Setting up shop in Oak Partners, Inc.’s inviting office in downtown Valparaiso, Chris Mahlmann, Founder of the Life Sites, convened a round-table discussion with members of the Oak Partners team. The group covered a lot of ground in the space of an hour, uncovering interesting and even somewhat surprising insights into why financial planning matters – and for whom. Welcome to Part 1 of a two-part in-depth series on how solid financial advice can significantly improve your quality of life.
Financial Advising: Who Benefits? Long answer short—everyone and anyone. Whether a client is preparing for retirement, growing and managing wealth, or just dipping a toe into the realm of investing, enlisting the guidance of an advisor proves to be a huge benefit.
“Our job is to help clients plan appropriately, make the proper allocations and adjustments and changes when the markets are quiet, and help them stay the course when they get volatile,” said Marc Ruiz, partner and team leader.
According to Ruiz, millennials are no exception to the industry. In fact, the sooner the generation turns to a company like Oak Partners, the more they stand to benefit from its services.
“I actually think there’s more demand than capacity in this industry—there’s going to be a huge wave of demand for services on the retirement end, for Gen-Xers working hard and building wealth, and I’m of the mind that millennials are going to need our services earlier in life than previous generations,” he said. “People misjudge them, but my experience is that they’re actually a little more conservative than previous generations.”
“They’re better savers,” agreed Michael Barancyk, partner and wealth advisor.
“Exactly. They’re a habit-minded generation,” Ruiz said.
Mahlmann wondered about those who fancied themselves expert traders, with the accessibility of online trading readily available to novices.
“Do you find that the majority of investors have come to realize that they need more guidance than they realized, that it’s all more complicated than they assumed?” he asked.
Ruiz and Barancyk asserted that yes, investing is both hard and time-consuming, and most people can’t invest the adequate time and preparation for it to pay off.
“The successful businessman out there running his own practice doesn’t pay attention to investing because he’s running his own life,” Barancyk said. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you don’t invest the time in it, it’s not going to work.”
With certified planners like those at Oak Partners, the most inexperienced or capable savers will maximize on their goals.
A Whole-Life Approach A lot of strategies set Oak Partners apart from the competition, the foremost being integrity and relationships.
In accordance with their fiduciary oath, Oak Partners acts in the best interest of its clients all the time. The company does not push or sell any products, and provides objective advice. The only objective for advisors is to identify the suitable investment for their clients, thereby helping them pursue their dreams.
“Sometimes, clients approach this industry with their guard up because they think we’re trying to sell them something. Being a fiduciary* is important, because it lets them know right away that we’re legally obligated to act in your best interests,” said Stephen Kavois, partner and wealth advisor. “Once we break down that wall, it really helps to build that trust and relationship.”
Relationships begin with getting to know a clients’ priorities.
“During our meetings, the finances are in the background. We listen to a client’s life story because we are studying their investments,” said Mario Ruiz, partner and wealth advisor. “We’re not talking strictly finance, but rather about how it relates to their goals, lives, and retirement.”
Advisors ensure that clients are on the same playing field and understand how their investments work.
“We want to make them feel comfortable. We want to bring something that’s very complicated to a level where they can understand it as much as possible,” Mario Ruiz said.
Using graphs, charts, and other valuable visuals, the partners make their clients’ investments tangible. Their perceptive guidance wins the race.
“I try to help [clients] have a good understanding of their money habits so we can help them identify the strengths and weaknesses of behaviors related to investing, saving, and spending. That way we can give them the best chance to optimize the good habits, and control or mitigate the bad ones,” said Marc Ruiz.
Barancyk compared his role to that of a life coach.
“We try to assist people with managing their skills and habits, as Marc said, in a way that fits the plan we’ve built for them,” he said. “I don’t judge my clients. It’s all math. I tell them, it’s your money, you have every right to do what you want with it. We’re just trying to coach you in the best way.”
Relationships are so ingrained in the Oak Partners mission that they even develop between clients. Crystal DeHaven, director of client experience, explained how their non-educational events have become so well-attended, seating has turned into a happy crisis because all the clients want to sit by each other.
“I think we all agree that what makes Oak Partners different is the relationship,” DeHaven said. “Visiting a client’s house, seeing their children or grandchildren get married and have children of their own—that’s my favorite part of the job.”
And, yes, a handful of clients who met through Oak Partners have gotten married.
Where Do You Start? “So, someone schedules an appointment and comes to sit at the round table with you,” Mahlmann painted the picture. “What happens next? What do you want potential clients to know?”
“There’s no cost or obligation for you,” DeHaven said simply. “Come and set up an appointment, sit at the table. If it’s meant to work out, it will. We’re not meant to work with everyone, just from a personality standpoint. If it works or doesn’t work, there’s no obligation on your behalf and absolutely no expectation on ours.”
Ruiz seconded the motion.
“Working with Oak Partners is affordable, it’s holistic, and it’s fun,” he said. “Everyone who works with us enjoys what they’re getting—the relationship, the asset management, and the planning. We’ve mastered the fiduciary model, we understand the nuances and benefits of it. We’ve got a staff that’s built out for it, we’ve got a culture that helps promote it, and we’ve got a group that believes in it. When you have all those things working in concert, it becomes Oak Partners.”
Kavois offered additional sage input.
“Oak Partners has been around since the irrational exuberance of the late ‘90s, the tech bubble of 2000, the great recession of 2008, Brexit, Ebola, all the things that have scared the market—we’ve been working with our clients through all those things,” he said. "Today, experience matters more than ever.”
For more information on Oak Partners, Inc., visit their website.
*When Providing Advisory Services
Securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC.