I believe that there are those in our industry who use hope as a method to guard against the volatility of 2008 and 2009 happening again. Then there are others that have changed their business model dramatically, determined that the people they work with will not endure that pain ever again. What it comes down to, in my opinion, is having a risk management strategy that can be explained easily. There can be no guarantees in our business, but having a clear rules-based strategy in place is a lot better than having no strategy.

I would prompt you to ask your financial advisor to explain their strategy to manage risk during a volatile period; if they can’t answer that question, ask me. Your important financial affairs should only be left to someone with not only proven expertise, but also the ability to apply it effectively in pursuit of your goals and objectives, and not hamstringed by their company’s bottom line.

I became a financial advisor in 1991 and aspired to work for the company I believed was the leader in our field. A change in leadership, philosophy and direction compelled me, after 10 years, to move from Merrill Lynch to Smith Barney. Watching these large companies implode during the financial crisis and seeing Citigroup find themselves in a position where they were forced to sell Smith Barney to Morgan Stanley, I was reminded that large Wall Street companies did not always get things right.  

At Raymond James, in their mission statement, Raymond James states that when the company was established they put the client first: We try always to do what is in the best interests of clients and the working relationship they have with their financial advisor. This is apparent in so many ways that could easily be listed, starting with staffing and finishing with communication or their stance on the “fiduciary standard”1. The most important thing I do here that I could not easily do at other companies is to reach out to my clients on a regular basis and deliver what I hope would be viewed as appropriate and timely data that could impact attitudes about investing and financial portfolios.

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If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.

1The fiduciary standard of care under the Investment Act of 1940, and as amended, requires that a financial adviser act solely in the client’s best interest when offering personalized financial advice.