A Week of Practical Advice
By Larry Light, Editor-in-Chief
Oct. 1, 2014
Listening to the panels at National Financial Advisor Week was like an intensive course in personal finance. How do you fund college, prepare for retirement, select mutual funds and discuss money with your spouse? What can advisors do for you and how do they work?
These and other money issues got a thorough airing during the weeklong event, held in mid-September in New York’s Times Square. Sponsored by our company, AIQ Inc., this symposium of smart advisors delivered their expertise to hundreds of regular folks in search of good guidance. It also included booths where advisors gave one-on-one counseling sessions to people, gratis.
Finances are not abstractions. They underlie most of what we do in this life. How we provide our families – and ourselves – with food, shelter, security and education is a function of money. So the heartwarming centerpiece of the week was awarding a free college education to a young person. We ran a sweepstakes with this as the prize. It attracted thousands of entries.
The winner was Jennifer Rufener, who just started as a freshman at Kent State in Ohio. Jennifer, who comes from Dover, Ohio, had intended to pay for her first year using savings her parents had gathered for college. Then she’d turn to student loans. Now, however, that’s not a worry. Since she wants to become an architect, a field that requires graduate study, paying for a professional school is less daunting because she won’t be burdened by undergrad loans.
There’s a telling phrase that advisors use: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” The theme of the week was to illuminate the seemingly arcane but enormously practical corners of finance. One panel, on the mistakes that investors make, underscored the need for a good advisor, someone to tell you you’re heading in the wrong direction and to propose what a wiser one is.
For instance, consider the challenge confronting Blair duQuesnay, investment director of Thirty North Investments, which has offices in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. She had a new client who told her he had $1 million in gold bars. That is a lot of money to tie up in a single commodity, especially one that tends to soar then crash – and is illiquid. DuQuesnay had to convince this investor that he had not bought the safety he sought.
The advisor panelists did not dwell on generalizations. They had very concrete suggestions. In a panel on how young people can avoid falling into debt, Hilary Hendershott of Silicon Valley-based Hilary Hendershott Financial gave tips on how to shun the siren song of credit cards. “Put your card in the refrigerator” to remind yourself how it can chill your life, she said. Less whimsically, she outlined how to set up a monthly budget.
Finding the right advisor for you was a key issue that panelists explored throughout the week. A good first stop is AdviceIQ.com, which vets all the advisors in our network to ensure they have no regulatory infractions. That includes checking them out with the two national regulatory bodies, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission, but also with every state-level advisor-oversight agency.
Checking out advisors yourself is vital, said Tom Orecchio, principal and wealth manager of Modera Wealth Management in Westwood, N.J. “Don’t invest purely on trust, or on a friend’s experience without doing any due diligence first,” he told the audience.
National Financial Advisor Week was a noble effort. Even better, we are making it an annual event.