by Mable Buchanan
Jamie Mladenoff, of Edward Jones Investments, and Jake Lawrence, of Riggle & Associates, have a unique job – they are invested not only in finances, but also in the clients trying to manage those finances.
As financial advisors in Hanover, they share all of their clients’ personal ups and downs, offering professional expertise during major life milestones. From finding a first job to marriage, from the birth of a child to financing college, and from retirement to estate planning, the spectrum of advice they offer is broad.
Ideally, all financial advisors are invested in their clients’ wellbeing as well as their finances, especially as finances become increasingly important, both men confirm.
By focusing on clients’ finances as well as their wellbeing, advisors are better poised to “help families and individuals plan for expected life events and unexpected life events,” explains Mladenoff.
“It’s no different than trusting a mechanic to fix your brakes, or trusting a doctor with your health,” explains Lawrence, “trusting a financial advisor or financial professional with your assets.”
He adds that advisors should be familiar with changing environments, options, laws, and regulations that outsiders to the financial industry are less likely to keep up on because they’re focused on their own family and career.
Only 40 percent of adults in the United States have a financial advisor from whom they seek guidance, according to a 2015 study by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. According to a similar study by Northwestern Mutual, less than half of millennials between 18 and 34 have had sought professional financial guidance.
When finances can be a gamble, and financial guidance can provide insight on how to best employ the hand you are dealt, what is preventing these families and individuals from gaining the help of professionals like Lawrence or Mladenoff, or any one of the estimated 17 financial advising firms in the Hanover area?
Partially, it’s the difficulty of finding a financial advisor, and knowing which is the right fit, advisors note. It’s also partially that common myths prevent many who could benefit from this kind of guidance from seeking it.
To alleviate some of the uncertainty, and help more families find the right advisor to guide them through their finances and personal life events, Lawrence and Mladenoff answer some key questions about the role of a financial advisor, and dispel some common misconceptions along the way.
What specific services can a financial advisor offer? A financial advisor can provide guidance not only for predictable life events like retirement, but also for events that can catch someone off guard, like sudden medical expenses, Mladenoff explains. Frequently, individuals associate a financial advisor with long-term retirement planning, and neglect to prepare themselves for unexpected events.
Services, Lawrence adds, can vary from income planning, investment research and analysis, and life insurance and social security analysis, to long term care, education, estate planning, and benefit plans. Lawrence says that “planning for retirement is probably one of the most important things you will ever plan for,” and believes that uncertainty is all the more reason to consult with an advisor—because “it’s not something you’re typically coming across on a daily basis,” and financial advising can help you be prepared for the unexpected.
When are good times to consult with a financial advisor? “The most important are life changes,” says Lawrence. “Birth, death, retirement, marriage, or divorces are some of the key events.” But he also explains that every time you leave an employer is a good time to be seeking advice for rolling over a 401k or other retirement plan. The process of saving for retirement begins with employment—it’s important to have steps already in place so that when events occur, you are able to take them in stride.
Mladenoff agrees that the path to planning for retirement begins with landing your first job. From the beginning, young employees have to answer long-term questions like how much to contribute to a 401k, how to juggle savings and student loans, and how to save for important goals, like homeownership, education, and, eventually, retirement. Furthermore, personal life milestones, he explains, have financial implications from your first job forward.
Is this a relevant thing for young people to be thinking about as well? Both Mladenoff and Lawrence firmly agree. Mladenoff suggests that millennials, who have the luxury of time on their side, should make it a priority, even at the beginning of their careers. He argues that saving even only a small amount each month is far better than nothing, and adds that, “…after a year or so they might be surprised at how much they actually put away.”
“It starts as early as we become an employee anywhere,” says Lawrence. “Life insurance, the birth of a child, college planning, all those types of things happen to young parents or young individuals. They should at that point in time start thinking about the process [of planning for financial needs] and start making the steps to handle those needs.”
What are the most common mistakes people make when they try financial planning on their own? Mladenoff’s list of the top seven mistakes included:
- Not starting to save early enough. “We have a saying,” Mladenoff explains, “It’s about ‘time in the market, not timing the market.’”
- Not saving enough for emergency expenses.
- Taking on too much credit card debt.
- Not saving for children’s education.
- Buying a bigger house than you can afford with your income and budget habits.
- Unrealistic expectations.
- Letting emotion dictate financial moves, for example being swayed by bad news when investing, or letting fear paralyze you from making financial decisions.
Lawrence suggested that individuals struggle with not taking tax implications, investment risks, or changing costs and needs, into consideration. “There is always a less expensive way to do anything,” he suggests, and adds that many individuals are hesitant to seek guidance because they are worried about cost, but “while they think, ‘this is expensive,’ that’s not the case. It’s always good to have someone by your side to help you through those life changes.”
Do I need to have lots of money? “Absolutely not,” assures Lawrence. “We all start somewhere, right? The goal of retirement planning is figuring out what your goal is, figuring out a plan that can help you get there, and stress testing the plan… Life would be easier for all of us if we were well-off or independently wealthy, but that’s not the case.” He adds that we, “like anyone else, work hard for our money, and without putting a plan in place we’re more likely to make bad decisions that can cost us lots of money or years to catch up. Start with a basic employer plan, and appropriate contributions to reach your goal. That’s how most clients start – simple – and grow to something they can be proud of and have worked hard for.”
Mladenoff agrees: “Having a plan and remaining disciplined to the plan are more important,” he says. Goals, risk tolerances, and assets, are all integral pieces of putting the puzzle of effective financial planning together, while massive wealth is not. “That’s probably a big misconception,” he suggests.
What constitutes a sound financial plan? Mladenoff explains that a sound financial plan is essentially a process and a place. “It’s where you are,” he says, “where you want to be, the questions ‘can you get there,’ ‘how do you get there,’ and ‘can you stay on track,’ and then adding proper diversification for your life stage.”
Lawrence argues that a sound financial plan is defined by its ability to withstand the obstacles that life throws your way, as well as imperfections and corrections in the market. “A good plan looks at your needs, utilizes your risk tolerances, and matches them up. It’s a plan you believe in with an advisor you can trust.”
How do I find a financial planner, and how do I know which financial planner is right for me? Lawrence suggests talking with friends and family. He also suggests finra.org, the web site of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, to find local brokers. Most of his clients, he says, have been referred through a client or acquaintance. “You know you’ve found the right one when you’ve found someone you feel comfortable with and can trust. It’s a relationship that doesn’t happen overnight, but is earned over time… when they have your best interest at heart and are discussing things through bad times and good times.”
Mladenoff also highlights the importance of speaking with friends, relatives, and coworkers, and finding out who they use, then interviewing those advisors and questioning them as to their qualifications, what type of experience they have, their investment philosophy, how they intend to communicate, what services they provide, and how they are paid.
“Association with a financial advisor is one of the most important business relationships one will ever have,” he says, “so make sure it’s a good one right from the start.”
Hanover’s Financial Consultants
Edward Jones Financial Advisor
- Jamie L Mladenoff* 300 Frederick Street, Suite 8, 717-630-8264
- Perry J Musselman 1147 Eichelberger Street, 717-633-1776
- Cindy Fremont* 1446 Baltimore Street, 717-632-3198
- Janelle M Coolbaugh 430 Lincoln Way E, 717-624-3110
- Matt Muir 430 N. Main Street, Suite 1, 717-225-7207
- Brandon J Smith* 1144 Elm Avenue, 717-797-4151
Riggle & Associates* 100 Filbert Street, 717-630-1001
ReThink Retirement Group 1225 Carlisle Street #1, 717-632-4233
Lincoln Investment Planning* 4 Center Square, 630-620-6100
Benchmark Investments & Insurance 1201 W. Elm Avenue #3, 717-630-8635
Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Consultant 116 Broadway, 717-637-3817
Hanover Capital Management, Inc.* 55 Wetzel Drive #3, 717-637-1333
Harry R Holm Financial Plan 1 W. Chestnut Street, 717-633-6844
Parente Beard Wealth Management Financial Consultant* 211 Carlisle Street, 717-632-2725
Hattie Evans Financial Consultant 1201 W. Elm Avenue #3, 717-630-8635
Huston Fox Financial Advisory Services* 215 Baltimore Street, 717-633-6844
Pilot Capital Management, Inc.* 195 Stock Street #124, 717-633-9541
* Asterisks indicate Chamber of Commerce Members