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“Ask Why.” With Jason Hartman & Gary Stringer

I would love to see financial literacy taught across the board to young students — starting in junior high. If people learn early on how to manage their money, invest for the future and harness the power of compounding interest, they will be so much better off in the long run and not only benefit […]

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I would love to see financial literacy taught across the board to young students — starting in junior high. If people learn early on how to manage their money, invest for the future and harness the power of compounding interest, they will be so much better off in the long run and not only benefit themselves but the national economy as well. There is no substitute for early education in the pursuit of financial freedom.

As a part of my series about “Investing During The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary Stringer.

Gary Stringer is the founder and CEO of BridgeLight® Capital, a comprehensive wealth management firm based in Scottsdale, Arizona. With more than 27 years’ investment experience and under his leadership, BridgeLight has become a leading independent registered investment advisory firm, delivering world-class capabilities with the tailored solutions and commitment of boutique service.

Gary is also co-founder and CFO of YourDealty.com, a unique digital platform transforming how home buyers, sellers, real estate agents and homebuilders list or find homes. The website allows consumers to view exclusive, available properties or register their homes to sell — all in one seamless, easy-to-use interface. While other sites sell the listing agent’s potential buyers as leads to other agents, Dealty never does. Instead, Dealty gives buyers direct access to the property lister.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?

I was just out of college, relocated to Phoenix, and exploring career directions, including law. A new opportunity then presented itself: a friend invited me to dinner with a successful insurance business owner. During dinner, I mentioned that I realized law school was not for me and asked him if he might have any part-time employment opportunities. Although he did not, he had just had a portfolio review with his financial advisor, who needed a young, energetic go-getter to assist at the investment management practice. I interviewed and discovered my career’s focus — investment management! I passed the Series 7 Securities exam, registered and worked directly with the owner in client services, investment management, and soon took over the trading desk. It was obvious that I had found my passion.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

After the ‘dot.com’ bubble burst in the early 2000s and the market declined, I was listening to a local financial radio station. An elderly listener called in and asked, “How can I short stocks?” Now, ‘shorting stocks’ is selling shares hoping they decline in price so that you can buy them back later at a lower price and make a profit. This is very risky and should never, ever be done by novices! (As it turned out, that next day or two ended up being the bottom of the bear market.) I have seen this a few times in my 27-year career; investors get panicky and try to get out of the market after experiencing a significant decline. It usually makes matters worse. As a professional advisor, I am dedicated to ensuring good decisions are made, guiding, and supporting clients, especially during volatile periods.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes!

The first is called Magnify by BridgeLight. BridgeLight Capital is the SEC-registered advisory firm and Magnify is the ecosystem in which we have all of our fully integrated technology, or what is referred to as a ‘tech stack.’ I have always wanted to bring Wall Street to Main Street and level the playing field for the smaller investor when it comes to accessing institutional investment opportunities. These have traditionally been reserved for high net worth or ultra-high net worth investors. Within our ecosystem is the BridgeLight TAMP (turnkey asset management platform). This institutional trading platform not only allows for lower and more reasonable initial investment minimums but also allows access to everything from pre-IPOs (initial public offerings) to institutionally separate managed accounts (SMAs). With our integrated tech stack creating an ecosystem that has everything investment manager/financial advisors need, they can provide exceptional client service, expert planning, and institutional access to investments of all asset classifications. It is not only a great resource for the advisor but also provides the client with an experience that cannot be topped. With the tools to take a deep dive into risk management and the skill to provide comprehensive estate planning in determining family index numbers, we help provide a clear and calculated path to financial freedom. Magnify will help all advisors with a more complete, less stressful, and fully integrated solution that gives clients confidence and a sense of security with a defined plan.

I am equally excited about another project: the real estate platform, YourDealty.com, created to give homeowners control in the sale or purchase of homes. I serve as the CFO and work side by side with the CEO — we could not be more motivated to offer this positive and innovative industry disruptor!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There have been key individuals who have helped guide my success. I am very grateful for my parents and the many opportunities they provided, coaches and teachers who taught life lessons, and — without sugar-coating it — my first boss who took a chance and allowed me to learn and grow; I wouldn’t be here without him.

Let us shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

You will always hear that “the markets hate uncertainty.” It is no different with human beings. Uncertainty is uncomfortable: people want stability, and most do not do well when usual routines and predictability are upended. On top of that, the pandemic is also creating a wave of deep loneliness. While it has been repeated often, I also can’t say it enough: we are all in this together and none of us are alone — it may be tough right now, but stay strong, be kind and we will get through this and be together again. It will happen!

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let us now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know the stock market and the economy in general have become extremely volatile and uncertain. Many people “dollar cost average” and put aside a monthly sum into a long-term savings plan for retirement, college, or a home purchase. If a loved one or a client came to you and said, “I have been saving and investing $500 every month in an S&P 500 index fund. Over the next few months until the dust settles, should I be doing something else with my money?” What would you say to them?

I would start by saying that there will always be times the stock market and economy are volatile and uncertain. We can look at this in two ways: one, get out of the markets as they are too much to handle OR two, what a great opportunity this is to invest at a lower price! This is the premise of dollar-cost averaging, investing on a consistent basis to purchase more shares when the price is down and fewer when the price is high. Over any meaningful time period, this should smooth out the volatility. I always start with the investor’s risk tolerance, needs, and objectives, and then ask, “What is the purpose of these investments?” It is how I help them make an informed decision. In general, to meet longer-term objectives, I would encourage a full review of their investment portfolio and continuation of their investment program.

Eventually the economy will recover and rebound. Certain sectors, like travel and hospitality might be hurting for a while. But other sectors, like technology and healthcare, might do very well. If someone wanted to prepare today to take advantage of the future recovery, what would you suggest they do?

We would start with a conversation about where future growth will be and evaluate where they see the future. Although the travel industry was predicted to suffer, not all travel came to a stop. And housing did not undergo anticipated declines. There have been other significant changes: with the shift to an “at home workplace,” cloud computing/technology sectors offer growth; cloud computation has increased, and health sciences are moving forward, providing opportunity in the biotech/bioscience and healthcare innovation sectors. These areas can be utilized, but you should never forget that a well-balanced portfolio is always best. It will be very interesting to see how our way of life evolves and how that will affect the next economic cycle.

Are there sectors that provide exciting and lucrative investment opportunities today, specifically because of the volatility and uncertainty?

As mentioned, bioscience and cloud computing are very exciting areas. The digital currency space is another exciting option as well, but it is not something for the faint of heart! (Its volatility component makes for some roller-coaster trading.) The bottom line is that I encourage everyone to think about what the “work from home/stay at home” economy means to them. Look for the companies you already use on a regular basis and only buy into companies you know well.

Are there alternative investments that you think more people should look more deeply at?

I am a big believer in alternative investments. But let us define our terms; generally speaking, “alternatives” are investments in assets other than stocks, bonds, and cash. This includes real estate, precious metals, natural resources, or even non-traditional hedging approaches that may use options, long/short or arbitrage strategies. Before investing in alternative investments you must understand how each performs in the overall economic cycle. For example, it has been said that owning “real” assets like gold and other precious metals, real estate, or private equity are considered good inflationary hedges and will protect or respond well in a rising inflationary environment. Individual investors need to do their homework and determine what level of volatility they can handle and how the alternative investment correlates with their overall portfolio.

If a person in their thirties and forties came to you today and said that they have $10,000 that they want to put away today for a long-term investment what would you advise them to do with it?

After fully evaluating their level of risk, their needs and objectives, and conducting a financial planning assessment, we would them implement an investment strategy bases upon these outcomes. Their risk assessment metrics are paramount in “budgeting” or spreading the risk throughout the appropriate asset allocation. We may overweight some sectors of our economy based on current momentum or trends. For example technology, cloud computing, biotech, and healthcare innovation would be assets in the growth category to consider, especially now. Tactical, institutional SMAs (separately managed accounts) and other strategies would be included to create the proper balance and objectives of the investment portfolio.

Ok, thank you! Here is a more general finance question. You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

  1. Focus on your time IN the markets, NOT on timing the markets — invest regularly and always. This is a great way to accumulate wealth over the long term.
  2. Ask WHY you want to own the investment — you should always understand the reason for owning any investment.
  3. Remember the trend is your friend — as the momentum continues, participate. But do not get greedy. And if an investment/trend shifts on you and does not go your way, remember you do not have to get back what you lost in the same investment. Sell and move on.
  4. Never fight the Fed — the Federal Reserve System, often referred to as the Federal Reserve or simply “the Fed,” is the central banking system of the United States. Congress created it to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary/financial system in order to alleviate financial crises. This means that the Fed controls monetary policy. Monetary policy has three key objectives: maximizing employment, stabilizing prices, and moderating long-term interest rates. Hard to outmaneuver it!
  5. Always maintain liquidity — investing is inherently risky; mitigate it by ensuring your portfolio has the ability to be readily converted to cash… and ensure your investment positions are traded on one of the major financial exchanges.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Funny you should ask that! I could come up with many that are meaningful and profound; however, there is one that stands out.

I remember when I was 13 years old playing American Legion summer baseball, our coach would always say, “You can learn one of two ways. One: listen to me when I tell you not to touch the hot stove, you’ll get burned, or two: you can touch it and find out for yourself.” As I look back, I can honestly say that I was a stove toucher. This is not to say that I did not learn from others’ mistakes, but I have made my own and touched a few stoves in my time! It may not have been pleasant, and situations may not have worked out as I hoped, but I will never forget the lessons learned.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to see financial literacy taught across the board to young students — starting in junior high. If people learn early on how to manage their money, invest for the future and harness the power of compounding interest, they will be so much better off in the long run and not only benefit themselves but the national economy as well. There is no substitute for early education in the pursuit of financial freedom.

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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