Three’s the charm, and so it is with Gary W. Cotter’s practice located inside the sunny retirement community of Sun City Center. In a career in which the financial advisor has built his book from scratch three times, Cotter has found the perfect niche market: Florida retirees.
Gary W. Cotter, Principal, Cotter Financial; Sun City Center, Fla.; affiliated with LPL Financial Services; AUM: about $75 million
What he calls fallacies about annuities:”It’s commonly said that annuities: (1.) should never be used for IRA accounts, and that (2.) they’re not appropriate for people over 65. Those statements are absolutely and utterly wrong.”
He’s been in financial services for nearly three decades; but before that, the FA had a totally different profession — college admissions director. “I liked helping people make a decision that would have a big effect on their lives. But then I decided I wanted to do it with grown-ups,” says the independent, whose Cotter Financial is affiliated with LPL Financial Services.
Today, all the grown-ups he’s advising are seniors. Often they are seniors’ senior-age children.
In West Central Florida between Tampa and Sarasota, Sun City Center proudly has its own zip code, and it’s legal there to travel by golf cart on public streets. Cotter, 59, discovered the community 17 years ago when he was working out how to rebuild his business not long after leaving a wirehouse managerial job.
Though Sun City Center’s 25,000 residents 55 and over number far fewer high-net-worth individuals than, say, South Florida’s Boca Raton, Cotter reasoned that its retirees “certainly need financial services and someone who’ll provide them in an ethical, caring way.”
One satisfied Cotter client indeed is Phyllis Black, 72. “This angel came into my life, and it was Gary Cotter,” she says. Black was stuck in a family “nightmare” concerning her late husband’s trust.
“He figured out a way for me to dissolve the trust so that it will make my stepdaughter happy. Gary is a genius,” she says.
Arranging for the smooth transition of assets is complex, but that’s where the persevering Cotter shines. “I like problem-solving. When I get into something that’s really a challenge,” he says, “it’s hard to shake me loose.”
Cotter’s clients like the convenience of keeping all or most of their assets in one place and how the CFP coordinates, with teams he assembles, income, tax and estate planning.
For the past five years, he has championed deferred variable annuities as a way to preserve capital. “They offer guarantees — and reasonably priced ones,” he says.
According to Cotter, annuities are vastly misunderstood. Following the 2000-2002 bear market, insurance companies began widely offering living benefits — certain minimum withdrawals — which earlier existed only to a limited extent. A living benefit guarantees that “investors will always get back no less than they invested in the annuity and that the base can be stepped up as the account grows. This makes it a cross between a 401(k) plan and a pension,” he says.