Why do you work almost exclusively with women?
I write more extensively about why I work with women in my e-book. But the short version is that I observed my mom deal with a variety of financial struggles as a single woman. Soon after becoming a financial planner, I was encouraged to explore my own financial journey and I reconnected with some of these childhood experiences and how they affected me. As a result, I was curious if serving the financial needs of women were unique in any way, and if I’d be a good fit to serve those needs. So, I conducted an informational interview project in metro Atlanta where I reached out to almost 500 executive women over the course of a year. I completed the project when I reached 100 interviews. I met some incredible ladies through this process, and I’m grateful to all the women who took part and for being able to ask so many questions. Since then, in sort of a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, when I’m asked what qualifies me to work with women I often say, “it’s because I do what few men do – I ask for directions.”
Over time, I realized that while many of these women may have different financial concerns than those my mom faced as a young single-parent, their feelings and expressions of worry about financial matters were quite common and familiar to me. Even as many women are thriving in their careers today, most still have no real confidence in their future financial preparedness. Without the help of a trusted financial planner, it’s doubtful that many of these women will achieve the outcomes they desire or the peace of mind they hoped their financial success would provide. When this possibility is combined with the statistics showing how we’re all living long but women tend to outlive their spouse, women are less likely remarry after divorce, she may start saving later, etc., then working with women becomes not just more important but urgent.
The financial services industry continues to speak to women as a collective group about financial matters. But we know that financial needs, wants, and wishes are unique to an individual (not a gender) and are best determined through the discovery of personal financial goals, priorities, obligations, and aspirations.
The women we serve face many important questions and decisions about their financial future, but we believe there are four main questions that matter most:
- Do you have the plan that’s right for you?
- Are you working with someone you can trust?
- Do you have confidence your portfolio will get you there?
- How do you stay on track?
Why do you specialize in working with executive women?
The executive women we serve often have unique challenges and opportunities that affect their financial planning. Here are a few scenarios that exemplify common situations affecting our clients:
- Her success has typically allowed for a higher income, new career opportunities and different life choices. This can require more sophisticated and thorough financial planning to achieve important life goals. Earning a high income alone, however, is no guarantee of accomplishing long-term financial objectives.
- She’s often the primary bread-winner, if not the sole bread-winner in her home. For those who are married, this can impact family dynamics in terms of how financial decisions are made for the family. And for those who are single, earning a high income or exploring new career opportunities can be quite burdensome when having to make big financial decisions alone.
- Her compensation often includes a benefit package [i.e., pension, stock options, restricted stock (RS), restricted stock units (RSU), employee stock purchase plan (ESPP)] which is necessary to coordinate with her overall financial planning.
- In the event of divorce, retirement savings such as pensions, 401k, etc. are often considered marital assets. It’s critical to know how to divide these types of assets equitably. Lacking competent financial advice during divorce proceedings can exacerbate the pain of divorce.
- A career transition, to a new job or into semi or full retirement, can be an exciting time. But, it can also be emotional and challenging to sort through and prioritize all the decisions that need to be made with so much at stake. It’s critical to make these decisions in the context of your overall life goals and financial plan.
Is there any cost for an initial consultation?
No. There’s never any cost, other than your time, to have a conversation or two about what you’re hoping to accomplish financially. We welcome your questions and the opportunity to explore if we’re a good fit for each other.
What can I expect during our first meeting?
Our first meeting is all about getting to know one another. Please bring your financial questions but don’t feel the need to bring any documents unless you’d prefer to. While we’re happy to answer your questions, it’s not uncommon for prospective clients to do most of the talking during this first meeting. This is because we’ll want to learn more about you and what you hope to accomplish financially. A typical first meeting lasts one and a half to two hours.
Do I have to come to your office or can we meet remotely?
We are happy to meet with you over the phone or virtually (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, etc.). Given the busyness of our client’s lives, not to mention nuisances like traffic, we believe in adapting to what’s best for our clients.
Are you a fiduciary?
Yes. A fiduciary is required to always put their client’s best interest first. Most of the financial services industry isn’t held to this standard. We accept this as a moral obligation that guides our thoughts, words, and deeds rather than a regulatory one. But our licensure as a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) does require us to act as a fiduciary. Additionally, as I am a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, I am also governed by the CFP® Board’s rigorous standards, which include always acting as a fiduciary when providing financial advice to a client.
Do I need a minimum amount of investments to work with you?
We serve clients with minimum portfolios beginning at $250,000. If your current investment assets do not meet our minimum requirements but you have unique circumstances you’d like to discuss, please do not hesitate to call.
Is Kerns Wealth Management an Independent firm?
Yes. The firm is independent and solely owned by Ed Kerns. We maintain no relationship or affiliations with any broker-dealer, bank or insurance company. Our model is to strategically outsource important, back-office functions (administrative tasks, trading, portfolio management, investment committee) to bring our clients investment innovation, technology, efficiency, and expertise. We do this in order to concentrate on what we do best: providing our clients expert and holistic financial planning advice.
As an independent financial advisor, our legal and ethical fiduciary duty requires us to regularly evaluate potential partners to determine if they might offer back-office services and solutions that can enhance the financial advice that we provide.
After extensive due diligence, we chose to hire Buckingham Strategic Partners, a St. Louis, MO based financial services firm that has been providing back-office tools and solutions to independent financial advisors since 1990. Working with an institution like Buckingham Strategic Partners provides additional services, support, enhanced resources, and a true team approach for the wealth advisory services we offer.
How do you get paid?
Our only compensation is a fee paid directly to us by each client. We receive no other types of compensation. Clients are typically charged a one-time fee for the initial creation of a financial plan. Additionally, for those clients who wish to further engage us for long-term financial planning services, they will be charged a quarterly fee based on a percentage of assets under management.
Is my money safe?
Yes. Each client has their own accounts, in their own name, held for safe-keeping at a qualified custodian. We only use those custodians who follow custody rules set forth by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) such as TD Ameritrade or Charles Schwab. In addition to holding client assets, our custodial partners provide account administration, transaction settlements, collection of interest and dividend payments and reporting of client holdings via monthly statements.
Do I have to create a financial plan to work with you?
While we don’t require clients to complete a comprehensive financial plan to engage our services, each client is required to at least establish a basic retirement income plan. Our focus, and our greatest service to clients is through planning (i.e. establishing financial goals, setting priorities, making decisions considering these goals / priorities, etc.) not money management.
How do you invest?
There are two fundamental ways to invest: by speculation or a market-based approach. Speculation is an attempt to try to beat the markets through buying what you believe to be the “right” investments and avoiding the “wrong” ones and by timing the market (getting in and out of the market at the “right” time). It’s possible to beat the market this way. The challenge is that speculative investing only beats the market a minority of the time. The annual Standard & Poor’s Index versus Active (SPIVA) report reveals how speculative mutual fund managers consistently underperform against standard measurements of success.
On the other hand, a market-based approach makes no attempt to speculate on winners and losers, as it instead aims to capture the market’s return. This strategy seeks to maximize diversification and to focus on keeping costs low in order to achieve greater potential returns.
While the conventional way of implementing a market-based approach is called “Indexing”, as it simply attempts to mirror basic market indexes like the S&P 500, we use a more strategic, flexible and precise approach often referred to as asset class investing.
Rather than follow an index, we divide the entire market into groups (or Asset Classes) with similar characteristics, like small company stocks, large company stocks and international bonds and attempt to capture the performance of that precise market segment. The companies included in a particular market segment change over time and an asset class is updated to reflect that in real time.
Maintaining this consistent exposure to constantly changing market segments is not easy for money managers to do. Therefore, we insist on partnering with portfolio managers with the expertise to provide tools that can maintain this precise market exposure in a way that is still low-cost and tax-efficient for clients.
Mutual funds are created around these market segments, with each having its own unique characteristics of risk and return. These funds are then combined into a portfolio in such a way that a rate of return can be maximized for a given level of risk. A risk level is determined for each client based on their financial goals and temperament, and an appropriate portfolio is agreed upon and selected accordingly.