When they married 12 years ago, financial advisors Linda Lubitz and Norm Boone merged their lives but not their thriving practices. And never the twain shall meet. Her advisory is in Florida; his, 3,000 miles away in California. Keeping separate and distinct businesses is how the bicoastal couple likes it. Lubitz tells why in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
The pioneering certified financial planner, who opened shop 22 years ago after building a BD in New York City and then becoming managing partner of Evensky & Brown, is founder and president of The Lubitz Financial Group, a fee-only practice in Miami.
Boone’s San Francisco-based RIA, Mosaic Financial Partners, was acquired last year by Private Ocean, where he is a principal and senior advisor.
With a hefty accent on comprehensive planning, the 7-person Lubitz RIA serves high-net-worth individuals and pension plan trustees whom she describes as “amiable delegators.” In other words, “We don’t want to work with people who are pains in the ass.”
Lubitz, who grew up in Manhasset, Long Island, New York, has amassed a sizable collection of honors over the years, including being recognized by Worth magazine as one of America’s best financial advisors for more than a decade and owning one of the Top 50 Women-Led Businesses in Florida, according to the Commonwealth Institute in 2018.
Yet, surprisingly, she has chosen to keep her practice small-scale. Her assets under management are about $250 million, and she outsources operations to Dynamic Wealth Advisors. Boone, on the other hand, preferred to develop a big business.
What was it like for a female executive in the 1980s financial services industry? Lubitz has more than a few stories about sexism from men, a fact of life she talks about in the interview, as well as sexism from women.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed the CFP, who was speaking by phone from her Miami office. At 69, she has no plans to retire, and that probably has something to do with maintaining an enviable work-play balance over the years: Lubitz’s hobbies range from orchid-growing to golfing. Then there’s her passion for adventure travel. Next jaunt for Lubitz and Boone: Madagascar.
Here are excerpts from our interview:
THINKADVISOR: You and your financial advisor husband, Norm Boone, each have practices — yours in Florida, his in California. Why haven’t you combined firms during 12 years of marriage?
LINDA LUBITZ BOONE: Our practices have two different cultures, especially how we’re aligned in financial planning and investment management philosophy. Firms are often a reflection of their leadership, and we’re two very different people. So it’s all that, in addition to the logistics.
Your practice is small. Is that by design?
We purposely stayed small. I didn’t want to run a big business. Management isn’t my passion. It’s Norm’s passion, and he built up a big firm. My firm has seven people, a wonderfully comfortable family. We can’t take on more than one new client a month.
On the personal side, how do you and Mr. Boone deal with being apart since you’re based on opposite sides of the country?
It’s not easy, but it’s extremely manageable. We’re together 75% of the time and always have been. We have two homes, which we had before we got together. Originally, we set up a schedule where I was in California two weeks a month, and Norm was in Miami one week a month. Frankly, both of us enjoyed our weeks apart!
What’s your client niche?
We don’t have a target client base. We best serve “amiable delegators.” We don’t want to work with people who are pains in the ass: We want clients who aren’t going to be calling us consistently to ask questions about their investment management. It takes a while to build trust, but some people turn on their computer every day and look at the movement of their accounts. These are not our ideal clients.
You put the emphasis on financial planning and charge a separate fee for it rather than wrap it into the investment management fee. Please explain.
Because we do such comprehensive financial planning, we won’t take on a client unless they commit to doing their financial planning with us. We think that’s truly where our real value lies — helping them change their behavior, such as learning how to save well and spend wisely during retirement and not make big mistakes.
Your minimum fee for financial planning is $5,000. How do you calculate that fee?
I’ve created an “engagement estimator,” which is pretty much like a Chinese menu. There are [many] things that we provide and other things clients will need depending on the complexity of their situation and age. When we tell the client what we’ve calculated, they either say, “That’s fine. Let’s go” or “I can’t pay that.” If they don’t value the really comprehensive in-depth work we’re going to do and are complaining about the fee, they’re not a good client fit.
You started out in financial services more than 30 years ago. To what degree did you encounter male sexism?