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Invest In Your Future

Building wealth for tomorrow starts today

Why did you get into the business?

As a 3rd generation advisor, I grew up watching and hearing about personal investing and insurance.  I saw how my grandfather and father helped people manage their financial successes, failure, and encouraged clients to keep investing.  

What are some of the biggest changes that you have seen over that combined experience?

I would say mostly access.  When my grandfather (1960s-90s) was in the business investing wasn't easy and was mostly for the well off.  Trading stocks and bonds was done by paper tickets and the price you paid for an investment wasn’t clear until after the fact.  Access to information was limited and very delayed.  You had to go into their office to look at the ticker tape.  Where you lived made a difference in terms of the information you received and when.  You had to rely on an advisor, investment firm, and analysts to know what was happening inside of a company.  During my father's career access became a little easier on both those fronts.  Access for the average person still wasn’t common until the last 1/3 of his career.   Access continues to get easier and the information one has access to make decisions has increased.  With that said now there is so much information and so many opinions it can be overwhelming for most individuals.

So is it easier to invest today? 

It certainly is easier to invest.  Most people have access to a retirement account through their employer.  If not, it is very easy to open an IRA, Roth IRA, or investment account.

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges for the average investor?

Financial literacy to me is the biggest challenge.  When my grandfather and father were in the business, they primarily dealt with folks that were interested in investing.  Now the blend of investors is different. Because there is so little formal financial education many investors have trouble aligning their choices with their desired outcome.  

A great example is when the markets have a big down year like in 2009, 2020, and 2022 I spend a good bit of my time coaching people not to sell.  When I should be answering questions like, what I should be buying?  Making short term emotional decisions rarely benefits anyone in the long term.

Investing takes effort to do well.  Stay organized and follow what you own.  The more individual stocks, bonds, funds, or private investments that you own requires more of your time.  This is true if you are using a financial advisor or doing it yourself.

Literacy also means talking about money. It is a taboo subject in many households and isn’t spoken about enough.  I was lucky, my family spoke about it regularly.  I remember when my wife was getting to know my family.  She was shocked about how open we were about money to each other.  What she later learned helped us keep each other accountable.

Retirement is top of mind for many people.  What do you recommend folks do?  

Let's take a step back, life now requires mapping out what you want it to look like.  The hot topic in my industry is Goals Base Planning and Investing towards your goals.  College, Retirement, and other material desires in many cases require years of savings and investing.  Just throwing money into your 401k or individual investment account is like jumping in a car to go on a road trip with no destination in mind. Sure you are going somewhere but you might not like your destination once you get there.

College for example, costs have exploded since I went to school.  It isn't something many can fund out of pocket without saving for years.  Many will either need to supplement the cost with loans and completely fund it with loans.  Covering college for your kids requires planning at a very early stage of parenthood.  It also requires one to make some very real decision as to what you can or can afford and educating yourself and your kids on what is financially possible.  We all want to give our kids the things they want but in many cases I see parents sacrificing their financial health to send their kids to an extremely expensive school that really won't change their kids’ career outcomes. The earlier you teach your kids about money the easier those type conversations will go.

Retirement planning is no different.  For many what you do or buy today will impact when and if you can have the retirement lifestyle you really want.  Planning can help model out these decisions by illustrating how spending and saving today will impact your ability to achieve your goals.  We live in a YOLO world today and unfortunately, what I see is many people walking down a path that will lead them to disappointment later in life. As a whole people need to moderate expectations of what thet can have whether it be the house we in live, the car we drive, the college we send our kids to, and the vacations we take.

What is your best advice to our readers?

Put a plan in place.  Make a realistic budget and adjust as needed.  Plans aren’t static as income, needs, and wants change make adjustment.  Understand the impact of large purchase prior to making them. Have fun in life, but you can’t live beyond your means for long.

If you aren’t interested in budgeting, investing and planning hire someone to help you.  Teach your kids about these things, be open with them about what you as a family can and can’t afford.  Make them work for their allowance. Strong money habits learned early in life can potentially reap huge rewards. 

Have an estate plan in place. An estate plan and the appropriate legal documents created with your legal advisor can help ensure your wishes are followed at your passing.  Understand who you are leaving in charge.

Alex Pols

Senior Vice President of Wealth Management Mantooth Pols Keene Group

Alex Pols is a husband, father of three, and Senior Vice President of Wealth Management and a Senior Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley in Huntsville with Mantooth Pols Keene Group.  The team manages over 1B in assets for families, Businesses, 401k Plans, and Foundations.  The team has over 70 years of combined investment experience, 3 CFPs on staff for planning needs, and access to a risk management and tax management tools through Morgan Stanley.

For many what you do or buy today will impact when and if you can have the retirement lifestyle you really want.