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San Luis Obispo Financial Services

by Cathy Enns


It doesn’t matter if you’re a young adult just getting started or one of the many retirees in our area, your financial health may be one of the aspects of your life you find difficult to address. It’s understandable. It can be a daunting task to learn the basics—just getting started can seem overwhelming. Take a moment to read about the roles of various San Luis Obispo financial services professionals and you might get inspired to take action.

There are many firms on the Central Coast, both large and small, that can help you with your personal finances. Most, such as insurance companies and stockbrokerages, offer financial advice, often at very low cost to you, with the expectation that you will purchase their products. Other firms offer services that range from periodic advice on your investments to complete management of your entire portfolio.

Your insurance agent may be one of the people who’d like to assist you with financial services. In San Luis Obispo County as well as across the country, insurance agents sell instruments you could consider as part of your portfolio. The operative words here are “sell” and “part.” Understand that your insurance agent can’t really advise you at a high level nor take any responsibility for your overall financial health. They can only sell you what they have to offer, and they earn commission on those products. For some people in the right circumstances, insurance instruments such as annuities and whole life insurance policies can add a degree of comfort and predictability to a diversified portfolio.

Stockbrokers also offer expertise in financial services in San Luis Obispo. They can sell stocks, bonds, futures and other instruments available on the open market, plus they have access to their own company’s funds and packages to sell. They earn a percentage from each transaction you make through them and commission on their company’s products. Stockbrokers may be able to provide sound advice related to capital markets, but know that if you use a stockbroker as your one and only investment professional, you’re limiting your choices to what he or she carries.

To get a broader view of what’s available to you in San Luis Obispo, a financial services consultant may be the professional you need. They can be associated with a bank or with an investment company or they may be completely independent. Some work on a fee basis, others on an annual percentage of your portfolio. Some can offer either arrangement.

When you work with a fee-based consultant, you arguably get the most unbiased advice possible. You’re compensating the professional solely for their time and expertise—no other fees or commissions are involved. The disadvantage is that the advisor gets paid the same whether your portfolio gains or loses value. In addition, when using an advisor, typically you have to do the work yourself. This means all buying and selling, the paperwork and day-to-day oversight of your portfolio.

A financial manager who works on a percentage basis, usually 1 to 2% of the value of your portfolio annually, is often the person in the best position to take responsibility for your overall financial health, including all investments. After all, your fortunes and theirs are tied directly together—as your portfolio gains in value, their revenue increases. Although you will likely pay more than for a fee-based advisor, a financial services professional working on a percentage basis can be expected to do research, execute paperwork, meet with you regularly and advise you on a wide range of financial and related topics.

Finally, for many people in San Luis Obispo, financial services matters are handled through the “do it yourself” approach. The benefits are obvious—you are in complete control of your destiny and you pay few fees. Before deciding to go the DIY route, be honest with yourself about whether you have the time and passion to do the job right. Chances are, if you’re not already interested in financial matters and taking action on your portfolio, you’re not going to be proactive in the future.

The good news for people in San Luis Obispo is that financial services professionals abound. Just do a little research on which type is best for you and make that first call.

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