Part II (Disclosure statement, as required by law)
Letter of Engagement
See my blog: ETF TALK with Russell
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
- 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
- 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 Exchange-Traded Funds 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
Russell, whats your education?
I hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in international
management and finance with honors from the 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 economics and finance at the Oxford Centre for Management Studies (now called the Saïd Business School), part 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 am a NAPFA-certified
What exactly can you do for
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
So youre a so-called fee-only
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 Searsand 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. Portfolio management starts at $5,000 a year, although
I do occasionally give discounts for investors with simple accounts and
limited resources. For hourly consultingeither in person or by phoneI
charge $250 an hour, although I do sometimes give price breaks to those
of limited means.
How long have you been practicing
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.