Helping clients reduce the risk of their financial future
Helping clients reduce the risk of their financial future
I was first introduced to financial services when I was a young boy. We would visit my grandfather in New York, and he would get up early in the morning. I would follow him as he went out to buy The Wall Street Journal, sit at his desk, and carefully track all his security holdings. Even though I didn’t fully understand it at the time, it intrigued me as he tried to explain what he was doing. My grandfather was a successful businessman who owned a restaurant and had real estate properties. That aura of success added to my feeling that whatever he was doing in the stock market was probably important and smart.
I took some economics and business courses in high school and found myself gravitating toward the idea that the financial industry would be a good industry for a career—though I also had a great love of biology. Money in our family was tight with eight children, and I worked to pay for taking college courses. I attended several schools in Connecticut, based on their course offerings and my work schedule, and studied economics, business law, and public speaking.
I was determined to find a position in financial services and interviewed with First Investors in East Hartford, Connecticut. I was happy to get a foot in the door, become licensed, and receive initial training in the industry. My next position was with North American Investment Corp., which I thought could offer a diverse experience and exposure to different products and services. This represented my first experience with true financial planning, and I loved that. I would put on financial-planning seminars, which soon started to draw a good-sized audience and facilitated introductions to prospective clients. In addition to having financial-planning and investment clients, I was involved with our firm’s work with IPOs, private placements, and venture capital.
I worked with several other firms and broker-dealers, but I have always essentially been an independent representative and financial advisor. I value that freedom and the ability to deliver objective advice to clients. I founded FinestPlan in 2002 with another advisor who was my partner for a decade. Our vision was to serve both business and individual clients. I am proud of having created a successful advisory firm here in southeast Florida.
Given the demographics of southeast Florida, my focus is definitely on retirees and soon-to-be retirees. While I will develop full financial plans for many clients, the emphasis for most clients is on what they feel is their most important challenge: “How do I make my nest egg last for my lifetime?”
The bulk of the work I do is on retirement-income planning, developing various scenarios that start with a thorough discovery process regarding clients’ realistic income needs, risk profile, and their aspirational goals. I look at potential recurring income streams such as Social Security and pensions, and their full financial inventory: assets, liabilities, financial obligations related to their family situation, health-care coverage, real estate, insurance policies, and so forth. I also want to get a sense of their goals for legacy or charitable-giving planning, which can vary widely by client.
My overall goal is to help clients plan for ways to grow and preserve their retirement assets, while managing various risks that can impact their financial future. I want to provide objective and independent financial planning, a range of strategic options, and highly professional guidance. Our firm has many financial tools and sophisticated strategies available across the areas of life insurance, annuities, managed investment portfolios, and other related products and services. We are pleased to work with clients’ outside advisors, such as a tax accountant or estate lawyer, where appropriate.
I place a high priority on client education and helping people understand how to be good stewards of their money and to understand risk factors. It just makes sense for people to make financial decisions that mirror their personal values, needs, and goals, and to do everything possible to preserve the money they have worked so hard to earn. To the extent possible, I urge clients to take that message to their children.
I tell people I come from a family of eight children. My parents were good providers for our family. We did not miss a meal, and we took a modest vacation every year. But we were never ahead of the game financially. I understand the importance of setting money aside. I tell clients, “All of us want to take care of our kids and our grandchildren after we are gone. That can be difficult for a majority of people. We need to show our children, by example, how to properly invest, be aware of many types of risk, and understand the difference between wants and needs—and plan accordingly.”
Everyone is different, so I take a customized approach for all clients. I think my greatest ability is listening to clients’ needs and helping translate them into tangible financial objectives and actionable strategies. I use sophisticated software as we work together to develop the retirement-income and investment plan.
But while each client is different, there are some overall principles I subscribe to. First, I am adamantly opposed to clients having significant debt, especially high-interest debt, as they plan for retirement. We work on a plan to eliminate that as quickly and efficiently as possible. Second, I am very cautious when it comes to the bond market, which has traditionally been a haven for retirees. Even though interest rates have been cut, they will inevitably get back to something close to the historical norm. That will be problematic for most bond investors, and the area of fixed income needs very careful planning.
Third, many of my clients have a conservative view on market risk. Annuities can play an important role in a retirement-income plan. It is my job to help demystify what can be a confusing area and to closely evaluate the type of annuity that makes the most sense for each specific situation. Fourth, I think equities investments offer long-term growth and the ability to outpace inflation. I am especially interested in examining investments in the new technology area, with those companies changing the way the world works. That has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for clients and fit with their objectives, risk profile, and time horizon. The risk/reward profile can be quite different from more conservative equity investments.
Lastly, I am a believer in active investment management and professional money management. Passive, index-based investments have been crushed twice in this century. My objective is to work with highly qualified professional investment managers who focus on risk management while also striving for performance. They may not always perform on par with indexes on a year-to-year basis, but, in my experience, they can effectively work toward mitigating risk during down market periods. I am constantly evaluating managers’ performance. I’m not critical of 1- or 2-year performance as long as a manager is staying true to their philosophy and executing responsibly. However, when you have a history of 10 or 12 years of underperformance, they are certainly not doing something right. It is important in the due diligence process to personally meet with the investment management firm and thoroughly understand their philosophy and strategic approach, research capabilities, and historical track record.
My expectation is that an actively managed investment portfolio should perform favorably through full market cycles compared to indexing and, importantly, provide a smoother investing experience for clients when it comes to volatility. A big part of the challenge of working with clients is helping them manage expectations and control their emotional response to fluctuations in the market. I believe active investment management can be beneficial in that regard. I joke with clients that we live in what I call a “microwave society.” We expect fast results in today’s world. But that should not be the case with their investing, which requires a long-term view, a disciplined approach, and a faithful adherence to their goals and objectives.
Communicating the benefits of a comprehensive financial plan
Bill Romeo is the founder and principal advisor at FinestPlan LLC, located in Coconut Creek, Florida. Mr. Romeo developed extensive marketing communications materials when the firm was founded in 2002. These focused on his mission, services offered, and the benefits of engaging his firm. The marketing program includes a section called “What are the benefits of a comprehensive financial plan for retirees?” The answers included the following:
- Assessment of current financial inventory and tax exposure analysis.
- Planning for education needs.
- Mapping out a retirement-income plan.
- Efficient estate planning.
- Survivor income and lifestyle protection.
- Disability and long-term care coverage.
- Navigating Social Security and Medicare.
- Goals-based investment planning.
- Coordination with other trusted advisors.
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William (Bill) Romeo is the founder and principal financial advisor at FinestPlan LLC, located in Coconut Creek, Florida. He says, “FinestPlan was created to help people work toward their goals and create a lasting legacy based on their personal wishes.”
Mr. Romeo was raised in the Hartford, Connecticut, area as one of eight children. His father was a U.S. Air Force veteran and spent his post-military career in the aeronautical industry. His mother worked part-time jobs while “raising eight kids and providing day care for several others.” Mr. Romeo was a talented football player in high school and active in scouting. He took business law, economics, and public speaking courses at Connecticut-area colleges while working to pay for his educational expenses.
Mr. Romeo has over three decades in the financial-services industry, with experience in the insurance area, as a registered representative, and as a financial planner and wealth advisor. He spent six years with North American Investment Corp., providing financial guidance to clients; presenting financial-planning seminars; and working in IPOs, private placements, and venture capital. He served the needs of business owners and individuals in Connecticut and Florida for many years before founding FinestPlan in 2002.
Mr. Romeo and his wife were active foster parents for 12 years, caring for many children. They adopted three children and are now “proud to have three wonderful grandchildren.” Mr. Romeo and his wife are active in their church and enjoy travel and spending time with their extended family. He has been a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast.
Disclosure: Securities offered through Securities America lnc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through BEAM Asset Management LLC, an SEC registered investment advisory firm. FinestPlan LLC and BEAM Asset Management LLC are separate entities from Securities America Inc. Securities America and its representatives do not provide legal advice; therefore, it is important to coordinate with your legal advisor.
Photography by Jennifer Jones