Russell Wild, MBA
In 1980, I graduated business school and went to work as a credit analyst for a large international bank. A smug kid in a pin-striped suit, I was certain that my analytical skills and my Texas Instruments calculator would earn me such a fortune in the stock market that I’d be able to retire rich in a year, maybe two. Well, I’ve since learned that the markets can be a wonderful source of income, but great wealth doesn’t generally come that fast and easy.
Here are some other things that I’ve learned in almost three decades as a successful investor:
- It is very, very hard to pick winning stocks, or to time the market. Most people who try (as I did in 1980) eventually crash and burn. This includes professionals as well as amateurs. Study after study show that buying the market (indexing) is the best investment strategy.
- Costs matter, and matter enormously. If you invest in, say, a mutual fund that charges you 1.5 percent a year, or if you pay a money manager that much, you are very unlikely to wind up ahead. If you pay a commission (load) of, say, 5 percent to get into a mutual fund, you are tossing money to the wind.
- Diversification is all-important. By investing in a broad array of “asset classes” that include growth stocks, value stocks, large and small company stocks, Asian stocks, European stocks, bonds, and commodities, you have your best shot at a fair return with minimal risk.
- Every investor is different, and successful investing means tailoring a portfolio to the individual’s needs. A 30-year-old with an income of $70,000 a year should not invest anything like a 70-year-old with an income of $30,000 a year.
I work closely with each client to develop the best individualized investment strategy. I use primarily exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to build a portfolio. What are ETFs? They are baskets of securities that offer investors instant diversification for a very small price. They track an index, sector, or country and trade like a stock. Plain and simple, they are a godsend to the individual, small investor. For more on ETFs, see Investing in ETFs For Dummies.
If you’re a smart person (and I strongly prefer working with smart people), you’ll probably want to know the answers to the following questions:
Russell, what’s your education?
I hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in international management and finance with honors from Arizona State’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, in Glendale, Arizona; a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in business/economics magna cum laude from American University in Washington, D.C.; and a graduate certificate in personal financial planning from the CFP Board-registered program at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. As part of my MBA program, I also completed a semester of study in macroeconomics and finance at the Saïd Business School of England’s Oxford University.
What kind of licenses or certifications do you have?
I hold a Series 65 Securities License, I am a Registered Investment Advisor licensed by the Pennsylvania Securities Commission (but I can work with people in other states), and I have been a member of NAPFA for nearly two decades.
What exactly can you do for me?
I can help you assess how you’re doing financially, whether you’re on track for retirement, whether your insurance needs are adequate, whether you need to do estate planning, and whether your portfolio is up to snuff. I will ask you all kinds of penetrating questions to help you plan for a financially and emotionally rewarding future.
How do you earn your money?
I do not sell anything except my time and expertise. Unlike most others in the finance industry, I do not charge commissions based on my recommendations, and I am not affiliated with anyone who does. Your interests go first. You get informed investment and other financial advice for a flat fee. No strings attached.
So you’re a so-called “fee-only” advisor?
Yes, absolutely. But I differ from most fee-only advisors in that I will work with you on an “as needed” basis. I also will not reject you as a client, as many other fee-onlies will do, if you aren’t yet quite affluent. I believe that everyone deserves a hand with their finances, and I will work with you to make my services affordable.
How much do you charge?
I can give you a pretty good estimate before we start a project. I doubt you’ll get a more reasonable estimate elsewhere. I’m cheaper because I don’t maintain a fancy office with oriental carpets and teak bookshelves. My bookshelves are from IKEA, and my carpet is from Sears—and that’s perfectly okay with me. The cost will vary depending on whether I actually manage your portfolios or whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer who simply needs a guiding hand. Specific fees can be found on my Form ADV, Part II.
How long have you been practicing money management?
I’ve been managing my own money since 1980. About a dozen years later, I had a number of family members and friends who were trusting me. I’ve been practicing as a licensed professional since January 2002.
Why should I hire you?
Because I believe passionately in helping people to earn fair returns with minimal risk at minimal cost. Because as a seasoned financial journalist who works for some of the largest and most respected publications in the nation, I have an edge over all other people in the business. If I have any questions whatsoever, I can call some of the world’s top names in finance to ask questions. And I have! Because I am adept at using some of the most sophisticated software available to track such things as historical returns, and standard deviation (a measure of historical volatility), to build a truly optimal portfolio. Because I have no assistants, you call my number, you get me on the phone, directly.
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