Many people assume that financial advisers are only for the rich. Stacie Rasmussen is convinced that people of lower incomes can also benefit.
She should know. Rasmussen and her husband ran out of money after finding themselves without a job and exhausting their savings. It would be four years before they regained their financial equilibrium, and after that, Rasmussen became a financial advisor.
Unlike many financial planners who are looking for wealthy clients, Rasmussen welcomes non-wealthy clients. She works at a company, Abacus Wealth Partners, which does not have a minimum account for new clients. Based in Santa Monica, California, the company’s advisors are fee-based trustees (meaning they are paid only by their clients and are required to put clients’ interests first).
When Rasmussen meets prospects, they often say, “You probably don’t want to talk with me. I do not have a lot of money.
Sometimes they really have so little money that Rasmussen tells them it’s not wise to spend it on a counselor. In such cases, she suggests community resources and pro bono help.
Yet many affluent consumers (who typically have over $ 100,000 in liquid assets) also struggle with money issues. They may need to adopt better budgeting, saving and spending habits.
This is where Rasmussen comes in. For starters, she tells clients about her own experience of financial stress. With their savings dried up, she and her husband lost their home. The couple broke up temporarily (with Stacie and her son staying with his father while her husband surfed the couch as he searched for a job). Then they lived in a friend’s vacation home and then rented a condo from a friend’s mom for less than the market price.
In 2017, her husband was hired as a freelance writer and editor for the Abacus marketing team. Eventually, he joined the company full time, and in early 2019, Rasmussen came on board as a junior financial planner.
Her background as a teacher – and her Masters in Education – gave her an edge. The more she discovered the role of a financial advisor, the more she realized that it was focused on education.
Rasmussen has passed his Series 65 exam and plans to take the CFP exam in November. She is particularly passionate about working with clients who are going through difficult financial times.
“I can tell they are scared,” she said. “I can say that they fear being judged and looked down upon. Maybe they made some stupid choices or some huge mistakes. So I am more vulnerable with them. I’m sharing more about my experience and how we just didn’t know what we didn’t know.
To put clients at ease, Rasmussen begins their first meeting – what she calls “discovering goals and values” – by stating, “In this room, you are the expert in your life.” She specifies that she is not there to impose order.
“I’m not here to say, ‘Obviously you don’t know what you’re doing, so I’m going to take it over,'” she said. “Changing tables like that and making them experts gives them power and they share even more about their best hopes for their lives over the next five years. There is no judgment or shame. We get rid of the shame and embarrassment so that everything revolves around the future.
Once they open up about their financial history and future goals, Rasmussen determines how she can help them. A spendthrift customer, for example, might benefit from a tough love; another needs a responsible partner to stick to their financial plan. “We are finding out what this relationship has to be,” she said.
When she tells her story – how she thought her family was financially secure in the decade leading up to 2013 when her husband was making a lot of money and she was a homeowner and a happy stay-at-home mom with their young son – it resonates with many customers. They see that the bottom can fall for anyone – and they are not alone.
“When I first started learning to be a financial planner, I was learning on my own,” Rasmussen said. “I wanted to teach myself what I didn’t know. I wish we had hired an advisor when [her husband] was making so much money. We had to cash in on my husband’s retirement. A counselor would have helped us make the right choices and taught us what to do.
Following: What if you die first? 10 important financial problems for married people
More: From Auto Mechanic to Financial Advisor: How a Financial Planner Shifted into High Gear