This Month's Role Model
Lynn Evans is a fee-only financial planner with her own firm, Northeastern Financial Consultants, Inc., serving clients in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Many of her clients are married couples or single women approaching their retirement years and looking for guidance in designing their lives for the next twenty or thirty years, from more than just a financial perspective. Lynn and her husband Patrick di Napoli, an instructor of English at a local private college, enjoy their home in the Poconos.
Lynn has been a supporter and believer in the Garden State Woman Mission from the outset 11 years ago.
Garden State Woman: Lynn, in a nut shell, tell us what you do in the financial planning arena and what separates you and your practice from the other men and women financial advisors out there?
Lynn: From the outset I have felt that the financial planning world should be viewed by the general public as a profession similar to accounting and law. We made a decision ten years ago to have our compensation structure similar to that of the CPAs and attorneys I work with. We only charge fees for the work we do and we do not accept commissions from outside dealers for either insurance or investment products. Besides the method of compensation, we differ in the way we focus our attention on the client; we produce a fully integrated financial plan before we even discuss investments. We feel it allows us to be sure that the investment strategy covers all the possible contingencies anyone can foresee in their lives – financial assistance to an aging or disabled parent, the desire to own a second or third home, the need for downsizing once the kids leave home, (and even more relevant, what do they do if the kids come back home). We consider ourselves planners first, and investment advisors, second. Our primary focus is on developing a life in retirement and using the financial assets to help make that a reality.
Garden State Woman: Tell us a bit about your client base. What are the characteristics of the clients that both need and benefit the most from your services.
Lynn: I discovered a few years ago that the majority of my clients were women. That was even true of the married couples – the wife was the first point of contact. So I looked at the demographics of those couples/women and noticed that they were mostly concerned about retirement, about getting their children out on their own, and possibly looking at the financial and caretaking responsibilities of an elderly parent or in-law. All these issues stem from the fear of outliving their own money and where do they draw the line in helping others financially.
Garden State Woman: Why do women facing retirement need to speak with someone like you?
Lynn: I realized in a moment of self-discovery that I had no role model for how retirement should look for a woman who owned a business, or was at the peak of her corporate career. Our mothers were of a generation that lived retirement because their husbands’ pensions made it possible. There was not much difference in their lives from the day before he retired to the day after he retired except the distinct possibility of a divorce!!!! She had lived her adult life taking care of children, getting a part-time job with no retirement programs, and then did her own thing all the while her husband was out working. Now she had to deal with him being around 24/7 and on her turf. Huge emotional shift that no one ever discussed.
But today’s woman has her own 401k plan, her own pension from work, her own dreams of what to do but doesn’t know how to plug all that in after living a hectic five-day-a-week world. Who can counsel her? The HR Department? Not their job. I am looking to help these women design a life in retirement that fills in the blanks for Monday through Sunday and makes it so rewarding they will never miss the job or business they left. And the finances play a big part in those decisions. Part-time job, new career, buying a franchise? At the rate of 8,000,000 a day, Baby Boomers will need someone to help them plan for the next twenty or so years of their lives. And no else one is doing that.
Garden State Woman: What is a fee based financial advisor vs. a fee-only financial planner and why do people need to understand this concept? What is the upside to working with this type of advisor? Are there any down sides?
Lynn: A fee-based advisor is one who charges an upfront fee but then sells products which can add compensation to them from the sale of a mutual fund or an insurance policy. The client may not see the actual compensation paid to the advisor but the company for whom they sold the product will compensate them. A fee-only advisor, usually a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), is held to a different standard. I am a member of that organization and I must be accountable to that Board as a fiduciary, someone who must put the client’s interest first. That does not mean that financial planners who are not members do not put their clients’ interests first, it simply means they are not accountable for doing so. Fee-only means the planner cannot accept compensation either directly or indirectly from outside vendors for their transactions and are only compensated by a fee the client pays, either hourly or a flat fee. Obviously I am biased, but I cannot see the disadvantage of working with a fee-only advisor.
Garden State Woman: Choosing a financial planner can be a critical decision in people’s lives. How should people go about making this decision to make certain they have picked the right advisor for them?
Lynn: First, you need to know how the advisor is compensated. That establishes the framework for the recommendations of the planning process, if there is a formal planning engagement. If the planner needs to sell something to be compensated, you can expect that you will by asked to buy a product. This is not a bad thing at all. For some people who cannot afford to pay a fee upfront, this is a viable alternative. Just make sure you know how your planner will be compensated and request a formal disclosure of their compensation. Secondly, they need to know how long the person has been in the business. Many young financial planners were washed out in this latest downturn in the market and took their clients with them down the slide. Experience counts for something in this field. Thirdly, they need to know what is expected of them in the relationship, what they have to share with the advisor and how often. Fourthly, they need to know how often the advisor will contact them, under what circumstances should they expect to hear from the advisor, and how often will they be face-to-face with the planner. Depending on how much you feel you need to be in contact with the advisor, this could be a very important determinant of the fit between you.
Garden State Woman: Where did you get your background to be a financial planner? What has been your career path?
Lynn: I started as a teacher, then an insurance agent, then a registered representative of an investment firm, and then I started my own firm as a financial planning company in 1980. I sold the business to a large regional accounting firm in 1990 and then went back to creating my own firm in 1994.
Garden State Woman: Is being a financial planner a career path you would recommend for other women? What are the skills, background and personal attributes that a woman would have to have to make it in your profession?
Lynn: I would highly recommend this as a career for a woman. We are hard-wired to be nurturing, supportive and always looking for the best outcome. These are all skills needed to be effective in this role. It is 50% counselor, 50% advisor. If you don’t have empathetic listening skills, and can’t face situations where you just don’t have an answer, then it is not for you. You must be willing to be a referee, a shoulder to cry on, and many times a lightening rod for anger and frustration. At times, it is the worst place to be and at others, it is the best. It’s a hard thing to see a client who has been with you for almost twenty-five years, slow down, develop dementia and go to a nursing home; but it is also wonderful to see a child you met as an infant graduate from college and get married. You are a part of your clients’ lives. If you don’t love them, you will never survive.
Garden State Woman: How would a woman go about getting started if they have never been in the industry? Where to start?
Lynn: Just recently, our profession has developed college internships for those who are looking to be financial advisors. When I started out and until about 5 years ago, there was no guidance. If you are a young person looking to do this, consider approaching a seasoned advisor, someone who has been in the business for over ten years who is looking for a younger person to sell the business to. There are many Baby Boomers in this business who would like to sell to someone whom they are comfortable with and someone their clients already know. Looking at the FPA website and your local yellow pages website under Financial Planners will help you get started. It is a rare being that starts from nothing and succeeds.
Garden State Woman: Most successful people – both women and men – find time to give back. How have you done this? Do you think giving back is important? Do you have any suggestions to share with women looking to get more involved in giving back?
Lynn: First, ask yourself what two conditions in the world would you like to end: childhood hunger, domestic violence, AIDS, homeless families, humane treatment of animals, etc. Then give your time and money if possible to help in your own small way to stop it. I chose to start a women’s domestic violence shelter and to start a local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. I also like to mentor young women starting in business. It is so important to your business success that you cannot succeed without it. Most of my clients have come from my relationships with outside local organizations and activities and continue to do so. It gives people a reason to trust you and then do business with you. Please make sure you are committed to the cause and genuinely contribute your time and money. People can sense a fraud.
Garden State Woman: I understand you are taking on two important possible projects – launching a radio show and authoring a book. Tell us please briefly about these projects and where they fit into your profession and lifestyle.
Lynn: The radio show is to interview women who have successfully made the transition from working to retiring. From the interviews I will write a book for others to see how and what these women did to make it successful. The working title is “Fear-Free Finances for Fifty Plus”. I see it as a best-seller.
Garden State Woman: As busy as you are you must still find good things to do to balance your life. What are some of the fun things you do?
Lynn: Boating, tennis, lunches and dinners with friends, reading, spending time with my mother, sister, nieces and nephew and my husband and stepson.
Garden State Woman: Any final comments, recommendations or advice for Garden State women?
Lynn: I think it is a very exciting time to be a woman and I continue to learn more and more about people, places and things every day. I can’t imagine a world where I would “retire” in the traditional sense of the word. Let’s all redefine it!
Lynn can be reached at 888-546-3361 and
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