June 17, 2011

One Advisor's Advice to His Peers: Reach Out to Those in Need

Some might call Joshua Gottfried, co-founder of financial firm Levine, Gottfried and Somberg in Glastonbury, Conn., a bleeding heart, and he may well be, for extending his services to folks whose financial worth doesn’t meet the minimum required by most advisors -- himself included.

But, he says, “I just can’t turn people away.” Like many successful advisors, Gottfried gets a lot of referrals, and many of the people who come to him by word-of-mouth don’t have the requisite funds to become full-fledged clients of his firm. But rather than saying “no” to them, Gottfried and his colleagues decided to make the most of the situation for all concerned and come up with a workable model, one that helps people in need of financial advice but doesn’t run the risk of denting their business.

This blog has touched several times upon the idea of advisors giving up a little bit of their time and services for the many people who don’t fit the client profile most of them are looking for. Gottfried is actually doing that. His firm charges people a $195, one-time fee for an hour of solid advice that is designed to set them on a course toward proper financial planning.

Anyone who can pay that amount qualifies for their help. “We ask for all their paperwork – tax returns, assets, liabilities and so on – upfront, so we are fully prepared when they come in,” Gottfried says. “We sit down with them and go over everything they have and where they want to go and we set them on their way.”

This approach, he says, is a win-win situation for all parties. “People get the objective advice they need and it doesn’t cost the business a huge amount,” he says. 

Extending himself without overextending himself is a model that Gottfried believes other financial advisors can and should replicate. It saves Gottfried’s firm the time and resources required to take on a full financial planning client, and saves those who cannot afford them a huge amount in fees. Giving them a solid one to one and a half hours worth of advice can get people on the right track, he says, and opens the door up for them to return in five or 10 years.

Gottfried hopes the model will catch on. Thus far, though, he’s not seen too much interest from other advisors, even though it seems to be “one of the only ways that advisors can help less affluent people in need of financial advice.”

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