“Be prepared to communicate”, with Frankie Corrado and Tyler Gallagher

Consider what you want out of the relationship with the advisor. Be prepared to communicate that with them. This is a key first step when selecting an advisor. The communication has to be two way. Help your advisor do the best job possible by clearly stating your expectations, desires, and needs in the relationship (just […]

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Consider what you want out of the relationship with the advisor. Be prepared to communicate that with them. This is a key first step when selecting an advisor. The communication has to be two way. Help your advisor do the best job possible by clearly stating your expectations, desires, and needs in the relationship (just like marriage :))

As part of our series about what one should look for when hiring a financial planner or adviser, I had the pleasure of interviewing Frankie Corrado. Frankie is Managing Director and Principal at Robertson Stephens Wealth Management and he also serves as President of the Board of Directors for the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners (ACP), a non-profit organization of fiduciary advisors. Frankie’s role as an advisor (he is both a CFP® and Registered Life Planner) focuses on helping clients craft vivid depictions of ideal futures and building comprehensive financial plans to put them in the best position to succeed. In his role as President of the Board at the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners, Frankie is continuously working to expand the resources and opportunities for the advisor community looking to practice comprehensive, fiduciary financial planning and curate positive impacts on the clients they serve.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It’s my pleasure! I often think about how non-traditional my path has been. It might sound a little odd, but I think what solidified me on this career path was a six-month adventure I took about eight years ago, when I “thru hiked” the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. At the time, I had about five years of advisory experience, but completing the entire stretch of Appalachian Trail was always this big dream of mine. It was a goal that not many other people understood or shared; it was really hard; and the experience had its fair share of ups and downs. But ultimately, through a lot of planning, hard work, perseverance, and a little luck, I hiked all 2,168 miles in 179 days. The experience changed my life because not only was it an incredible journey, but it instilled in me that if I set my mind to something and didn’t give up, nothing in life was out of reach. It brought home the idea that every person has their own “Appalachian Trail” in their life and I knew I wanted to support people to not only envision their dreams, but to come up with a truly comprehensive and actionable way to do it. A long way of saying that hiking the Appalachian Trail confirmed my path as a financial planner.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I remember sending an email to a client when I was first starting out and I misspelled their last name. The spelling of the name was deceiving. But I misspelled the last name, nonetheless. Well, the client called me out on it (“Excuse me Frankie, but there are TWO n’s in my last name”), and I was quite embarrassed of my mistake. But I think back to it often (especially when spelling that client’s name) and the takeaway is to not overlook the details. Whether it’s the name of a client or an assumption in the financial plan — your attention to detail represents how you approach everything in the eyes of the client. Sometimes it’s the little mistakes that can lead to big problems. Catch the simple stuff.

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

On October 1, 2019, the financial planning firm I started with my father, Blue Blaze Financial Advisors, merged with Robertson Stephens Wealth Management. I am very excited about the merger as it provides us with a greater opportunity to expand and build on a concept that we have developed, called Financial Life Guidance, inside Robertson Stephens, with the goal of delivering it to more people. Financial Life Guidance is a creative approach that authentically visions, plans, and executes on a client reaching their optimal life. It understands client goals beyond the typical “retirement age” or college savings rate and pursues achieving very big things in your life in short order. Big dreams usually require a strong financial planning module in order to build a solid plan of action to get there. By partnering with Robertson Stephens, we are surrounding ourselves with smart, experienced professionals who are committed to being fiduciaries and growing this financial life planning model that we cultivated. As we continue to develop and see how Financial Life Guidance benefits our clients, we feel it could be a real disruptive force in the industry.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

Early in my career, I allowed self-doubt to creep into my psyche and be my own worst enemy. I would argue against myself, asking “why would anyone listen to my advice”? I think this negative mindset really held me back. The reality was that I had the credentials to advise clients on important matters in their lives. I’m not sure when the tipping point exactly occurred, but as time continued and I gained more experience working with clients, I came to realize that I was providing a very valuable service that brought me a ton of joy. The more I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, the more confidence I would develop, and it really began to snowball. I would take on more complicated planning areas, work with larger clients, and take leadership roles within The Alliance of Comprehensive Planners. My takeaway would be to keep filling up that plate. Say YES more often. Challenge yourself and you will grow. Build your confidence through experience and perseverance and know that you are the right person for the job.

What three pieces of advice would you give to your colleagues in the finance field to thrive and avoid burnout? Can you give a story or example?

  1. I try to take my own advice — specifically around envisioning my own life plan. Without a focus on my own personal and professional goals, it is easy to lose sight of the priorities. In the past three years, I feel like I have accomplished some personal and professional goals that I previously thought were not possible or were unclear. This includes having my first child, leading a financial planning organization, and spending a month working remotely in the mountains of Vermont. By keeping my own goals in focus, it keeps me sharp, motivated, and feeling like I’m doing all of this for the right reasons.
  2. Spend time on “you”…specifically, I would recommend considering a reflective or meditation routine. Since beginning my own (I love the “Waking Up” App by Sam Harris), I feel I am much more aware of how I am feeling throughout the course of my day and my interactions with others. This simple awareness allows me to appreciate positive experiences more richly and also to understand and wake up to the negative ones. For instance, I used to be gripped by anxiety over certain situations, usually when I felt I might fail at something. This simple recognition of anxiety has helped me tremendously to cope with and ultimately move forward from the feeling. If there was one thing I could recommend to anyone, it would be to develop a simple ten-minute daily mindfulness routine.
  3. Push your boundaries. I remember learning in business school about the perils companies face when they allow complacency to set in. I think that applies on a personal level too. It is easy to fall into a complacency routine, but I think people who do so are missing opportunities to improve. Continue to expand your capabilities and knowledge. I tend to focus on the things that put me outside of my comfort zone. Be an expert in something that you are interested in. Go beyond the generalist. Develop expertise.

Ok. Thank you for all of that. Let’s now move to the core focus of our interview. As an “finance insider”, you know much more about the finance industry than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor (not you :-)), which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing? Can you give an example or story for each?

1. How does the advisor get paid? If their compensation is dependent on commissions, they are a salesman, not an advisor. I have a good friend who once told me they were working with a financial advisor and I asked how much they paid. “Nothing,” they responded. Red Flag! Nothing is free! Be aware of all the fees out there. And it’s not just commissions. If the advisor works for a company that also sells you their own mutual funds, ask for them to go through the “expense ratios” on those funds. Do they contain any loads? Are they taking any referral fees? I would recommend working with an advisor that is fee-only and paid by you in a straightforward manner.

2. Under no circumstances should you work with an advisor who does not abide by the “fiduciary standard.” That is, the advisor does not commit to putting your best interest in front of their own. Seems logical, right? Surprisingly, many advisors out there don’t act as fiduciaries on behalf of their clients. I have a hard time understanding why, when developing a trusted relationship with an advisor, you would want to work with someone who puts their interest (i.e., compensation) ahead of your interest. Your interest comes first, don’t forget that. And avoid working with someone who isn’t a fiduciary.

3. Work with a “comprehensive financial planner.” There is a tremendous benefit to working with an advisor who incorporates all aspects of their lives into the financial plan. It’s more than just investments. How will the advisor help you visualize and chart out your future in a holistic manner? Consider working with an advisor who is a member of the non-profit organization, the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners (ACP). The Alliance of Comprehensive Planners consists of independent advisors who are dedicated to comprehensive, fee-only fiduciary financial planning. Check out ACPlanners.org to see if there is one in your area (many will also work on a virtual or remote basis with their clients using today’s wonderful technology for video chats and screensharing).

4. Consider the manner that the advisor listens to you. You are special and the advisor needs to have that on the top of their mind. If they think they have “all the answers,” it might not be a good fit. Contrary to popular belief, there is no one size fits all. If the advisor doesn’t listen well it means they are talking at you instead of understanding your priorities and goals. This won’t be a solid long-term relationship.

5. Consider what you want out of the relationship with the advisor. Be prepared to communicate that with them. This is a key first step when selecting an advisor. The communication has to be two way. Help your advisor do the best job possible by clearly stating your expectations, desires, and needs in the relationship (just like marriage :))

I think most people think that financial advisors are for very wealthy people. This is likely not actually true. Can you explain who would most benefit from hiring a financial advisor and why? Can you give an example?

This might be the outdoorsman in me, but I think life is like going on a long-distance hike. Unless you are truly experienced in the outdoors, you stand to benefit by seeking expert advice on how to be safe, how to have the best experience, and how to reach your goals. Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose whether or not to hike…that is the given. Working with a “guide” puts you in the best position for success. Unless you have taken personal finance coursework and also love spending your free time building and reviewing your own plan, I think most everyone can benefit from working with an advisor.

Let’s say you just graduated from college and starting your career. Well, you have one of the biggest assets on your hands — time. Don’t waste it and take advantage of opportunities available to you now. You also likely have college debt, budgeting needs, and initial employer benefit options to consider. An advisor and a financial plan can put you on the right path, early, leveraging your biggest asset — time.

Let’s say you are married with a couple of kids (I just had my first in September). Do you have the proper estate plan (if even an estate plan at all)? Are you properly protecting your family with the right insurances in the right amounts? What about paying for college? Have you started saving for that? Is it enough? What are your options? And are you keeping all of the other opportunities and risks in focus through all of this? An advisor can help you navigate this.

Let’s say you are approaching retirement — what does that look like? What do you want it to look like? Can you afford it? What is the best Social Security selection strategy? What about other considerations, like Long Term Care insurance? Do you have a good sense if your retirement is able to withstand prolonged periods of market volatility? Working with a qualified financial professional can help you plan through this critical period when income has stopped and you are living off your hard-earned savings.

Working with an advisor is not just for the “wealthy.” It is possible to get a comprehensive financial plan for less than the annual cost of your smartphone or cable bill. That is to say that if you can afford a cell phone, you can afford a financial plan. I know that advisors in the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners are committed to providing comprehensive planning to the “middle America” market and do a great job at affordable costs. There are people out there who want to help and, unless you feel you are qualified, I don’t recommend “hiking alone.”

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?

What a great question! I would love to recognize my business partner (and father), Frank Corrado because without him, none of this would be possible (quite literally). Whether it was helping me with my math homework as a kid or peppering me with questions as I tried to expand my own horizons professionally, my father has been a tremendous source of inspiration and someone I continue to look up to. His gentle support and guidance has allowed me to take more chances in life and feel like no matter the outcome, if I gave it 100%, I would be successful. Over the past 9 years, I like to think that we have both pushed each other to be our best. Our strong relationship and respect for each other helped develop some really great ideas to get us where we are today.

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

A mentor of mine, George Kinder, authored a book titled A Golden Civilization, which came out earlier this year. For those who don’t know, George has developed the process and technique behind life planning (the basis for Financial Life Guidance) for essentially his whole career. In A Golden Civilization, George takes a look at the world around us now as applies a similar life planning approach — if we could create the best society for us all to live in, what would that look like? How would that be? It’s a beautiful attempt at visualizing the world we want our children and grandchildren to inherit and an authentic attempt at solutions and methods to get there. If you were to look 500 years into the future, and our civilization is truly “Golden,” what would that look like? I would encourage people to consider it themselves, discuss it with family and friends, and by all means, get a copy of George’s book. For any readers, I would love to discuss it further with them and hear their thoughts.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I hope to do more writing now that I am at Robertson Stephens, so I would say to keep on top of their website/blog (https://rscapital.com/insights/), and I would encourage folks to connect with me on LinkedIn or shoot me an email at frankie.corrado@rscapital.com.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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