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Scott Sonnier at Max's Grille, Photography by Edgar Alexander

Featured Article

Scott Sonnier – The Educator

Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” - Aristotle

Scott Sonnier has always been, by nature, a teacher. In his prior experience as a personal trainer, he taught clients not only how to exercise but also educated them on nutrition and proper dieting. Scott took his passion for imparting knowledge and discipline over the body and seamlessly transitioned into educating people on how to gain mastery over their finances. As founder and CEO of Financial Management Services of America (FMSA), Scott is in the business of building and managing wealth. But to this he adds a singular zeal for knowledge: a thorough understanding of his clients and what they need, coupled with the innate skills he has honed to educate and advise others. In addition to his investment advisory role, Scott is a well-known and highly respected speaker who conducts popular series of financial workshops throughout the year.

We sat down with Scott to dig into what he’s passionate about and how he approaches his work.

Can you tell us a little about your family?

I have two sons and a wonderful wife who is the driving force behind all of us. We’re a very active family. My 17-year-old son is a swimmer. He's graduating this year from Spanish River High School and is still deciding where to go to college. My 14-year-old races BMX bikes. So, we're outside all the time, either riding our bikes, paddleboarding or body boarding. We love the ocean and love to spend time together there.

A recent Fortune article stated that nearly two thirds of Americans can't pass a basic test of financial literacy. What are your thoughts on that?

This is one of my soapbox issues. We are vastly undereducated about money, as a society. You can go to 98% of high school students and they don't know what a stock or a bond is. They don't know what debt is. They don't know what equity is. But they all have a credit card or know what a credit card is. We're teaching people the wrong way. We're teaching them to get in debt versus educating them on how to build wealth with multiple streams of income. It's very unfortunate.

How do you teach your own children about finances?

With my two sons, we always go through, what's this money for? What's it buying? They have brokerage accounts which they fund themselves. I don't give them an allowance. They earn money through neighborhood jobs, like taking out trash. This is how they learn what the value of a dollar is, so that it’s no big surprise when they get out there in the real world. I tell people I deal with two of the greatest taboos in American society. I talk about death and money all day long. And I have these conversations with my sons.  I talk with them about how to invest, what to invest in, and what to stay away from.

Is there anything you do to ‘sharpen the saw’, so to speak?

I've been in study groups. I've got a mastermind group where we share new ideas with each other. I also have a synergistic relationship with my tax attorney where we work together devising strategies to help people. It makes a world of difference. Consistent learning and improvement are critical to long-term success. In this business, we have mentors that help us build our portfolios and develop techniques to help clients better achieve their goals.

What do you think makes FMSA stand out from other firms?

Undoubtedly, it’s service. We’re a boutique operation. We don't try to market to every person. Our job is to connect with a handful of people per year and really make a difference in their lives.

It's so important to learn about our clients and what makes them tick. Without that knowledge and data, you really can't help people as much as they think you can. So, it's important that we get as much information as possible to give them the best advice and recommendations.

Overall, what's your investment philosophy?

We're very much a value-oriented investment firm. I've been doing this for 24 years and we follow the Warren Buffet/ Benjamin Graham/ Seth Klarman mentality. We stay away from extreme highflyers that, with any miss on earnings, experience massive fluctuations.

Can you discuss your fee structure at all?

We're a fee-based investment advisor. We receive no commissions from any products we provide. Like your CPA or your attorney, we work for you. We have a fiduciary duty to work for the client’s best interest.

Can you share the most interesting or funny still that occurred to you in your career so far?

I had a meeting with a client who was in the hospital, and he had a bunch of nurses and his doctor in the room. He and I were going over finance and I said that we don't have to do this now. But he said, “No, I've got nothing else to do. I can't go anywhere, so this is perfect!”

  • Scott Sonnier at Max's Grille, Photography by Edgar Alexander
  • Scott Sonnier at Mizner Park, Edgar Alexander
  • Scott with his wife and sons

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