Our very own Devin Wolf was interviewed by M.O. (Modus Operandi), a website that focuses on small businesses and entrepreneurs. In addition to some personal history, the interview focuses on how small business owners should approach their financial planning and their business retirement needs.
MO: Why are you so passionate about helping small business owners navigate the complex world of wealth management?
Devin: The opportunities for business owners to reap rewards through custom financial solutions are unrivaled. I love the challenge of helping them succeed. By delving deeply into the unique needs of their business, I can tailor my advice to their situation. With a little outside of the box thinking strategies can be developed to capitalize on the unique situations. Business owners typically follow a unique life cycle that starts in “survival mode” where all their resources are dedicated to building the business. Once the business becomes more established, it is critical they build a plan that identifies how to efficiently accomplish both business and personal financial goals. Business owners are used to relying on themselves for generating wealth, so I coach them on how financial markets are different and how to get the most bang for their buck by focusing on items that are within our control.
MO: Can you expand how you and your team recently made the transition to become a completely independent RIA and fee-only advisers and what influenced this decision?
Devin: We believe every decision we make as a business needs to be driven by what is best for our clients. We have always operated with a client driven focus, so we decided to formalize the commitment by becoming an independent RIA and fee-only advisors. This gives our clients the comfort that we are operating under the fiduciary standard and don’t accept commissions. I often meet with clients that only tell their current advisor about a portion of their finances out of fear they will be sold a commissionable product. The knowledge that I am required to do what is in their best interest (fiduciary standard) and that they are paying me only for advice, not products, enables us to build the trust required for developing a comprehensive financial plan. Having the freedom to provide clients with completely objective financial advice that always keeps their best interest in mind is one of the most valuable services we can offer.
MO: How did you go from being an engineer to a financial planner? What did your turning point look like?
Devin: I have always been a finance nut. I began investing when I was 10 years old and since then have read hundreds of finance books and spent countless hours studying planning and investing as my hobby. When I initially examined the financial industry, the entry point looked a lot more like being a salesman, so I decided to pursue engineering (another interest of mine.) At my engineering firm I became a fiduciary of the 401(k) plan which included making decisions for the plan and educating participants. I had a number of people bouncing financial questions off me, and the turning point came when one of my colleagues suggested I moonlight as a financial planner. The comment made me realize if people are willing to be sold products with little to no planning advice, building a practice based on holistic planning and objective advice should be a no-brainer.
MO: What are your top tips or recommendations when it comes to choosing a 401(k) plan? What are the most common issues you see people having and how can they be avoided?
Devin: The most important element is properly designing the plan to accomplish your goals. Rather than implementing a cookie cutter plan, there can be huge tax saving potential to the company and/or owners by tying the plan to your goals. Another common mistake for small businesses is not understanding the liability associated with 401(k) plans. As the business owner you are typically a fiduciary of the plan, which means you have personal liability for the plan. For more information on how to avoid these problems go to the 401(k) section of my websitehttp://www.financialplaninc.com/401k
MO: What advice would you give an investor looking for innovative investments with high returns while limiting potential risk?
Devin: I would advise anyone who finds an investment that looks like it will have high returns and limited risk to be very skeptical. If something looks too good to be true, it typically is. Entrepreneurs can often generate high returns by investing in themselves. By being experts in their field, they should also have a better understanding of the risks involved. However, they need to understand that by having their human capital (earning potential) and investments associated with one company, they are exposing themselves to greater and risk and need to develop a plan that accounts for these risks. At the end of the day you will be much better served by building a comprehensive financial plan designed to meet your goals, rather than trying to pick the next great or innovative investment.
MO: Can you share with our readers why you’re so excited about your new 401(k) branch of business?
Devin: What excites me most about our 401(k) branch is the fact that our entire process is designed to benefit the client-company and its employees rather than the big financial institutions. Typically advisors only work with one 401(k) platform, so companies are stuck with the platform their advisor uses or vice versa. We help the company pick the third party vendors that are right for them. We also will take liability for the investment management which is a huge problem in the industry. Most advisors won’t sign on as an ERISA 3(38) fiduciary to the plan, opting instead to simply offer investment choices and leave it up to the company to pick their investments and carry the liability associated with managing those investments. When I hire someone to do a job I expect them to stand behind their work, so why should hiring an advisor to your 401(k) plan be any different?
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