Allow me to tell you a short story:
I was raised to always bring honor to my family and myself through the example shown by my father. When representatives of one of America’s largest and best known brokerage firms severely mismanaged my parents’ investment accounts I became determined to learn everything I could to assure they would never be taken advantage of again.
I officially became a licensed stockbroker on August 16, 1986 after successfully passing the Series 7 (General Securities Representative Exam). During my first day in the brokers’ “pit”, I quit after witnessing an outstanding number of unethical and illegal transactions.
Since that first experience, and over time, I went on to become the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Compliance Officer of a boutique broker/dealer in Illinois, which was a member of the Illinois Securities Advisory Board during the time that James Edgar was Secretary of State.
From there I went on to help build up the presence of one of America’s largest independent brokerage firms in the Chicago area. The region started with 12 brokers and a small office in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. In time, it grew to be larger than many other independent brokerage firms at 400 brokers.
After witnessing more instances of unethical practices in the financial industry, I decided to start a firm with the vision of actually doing what others only give as lip service: putting the clients’ best interests first. As an example, often a broker may recommend the purchase of a variable annuity for various reasons. While some may say that all annuities are bad, we understand that they do have their place if used and priced properly. Unfortunately, this is where the trouble starts. Most annuities have what is called a surrender period that charges a penalty for early withdrawal from 1 to sometimes 10 or more years holding the investors investment hostage if the strategy is no longer a viable solution for them. A large part of the surrender charge is due to the pricing. Many variable annuities can cost 3, 4, 5% or more each year in order to pay the broker commission for selling the annuity. We don’t find this very ethical and have found a solution to potentially help those that have found themselves in this situation. Simply CLICK HERE for a short explanation and video of our solution for variable annuity holders.
Entering the 401(k) Market:
One day in the mid-1990s, the CFO of a family office I work with asked me to review their employee retirement plan. I was shocked at not only the risky structure in which it was set up but also the lack of any rhyme or reason as to the investments. I was used to working with high net worth individuals and multi-family offices and assumed an ERISA plan would be run in a similar manner. What I have found is that most are sold by a broker with no thought or structure but merely based upon commission compensation and then left to themselves.
How can we help you?
In addition to offering wealth management services to high net worth families and multi-family offices, my team and I assist both for profit and not-for-profit organizations, that truly recognize their greatest asset is their employees, coordinate the various aspects required to run a compliant and cost efficient ERISA plan – so our clients can concentrate on the business that made them successful. Our mission is to financially protect the owners, officers and trustee(s) of the firm through adherence to procedural prudence as dictated by ERISA, the Department of Labor (DOL) and fiduciary principals.
We are adamantly opposed to commissions and conflicts of interests. While some RIA firms accept 12(b)1 fees from custodians for placement, we would never permit that activity. We are purely fee only, employee owned and do not accept any outside compensation, rewards, trinkets or other potential conflicts of interest. Trust me when I tell you this matters. It impacts the advice and recommendations you are given as well as your potential outcome.
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis
Truer words were never spoken. It is this ideal of integrity that we live by at Clear Financial Strategies, LLC, for it is when no one is watching, that one’s integrity matters most, especially when it is a matter of our clients’ finances.
Our clients may not understand all of the intricacies of the financial markets, which is why we make sure our practices reflect our name.
Our practices are:
- CLEAR: Our clients are unique, each having different financial situations and goals, from simple to complex, and everything in between. No matter your situation, we will ensure that you, as our client, are kept up to speed on everything you care to know about the way we are managing your finances. Not only is it the right thing to do, but for us as RIAs, it’s the lawful thing.
- SIMPLE: When we’re working for you, one of our biggest goals is to keep the process as simple for you as possible. Let us handle the complexities, details and procedures. And, if ever you have a question, just ask.
- TRANSPARENT: As your fiduciary, we are committed legally and by oath, always to do what is in your best interest. You can count on us to provide sound financial advice regarding your accounts and know that we have no other agenda than your financial success. You can also count on the fees for our services to be tied to directly to the success of your accounts. After all, your success ensures ours. We do not earn sales-based commissions.
To ensure the highest standards of service and understanding between parties, we developed the C.L.E.A.R™ financial planning process. It is this process that guides every step we take. Whether we are working with a family on a wealth management project or a company regarding executive and employee benefits. There are two phases to this process that helps to keep all parties on track and focused on the goals required to focus on a successful outcome:
Collect Data: The first step in any process is to collect relevant data. We start with an applicant questionnaire to build the framework for further discussion. After preliminary analysis, we conduct a series of in-person, telephone and video/whiteboard consultations to clarify intentions, goals, desires, and aversions.
Logical Analysis: Once all pertinent data is gathered we begin our analysis of your current situation as it relates to your stated goals. As this is a collaborative process, with your permission, we invite your other integral advisors to meet with us using our state-of-the-art, online collaboration facilities.
Establish Course: Think of us as your team’s financial navigator and CFO, and as such, we will work closely with your legal team, your tax team and your risk managers to ensure that all paths toward your goals have been considered, and the best one mapped.
Apply: With the framework in place, we now begin the work of establishing, upgrading or downgrading the various components of your financial plan as recommended by your team of advisors. And, most importantly, you are always in charge. If you ever want to change course, we will steer in that direction.
Review: Using intelligent benchmarking tools and powerful analytical engines, we continually monitor and measure your plan, always looking to improve efficiency. All information and recommendations are shared among the team members to assure one segment of your plan is not working against another.
While much of the C.L.E.A.R.™ process is conducted with our client directly, we use another unique strategy, we proactively work with your other trusted advisors. Too often the client is given competing advice from the accountant, attorney and broker, leaving the client to decipher what is in his/her best interest. As fiduciaries we believe it is our job to work with your other advisors to discuss our strategies to ensure that they work in collaboration with the tax plan provided by your accountant, the legal framework drafted by your attorney and fit within the risk management strategy put into place by your risk management team. In our TRUE™ Open Architecture process we view other professionals as team members. We obtain your permission to contact your legal, tax and risk management team members, in order to introduce ourselves, our relationship with you and our state-of-the-art collaboration platform. We become your team, to sort out the details, before we bring you an agreed upon recommendation. You are successful in what you do, we take away the minutia so that you can concentrate on what you do best.