HOW IT STARTED

What did you want to be when you grew up? A firefighter, teacher, astronaut, or Doctor? I must admit I can't remember, but somewhere in high school my neighbor turned out to be a Financial Planner. I would perform odd jobs for him around his office such as mowing and cleaning. One day I asked him to show me what he did for his career “instead of paying me”. That was a pretty big step for a cash-strapped kid. But that was all it took… Fast forward a bit and I was graduating from college with a major in Finance and a concentration in Economics, with my heart set on becoming a Financial Planner.

This has been an amazing journey. 2015 marks the beginning of my third decade in the industry. Now I'm sounding old to myself. With more than two decades as a Financial Planner/Investment Manager I've now done this longer than anything in my life…and I still love it! It all started in 1995 after graduating with a degree in Finance. My first post was with American Express Financial Advisors and it wasn't long (1997) until I yearned to become independent. That's when I made the difficult and risky decision to leave the comfort of the big product-based name-brand company to become independent by affiliating with LPL Financial who was then, and still is today, the largest “Independent” Broker Dealer in the US 1. Later my colleagues and I went on to create The Comprehensive Wealth Management Group or CWMG. I'm still with the same group of partners today. I am truly fortunate to have such stability and the support of truly great partners.

We've taken it up a notch. Since then my partners and I took an additional step toward further independence by joining the Private Advisor Group (PAG) in 2012. PAG is an independent Registered Investment Advisor. Now, I'm sure it's just coincidence, but since then The Financial Times (The FT) has named PAG one of the top 300 independent Registered Investment Advisors in the United States in June of 2014 2.

I've been lucky enough to be recognized. You may know I continue to take every opportunity to increase my knowledge regarding anything financial and I currently hold four different professional designations which are the alphabet soup after my name. Beyond the required industry registrations including the Series 7, I also hold the designations of Certified Financial Planner®, Chartered Financial Consultant®, Accredited Estate Planner®, and Certified Fund Specialist®.  Moreover, 2014 was the third consecutive year I was recognized in the Philadelphia Magazine as one of the Philadelphia Area's “5 Star Wealth Managers” 3. I am also acknowledged in the “Guide to America's Top Financial Planners”.

A LOOK BACK

The only constant is change. From a certain perspective it seems like those two decades flew by. From another it seems like it all began a lifetime ago. When I was just getting started, the DOW Jones Industrial Average (DOW) was breaking the 5000 mark for the first time. That's right, the same DOW that recently hit 18,000. The Fed Funds Rate (interest rate) that has been at zero for half a decade or so now was around 5.5%. The Brent Crude Oil price was around $18 per barrel, topped out at about $140 per barrel in 2008, and is currently (2015) hovering around $50 per barrel in real rough terms 4. And our national debt which currently (2015) stands at over $18Trillion was a mere $4.973Trillion. There have also been a few notable events including the internet, Y2k, The Tech Bubble, The Real Estate Bubble, The Great Recession, Terrorist Attacks, Wars, Drones, 3 Presidents, 11 Congresses, Cyberterrorism, iPhone/iPad etc… It's been a wild ride. I think my biggest takeaway when I look back is that change is inevitable, but it doesn't necessarily need to stand in the way of progress, growth, or achieving goals. Understanding and then adapting to change is key. That's one of the key functions I've performed for my clients over the last twenty years as I see it.

A LOOK AHEAD?

It's a lot easier looking back than looking forward. As you may be very well aware my crystal ball has been in the shop for repairs for…about twenty years. It's difficult to predict the market...accurately at least. But that doesn't stop many from trying. If the last 20 years saw the DOW move from 5,000 to 18,000, does the next 20 years see the same percentage move putting the DOW at 64,000? Who knows…? I would hope it would do better and that the next 20 years won't have two 50%+ stock market declines embedded in them…but who knows. What I do know is that change shouldn't scare us and I'll continue do my best to adapt strategies to navigate the ever changing financial and global landscapes.

AT YOUR DISPOSAL

All of me for each of you. Financial Planning and Asset Management (now called Wealth Management) is all I've done for 20 years. You name the question, problem, situation, or dilemma and I've probably seen it. PLEASE take advantage of that. I'm at your disposal. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me. That's the whole theory behind the design of my “smaller scale” boutique style practice. I want to make sure I have time for those very important discussions.   Basically, think of me as your Financial Concierge. If you have a question about something relating to money I'd be glad to help. Some common areas where I can add experience and expertise are:

  • Investment Planning and Asset Allocation—Anything relating to investments, I'm on it…
  • Estate Planning—How to structure your account beneficiaries relative to your wishes as laid out in your will. If you are thinking about updating your will, please call me first.
  • Tax Planning—This is different from tax preparation which I don't do, but generally encompasses strategies to reduce taxation of investments, income in retirement, gifts, inheritance, etc…
  • Social Security—While I'm not an “expert” I do generally know my way around many of the little known Social Security strategies that are intended to maximize benefits.
  • Insurance—If you have a question about Life Insurance, Disability Insurance, or Long-Term Care Insurance don't hesitate to call me. Some of that alphabet soup after my name relates to insurance knowledge.
  • College Saving/Financing—How to appropriately fund UGMA/UTMA accounts, 529 account, regular accounts, and what are the tax consequences of each.
  • 401-k/Pension Options—There are a myriad of options regarding company retirement plans. I'm well versed with these plans and am here to help in any way with any questions.          

Those are just a few examples but please don't hesitate to reach out to me if you are facing some financial decisions.

THANK YOU!

It's humbling. As I think about the past 20 years while looking forward to the next, I can't help but to be thankful for all the clients who have entrusted me to assist them in basically helping to make their dreams come true. It is truly humbling. It's a rewarding feeling to know that some of my clients have actually been with me for just about all, if not all of those 20 years. I'm also excited about working with some of my newer clients and looking forward to writing about them when I write this letter in another 20 years.

You have helped grow my business. My practice could not have grown to be the successful one that it is without all of you at my side and working as a team. 100% of my new-client acquisition over the last decade or more has come from referrals from my existing clients. No calls, no ads, no marketing of any kind… For that I am truly thankful!

Less is more. My practice is currently comprised of about 100 clients/households. From my reading, the “average” practice of a 20 year practitioner is anywhere from double to triple that size. Does that make their practices more successful? Not in my book. At around 100 clients I feel like I can truly know each and every one of my clients which is vitally important when implementing a portfolio strategy, designing a retirement plan, or just generally providing a high quality of advice. My goal is to bring on no more than one new client every other year with an account minimum of $1,000,000. While I truly don't like setting minimums it is necessary to keep the growth of my practice at a manageable level and to preserve my quality of advice for all of my existing clients.

Can I help anyone else? Now, if you have a referral (friend or relative) that you would like me to speak to, please as always have them call or email. I will still do everything in my power to make sure their questions are answered and they get pointed in the right direction. That may be working with me or it might mean working with one of my partners but one way or another we will do right by them. There are a number of different options but please know that I'll be sure to do what I can to make sure they get the answers/services they need. I must say in recent years I've really enjoyed the opportunity to start to work with a number of my client's children. I view them as part of the family and the account minimums would not apply. It's truly a unique experience now having some “clients” who I remember as little ones, tagging along with their parents during review meetings and playing with toys and video games in the office. Very rewarding!

IN CLOSING

If you are reading this and you are one of my clients, thank you for letting me walk side-by-side with you. Thank you for making the last 20 years in the business both enjoyable and highly rewarding. Please know that I and my family truly appreciate your business and our continued partnership. With all that has changed over the past two decades I'm excited to see what is next! I'm looking forward to experiencing it with each and every one of my clients.

Most Sincerely,

David Berkeihiser, CFP®, ChFC®, AEP®, CFS®

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

Notes:

  1. As reported by Financial Planning magazine, June 1996-2016, based on total revenue
  2. The 2014 Financial Times Top 300 Registered Investment Advisors is an independent listing produced by the Financial Times (June, 2014). The FT 300 is based on data gathered from RIA firms, regulatory disclosures, and the FT's research. As identified by the FT, the listing reflected each practice's performance in six primary areas, including assets under management, asset growth, compliance record, years in existence, credentials and accessibility. Neither the RIA firms nor their employees pay a fee to The Financial Times in exchange for inclusion in the FT 300.
  3. Award based on 10 objective criteria associated with providing quality services to clients such as credentials, experience, and assets under management among other factors. Wealth managers do not pay a fee to be considered or placed on the final list of year 2012-2014 Five Star Wealth Managers.
  4. Source: http://www.macrotrends.net/1369/crude-oil-price-history-chart