How long have you been in the industry?
“A little over 10 years now.”
What is your role?
“I work with individuals and couples to build financial strategies. The strategy will be based on that person’s risk tolerance, their ability to live with market fluctuation, their timeframe, and their knowledge. With each individual, I’m going to make different recommendations. I want to build a strategy that’s going to keep them, as I describe it, ‘so they can sleep at night.’ None of us should be nervous about our investments. The strategy has been the same. The nervousness has been a little different as a result of the recession, but the goal is the same.”
How does investing today compare to last year? 10 years ago?
“The biggest thing that’s happened between the time I started and now is the recession of 2008. I think for a number of people the markets have been pretty stable through their lifetime, especially those that who were on the cusp of retirement. It was a very frightening time.”
Has the market rebounded?
“The market certainly has. If you look at the performance since 2008, we’ve certainly seen an expanding market.”
Is it changing?
“I don’t think it’s changing. I think you’re still looking at having a balanced portfolio. We really can’t predict it. What was at the top for two years plummeted right to the bottom the following year. Anytime I am working with a client, we want to build a balanced portfolio that’s targeted to their risk tolerance, the amount of fluctuation they can live with and that meets their goals. There’s no one set answer for everyone. If you don’t have diversity inside your portfolio, you are running a much more risky investment strategy than you need to or should be.”
Are there any sectors that seem to be emerging lately?
“No. There are always going to be sectors that do well for a certain period of time, that’s why we have a whole group of people at our home office who work in individual sectors. In a given sector there might be 10, 20 or 30 people who are researching that sector and keeping on top of it. Then we use that information to build portfolios for clients.”
What mistake do first-time investors often make?
“One is that there are investors who chose to do it alone, the internet investor. Obviously I recommend working with someone. The most important thing is working with someone that you trust, you’re comfortable with and that you understand. It’s not my job to make hieroglyphics for you, it’s my job to make the language simple and to work to your level of understanding. Overall, it’s important to start planning early for your financial future. Your 20s is not too early to plan for your financial future. I’ve had teenagers who have set up Roth IRAs. They’re going to be way ahead of someone who doesn’t start until they’re 30, 40 or 50.”
Does it seem like people are investing at a younger age?
“I would say that some of the schools are doing a very good job of introducing the topic even at the high school level, getting kids to think about their financial future is great. They can set up a Roth IRA while still in high school and start planning early. It’s not just about setting money aside for retirement, but preparing for those things that could potentially derail your plan. You’re at your highest earning potential in your youth, but were something to disrupt that, it’s going to make your life very difficult from that point on. A person can start a young age with a very small amount going in and it will compound.”
Are there any secrets of seasoned investors?
“The people who are successful are those who start and stay the course. It’s not really a secret, but I think the biggest derailment is people who are invested in something more risky than they can tolerate. They will see it go down and then they will sell, which is of course the opposite of what you want to do or they’ll see something doing well and they’ll buy it when it’s at a very high price. They’ll try to second guess the market. No individual can know enough today to know all of the market sectors. I rely on the team that we have back at our home office to do that research and make data available to me to help individuals.”
What issues are important to you as a consultant?
“It’s about understanding you, helping you see what you can and can’t do and helping you feel free to move forward with the experience you want in life.”
“It’s all about quality of life. I have clients who make very little money who are very happy and meet all of their goals. I have clients who make a great deal of money who can’t manage to save anything. It’s more about matching your earning to your aspirations or matching your aspirations to your earnings. The ultimate goal is quality of life. That means paying attention to what you have, making good decisions with that, and making sure your money isn’t worrying you to death the way you have invested. And that’s going to be different from individual to individual. No matter how much money you make, there’s someone out there making $10,000 a year less than you and doing just fine — maybe even happier than you are.”
“Our entire philosophy is based around helping people to be comfortable with where they are financially so they can lead generous lives and contribute to their local communities.”
Constance Waisanen has been a financial consultant for Thrivent Financial in Astoria for the past 10 years.