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What are some of the advantages of using an independent firm like BLRS?
The greatest advantage we have over many financial planners, stockbrokers and insurance agents is our independence. When you work for one of the large brokerage firms or insurance companies, you’re highly encouraged to sell their high-priced, proprietary products. Unfortunately, this isn’t in the best interest of the client. At BLRS, we are first and foremost a fee-only advisory firm. We have no proprietary products or sales quotas. We are advice-based and service-minded. If clients choose to implement solutions with BLRS, we can literally pick and choose investment and insurance vehicles from many companies with virtually no restrictions, so we can do what’s right for our clients.
What sets you and BLRS apart from other planning firms?
We always tell people that we’re large enough to serve them, yet small enough to know them. Consequently, at our firm, impeccable client service is by far the highest priority. We understand that the clients we serve have plenty of choices of where to do business, but they choose to do business with BLRS because of our attention to detail and the exceptional service we provide. We don’t have an army of secretaries screening the phones. When you call, you can expect and will receive prompt, courteous service. If we happen to miss your call, know that all calls and emails are returned within minutes and hours, not days and weeks. This assures our clients prompt turnaround, efficient service, and the highest quality of advice. We also have made a promise to our clients to limit the amount of new clients we accept. At present we have 60 private clients and will only accept 15 more. Once these 15 additional openings are filled, we will not accept any further clients. We also show up on time. We do what we say. We say please and thank you. It’s these common courtesies that consistently set us apart because they are lacking in most companies today.
What are your firm’s values and business philosophy?
First, we believe that any sound retirement strategy and investment plan must be tailored to and aligned with the specific needs of each client. Therefore, we spend a tremendous amount of time listening in order to fully understand our clients’ objectives. Then and only then, can we help them match their finances with their visions and goals. Second, we believe any wealth preservation or wealth building strategy must encompass asset allocation and diversification. The plan should provide solutions and peace of mind, and this is what we strive to help our clients achieve. Finally, we establish business relationships that are based on the highest levels of trust, integrity and service. When people work with BLRS, they can be assured we know that our success is specifically tied to their success. Seeing our clients succeed is very important to us, and we take this responsibility seriously.
Does BLRS maintain a code of ethics?
Yes. BLRS is committed to the highest ethical and professional standards. We are required to adhere to the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility as outlined by the CFP Board Of Standards, Inc.
What do those letters behind Bill’s name mean? How do you feel these designations benefit your clients?
Bill holds the CFP® designation which stands for Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner. This designation indicates that Bill has passed a series of rigorous examinations on the fundamentals of financial planning, insurance and risk management, income tax planning, investment planning, retirement planning and employee benefits, and estate planning. Bill also passed a 2-day, 10-hour comprehensive final examination that encompassed all of these areas back in 1995. In the financial planning industry, Bill’s designation demonstrates a level of knowledge, a degree of integrity, that he is a fiduciary and he adheres to a strict code of ethics. The designation also indicates that Bill maintains a program of continuing education so his clients are updated on the latest changes and opportunities available in the marketplace. What we find is the more discerning and knowledgeable a client is, the more they recognize and value the importance of education, experience and credentials in the professionals that advise them.
How can your firm help people achieve peace of mind?
In a word, education. In our opinion, the world is and has always been in an uncertain state. The difference is now it’s on the news 24/7. We know the future can’t be predicted with any consistency and neither can stock prices, so our job is to educate clients about the risks we can identify and then take appropriate actions. We find that when you take the time to educate people they make smarter decisions. BLRS believes that when a client knows, and they know they know, confidence replaces fear.
How do emotions affect investing?
Most of us encounter strong emotions when dealing with money issues. This is understandable. Not only can money have a lot to do with our feelings of success, safety, and self worth, but it also provides a huge, tangible impact on our lives and the freedoms it provides. The trouble comes when emotions drive investment behavior. Emotions often spark reactive, short-term decisions that end up being counterproductive to your long-term financial security. In the 90’s, it was all about greed. Now, it’s all about fear. The world’s instability played out in the media daily makes people really concerned about their financial future. The events that we’ve seen such as 9/11, the military campaigns that followed, national security issues, and the “great recession of 2008/2009″ – all can encourage people to make emotional decisions. In good times, and in challenging times like these, people need a competent and caring advisor who can serve as a “buffer” between their emotions and investment behavior.
How important is asset allocation?
When you realize that whether or not you achieve your financial goals will depend, in large part, on how well you position your assets, you’d have to say it’s one of the most important decisions an investor can make. According to Ibbotson & Associates, asset allocation accounts for nearly 92% of the overall portfolio performance, with stock selection accounting for only 4% and market timing accounting for less than 2%. All other factors account for less than 2%. This clearly shows that how you allocate assets may actually be more important than the individual investments you choose. The ultimate goal, of course, is a secure retirement. How soon you retire, how long the money will last, and in what style you retire can be greatly affected by your decision and our guidance on asset allocation. We spend a lot of time in this area with our clients and systematically rebalance their portfolios back to their target allocation because this reinforces the buy low, sell high discipline.
Where will my assets be held?
When you become an investment management client, we normally manage those client assets at our chosen custodian, SEI Private Trust Company. SEI is based out of Oaks, PA near Philadelphia.
Who is SEI?
SEI Investments (NASDAQ: SEIC) is a leading global provider of asset management and investment technology solutions. The company’s innovative solutions help corporations, financial institutions, financial advisors, and affluent families create and manage wealth.
As of the period ending December 31, 2014, through its subsidiaries and partnerships in which the company has a significant interest, SEI administers $625 billion in mutual fund and pooled assets, manages $253 billion in assets, and operates 22 offices in 12 countries.
How often will BLRS review my fee-based investment management accounts?
We have thorough processes in place to review accounts weekly, monthly and quarterly. When circumstances warrant however, such as market irregularities or a specific need surfaces, we may review your account(s) more frequently and contact you immediately. All accounts are managed on a non-discretionary basis, therefore BLRS cannot make modifications until we mutually agree on a new course of action.
How often will you meet with me?
We give you the option to meet with us as often as you’d like. Generally, clients like to get together to discuss their portfolio(s) and progress toward their goals on an annual basis. Additionally, we encourage you to contact us before or when you go through a major life event, such as a retirement, a new job, a baby, a marriage, a divorce, loss of a spouse, before making major purchases or starting your own business.
How often will you communicate with me?
We stay in touch with you a few times per month with a complimentary subscription to Retirement Intelligence, our email based newsletter, and our Weekly Market Update. We also publish a monthly hard-copy newsletter for all private clients and usually speak to each client 2-4 times per year depending on the complexity of their situation and their individual preferences. Some want more frequent contact and some desire less. It’s totally flexible and up to you.
Am I required to stay with BLRS for any particular length of time?
No. While we would like you to stay with our service forever there is no obligation on your part to do so. We fully disclose in our contracts that clients can terminate with us at any time upon receipt of written notice.
What do you provide me at year-end to prepare my taxes?
SEI provides all tax reporting data via a comprehensive Form 1099 at year-end. By law, this must be mailed each year no later than January 31st.
Are your fees tax-deductible?
Yes. Section 212 of the Internal Revenue Code permits an itemized deduction for tax, financial and/or investment advice in the miscellaneous section of your Schedule A. It is subject to a 2% floor of the adjusted gross income of your personal tax return. Please consult with your tax advisor for specific information and to determine your eligibility.
Tell me about the “swan” in your firm logo?
The word “swan” is an acronym for “sleep well at night”. As such, the BLRS swan logo embodies the key qualities of our firm, as well as the experience we want our clients to have when working with us. Peaceful, loyal and tranquil, the swan always appears to be in a state of ease and contentment. And as a symbol of truthfulness, fidelity and transformation, it captures the essence of what individuals can experience when they know their wealth is aligned with their life and their financial well-being is in good hands.
How can I get started?
The first step is an initial inquiry from you. Call us at 518-855-4065 or email us. We offer a no-cost, no-obligation initial meeting. Appointments are scheduled based on availability during normal office hours. We look forward to speaking with you!
How can I partner with BLRS to help my clients?
BLRS is always seeking like-minded professionals who share our commitment to delivering the most effective and comprehensive solutions possible to their clients. Whether you are a financial advisor looking to merge or sell your practice, or a practitioner in an area such as tax, legal, insurance or investments seeking a strategic partner to complement your core competencies, we can help. Being a strategic partner means having a reliable and trusted resource to complement the valued services you provide to your clients. Our current network includes investment analysts, estate attorneys, accountants (CPAs), portfolio managers, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, geriatric care managers, long term care and insurance specialists. To explore strategic partnership opportunities with BLRS, call 518-855-4065 or email us.