standard requires them to act in the best interest of their clients.

BIRE was formed in 2004. Both partners are Temple University alumni and continue to serve on boards and committees to support the university’s mission. Also, each of the partners is a member of the “Million Dollar Round Table,” which is an association of financial professionals based on sales, and has brought diverse life experiences and skills to the firm to help clients achieve their financial goals.

Goodhart has been in the financial services industry since 1976, when a mentor suggested he consider a career in insurance. Leibowitz, meanwhile, practiced law for 25 years and had his own firm in Norristown before deciding to follow his true passion. Both partners are in their 60s and understand the needs of clients who are either preparing to retire or have retired and need help transitioning from decades of saving to what Goodhart calls “de-cumulation.”

“We have clients who come in and have done all the right things,” says Goodhart, who is a nine-year member of “Top of the Table,” based on sales and has been recognized as a member of Ed Slott’s Master Elite IRA Advisor Group. “But they don’t know what to do now. … They were very proficient at accumulation, they signed up for their employer’s 401(k) and had money go out to that each month. Now that they have retired, though, they need that process to reverse to provide them with income strategy.

“We manage money in buckets of five years,” he continues. “Our philosophy is that the money you need in five years should be in cash; the money you need 20 years from now shouldn’t be in the bank, making no money; and the money you leave your kids is 50-year money. A lot of what we do goes back to Stephen Covey [author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”], meaning begin with the end in mind and ask the question, ‘What is your big picture?’ I asked that question to one couple who said, ‘We have three kids and grandkids. We don’t want to make them rich, but we want to help if we can.’ I told them I can make both happen, because knowing your goal lets me place your assets where they should be.”

With BIREbenefits, led by Craig, the firm focuses on designing and implementing cost-effective benefits plans for employers to aid in both retention and recruitment. This can be especially challenging when one considers the flux of recent years, which saw the emergence of the Affordable Care Act.

“Today’s business owner is looking toward someone to be an advisor regarding the financial aspects of what they can do for their employees,” Craig says. “It might appear that all employers have the same needs but they don’t, so we have to be creative. Every day we face challenges from the government and others to achieve that which helps our clients. Basically, we utilize our knowledge to help them navigate the maze of the Affordable Care Act, but it is so difficult to understand for most employers. I like that when I leave the office of an individual or business owner, they do understand.”

With BIREpip, which Leibowitz leads, the firm enlists the experience of a network of third-party professionals. These include attorneys, CPAs, property/casualty firms, mortgage companies, banks, and others, all with the goal of helping clients make the most informed decisions regarding their financial future.

“In that sense we are truly a comprehensive, one-stop shop,” Leibowitz says. “Although I have maintained my license to practice [law], I got tired of the adversarial nature of law and fell in love with advocacy. In the law, someone is always on the other side trying to take away one’s benefits, not pay a debt or accuse them of fault. I just want to help people. I want to use my experience to help them find the right strategies and solutions.

“We are a boutique firm, and we just keep growing,” he continues. “I think what sets us apart is our independence and the fact that we listen to the client with all the knowledge and experience we have behind us so we can then strategize and come up with solutions to let them make decisions with our guidance.”

Regardless of each client’s specific situation, BIRE’s goal remains to help each client reach their goals with the same life-changing realization, according to Goodhart: “You can’t change the past, but you can alter the future.”

4066 Butler Pike
Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462           

Registered Representatives through Parkland Securities, LLC.  Member  FINRA/SIPC 
BIREfinancial is independent of Parkland Securities, LLC.

Photograph by Jody Robinson