What I Know Now
Charles Ragonese reflects on 25 years as an Investment Advisor
The year was 1992 and I was looking for answers - answers to questions about how money works, about how to invest hard earned dollars, about leaving a legacy and providing for my young family if I were no longer here to do so. After trying to educate myself through various financial magazines, financial sections of the newspaper, and trips to the library, I decided to take a different course of action. Through the advice of a very good friend I connected with Mutual of New York, a well-known insurance company, and asked about career opportunities. The career path that followed brought me to a much higher level of education - a level of education that could never be found in magazines and newspapers. In fact, once I received the formal education, I realized the publications existed to sell me products, not advice. I was fooled by marketers’ attempts to seem genuine in wanting to provide personalized help, and though my new-found deeper understanding of the industry allowed me to read between the lines, I knew there were people out there who continued to be blindsided, continued to listen to spiels about how this product would be perfect for them, continued to enter hesitantly into investments they knew nothing about.
As I sat in my living room one night, books piled high after hours of studying, notes scribbled on any surface I could find, and my son throwing a tantrum after the cat snagged his last bite of a fish stick, I knew I had to do something. Services are created in response to a problem and the problem was clear - people just like myself needed answers and didn’t know where to turn for proper, genuine advice. Simply put, I wanted to be the one people turned to. And just like that, a business was born.
My new career was very exciting and also very intimidating. The first challenge I noticed was asking complete strangers questions about their income, investments, plans for retirement, and even how they would provide for their family in the event of death. I felt awkward and intrusive. Client after client, it became easier for me to ask these personal questions and, to my surprise, the more comfortable I was in asking these important questions, the more information I received. Though uncomfortable for me, I reminded myself of why I got into this business and it naturally followed that those who truly wanted help with their finances were eager to answer these questions for me. As more and more people began to confide in me and trust my guidance for their financial futures, I felt encouraged and fulfilled. 25 years ago, I found what I believe to be my calling.
"we all have an innate desire to put our trust in and offer our trustworthiness to others"
As with any business, it goes without saying that the following years would bring both disappointments and accomplishments. Nevertheless, as my practice grew I gained insight into my clients’ and prospective clients’ mentalities and realized a shift. When the market crashes of ’01 and ’08 shattered the boom of the 1990s, double-digit investment returns gave way to much lower single-digit returns. A handful of people were in denial about the changing market, still expecting high returns in a world unable to provide that with any consistency. The majority of my clients and prospective clients, however, grew apprehensive. Their investment attitudes changed from risk it to get the biscuit to better safe than sorry; priorities shifted from making money to taking the corrective action to ensure that they would never lose money again. My investment philosophy springs from this mentality as a response to what my clients were wanting. In retirement income planning, it’s not about how much money you make but about how long your money will last. But if clients do come to me wanting to see a higher return, I’ll advise them in a way that allows them to reach their investment goals without jeopardizing their lifetime income. My role as an advisor is to listen closely to what clients want and help them achieve that in a manner that is best for them.
What I know now after 25 years as an investment advisor, and what was true when I started in 1992, is simply that everyone is looking for someone to trust. Whether that’s your financial advisor, your babysitter, doctor or spouse, we all have an innate desire to put our trust in and offer our trustworthiness to others. And so if I believe my clients have put their trust in me (and I do believe they have, otherwise they all would’ve ran for the hills by now!) and feel more confident in their financial futures, then my last 25 years have been successful and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Investment advisory services offered only by duly registered individuals through AE Wealth Management, LLC (AEWM). AEWM and Mountain Peak Financial, Inc. are not affiliated companies. CA Insurance lic. #0B02155