Spokane Journal of Business

INW financial planners counsel clients to think long term

Advisers: Ignore headlines, maintain diversified strategy

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Maybe you’re retired, or maybe you’re close to retirement, and the stock market, though fluctuating wildly in recent weeks, remains at an all-time high.

Despite the appearance of volatility and uncertainty, Spokane-area financial planners say they’re continuing to advise their clients independent of recent financial news headlines.

“I think there is clearly a heightened concern on the part of those who are now using those parts of their investments as part of their fixed income,” says John Larson, president of the Spokane-based private investment company Richards, Merrill & Peterson Inc.

The company is located in the U.S. Bank Building at 422 W. Riverside. Richards, Merrill & Peterson oversees more than $800 million in client assets and expects to surpass the $1 billion mark in the next few years.

“They don’t want to go through (another) Great Recession of ’08, ’09,” Larson says. “With every tweet and daily reminder of the length of the current bull market without a major correction, for a lot of people, it feels like something’s got to give.”

Larson, one of four principals at Richards, Merrill & Peterson, says its financial advisers have been “coaching clients” to think long term.

“We’re spending time diverting them away from the events of Wall Street and Washington, D.C., and getting them refocused around their needs and anticipated needs,” he says.

Mark Metcalf, who serves as a financial adviser for Merriman Wealth Management LLC, in Spokane, says his company shares the same sentiment Larson expressed.

“Yes, we’ve seen a lot of volatility, but we’re cautioning not to get caught up in the day-to-day events,” Metcalf says.

In 2016, Merriman Wealth Management, which is headquartered in Seattle, acquired former Summit Capital Management LLC’s Seattle and Spokane operations as part of a regional growth strategy. Merriman says it represents 1,900 clients and manages $2.2 billion in assets. It has clients across the country, but the majority are in the Puget Sound region. Merriman here is located on the 22nd floor of the Davenport Tower, at 111 S. Post.

The company historically has targeted high net-worth households with assets of $1 million or more. The firm’s most typical clients have assets ranging from $2 million to $50 million, he says.

“So what we see out of that are individuals and families that are doing a lot of market watching,” Metcalf says. “But we tell them we’re not here to performance chase. That’s just not Merriman’s approach. We try to be the voice of reason and get clients to focus on the long-term.”

Sarah Carlson, a certified financial and fiduciary planner, and owner of Fulcrum Financial Group, at 1403 S. Grand Blvd. on Spokane’s South Hill, says it’s an important time for advisers and clients to have contact with each other about needs and concerns.

“The adviser has the access and the tools that the client just isn’t going to be able to see or understand,” she says.

Fulcrum is affiliated with Boston-based LPL Financial Holdings, one of the largest independent broker-dealers in the U.S. LPL has more than 14,000 financial advisers and more than $500 billion in advisory and brokerage assets.

Metcalf says constantly changing investment strategies, or withdrawing money altogether in fear of a market downturn, generally ends up resulting in a greater financial loss than just leaving it in place.

Information compiled by Baltimore-based global asset management firm T. Rowe Price Group Inc. says growth of $100,000 in the S&P 500 starting in March 2009 was worth around $400,000 at the end of 2017.

T. Rowe Price advises its clients to keep a long-term perspective and to have a diversified portfolio with bonds.

Ryan D. Moore, a Deer Park-based financial adviser with Edward D. Jones & Co., says an effective financial adviser should spend more time understanding the client’s needs and goals with less emphasis on news events and the issues that typically affect the market.

“Every client is different, so trying to apply the market, if you will, to your clients is going to result in most of them not being served properly,” Moore says.

Larson concurs with Moore’s assessment.

“For us, it’s about education, diversification of the portfolio, and direct participation from the client in their future,” Larson says. “We want them to be in it for the life of the investment.”

Larson says having conversations with clients about today’s life expectancies frequently is useful in helping people focus on long-term planning and diverting their thoughts from the “immediate news cycle.”

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