Sunday, June 13, 2021

‘I Learned to Keep it Simple, Stupid,’ says Advisor in Practice 45 Years

He also teaches younger advisors to show respect and be patient with older clients.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series Rethinking65 is doing on older advisors who are continuing to work. You may also be interested in reading our articles on Don Rembert and Dick Wendin (both 82) and 74-year-old June Schroeder. Want to suggest an advisor for the series? Contact Editorial Director Jerilyn Klein.

When financial advisor Tim Leveroni dropped out of college to start in the financial planning business at age 21, his father, who was also in the industry, was all for this new venture under one condition.

“My father said he would show me and my brother how to get into the business but only if we joined an independent firm because he wanted us to represent the client and not the employers,” says Leveroni, 66, who cofounded Leveroni Financial Management Corp., a financial consulting and wealth management firm in Braintree Mass., with his brother Daniel, 69. Both are CFPs.

“After our first year in the business, Dad left his employer and joined our firm; he was in his late 50s then,” says Leveroni.

Since then, the Leveronis have kept the business, which has welcomed a third generation, really close to home. Tim is chairman of the board and Daniel is president of Leveroni Financial Management Corp., which services roughly 400 family or client households, and has approximately $475 million of assets under management. Its business is about 95% fee based.

When Tim wanted to join the business, the only one to demur was his mother. Although his father had done very well in the business, he says, “his father had been a judge in Boston, and my mother’s father was a lawyer in D.C., so she wanted me to be either a lawyer or a doctor, not an advisor or salesperson!’’

“My mother, who has her doctorate in psychology, was happy that I went independent but her big thing was she wanted me to finish college, which I did,” says Leveroni, who earned his degree at Babson College just outside of Boston. “And my father just loved working with his two sons. He kept working until he got cancer, and he passed away at 67.’’

Leveroni says that he never considered retiring at the traditional age of 65, and that he won’t as long as he remains “healthy and relevant.’’

“I’ll keep working as long as I feel that I am important and adding value to the team. I think our team will tell me if that’s not the case any more.”

“I’ll keep working as long as I feel that I am important and adding value to the team. I think our team will tell me if that’s not the case any more. I hold the investment comment meeting every Tuesday and I’m the CEO so I manage the team, but it’s getting so I have to do less and less because I have a very good team.”

That team is where more Leveronis enter the picture.

JoAnne C.R. “Jody” Leveroni, 62, is Tim’s wife. They dated while at school and she joined the firm at its founding in 1976, after receiving her securities license. They married in 1982 and have two children, Jacqueline, 35 and Timothy, 34, who are also members of the firm.

Jody, whom her husband says is “very sharp; she’s the brains of our operation,’’ and holds an accounting degree, does investment and risk analysis for clients, with concentrations in disability, long-term care and health insurance; employee benefits; and eldercare planning. And she is “particularly passionate about empowering women of all ages to pursuing their financial goals with confidence.’’

Leveroni said he formerly worked six days a week, 12 hours a day, but now that a solid team of 10, including his children, is in place, he has cut back to 30 hours a week, Monday through Friday. His wife has reduced her work hours, too. Besides the weekly meeting, Leveroni coaches, mentors and “cheerleads’’ his team.

Jacqueline Leveroni

Son Timothy, who is enrolled in a CFP accreditation program, joined the firm in 2009 as a wealth advisor. He is the chief operating officer with a concentration on marketing and business development for the firm. Daughter Jacqueline joined the firm in 2020 as a client services associate, after two years as a wealth advisor associate for Morgan Stanley. She holds a law degree and a master’s degree in environmental law and policy.

Long workdays can play havoc on marriages and families, so keeping it in the family has helped the Leveronis avoid those pitfalls.

“Because my wife worked with me, it was great, because she understood what I was going through with the business,” says Leveroni. “There were always evening and weekend appointments, and traveling all over the country to conferences, all that stuff.” She came on a lot of the trips, although she couldn’t travel when their children were young.

Being in business for 45 years naturally lends itself to seeing next generations, in both staff and clients.

“We are getting lots of the children and grandchildren of our clients. This has been amazing for us,” says Leveroni. “I love seeing the younger clients starting early on their planning and taking advantage of compound interest. A big attraction to a lot of people is that we are a family business.’’

With nearly a half century of experience, Leveroni can say that the financial industry has changed in several significant ways since he started.

“Technology is a big driver for change, but also, compliance work has increased dramatically,” says Leveroni, who brings up compliance at every Tuesday meeting and works hard to keep up with the ever-changing compliance regulations. “We always get high marks there,” he says. As for the technology, “The stuff we can do today is amazing,” he says. “When we started, we worked on an electric typewriter, with carbon copies and every form we had, we had to do manually.

“Also, back then, the industry was dominated by the brokerage-employee channel and today, it’s a fee based, independent industry. That’s a good thing because I think people should be independent,” he says. “I never worked for another firm because I would not like to be told what to do. It’s exactly as my father said: ‘We are fiduciaries!’’’

Experience has also taught Leveroni that what seemed like wisdom 45 years ago can change.

“Early on, I was a strong advocate for active portfolio management and market timing. But then I learned that the key to investment was how much time you are in the market, instead of trying to time the market. I learned to ‘keep it simple, stupid!’ Gradually we moved over to this way, and our clients love this, that we are not trying to time the market.’’

As an older advisor, he can understand the needs and idiosyncrasies of older clients.

“We tell our younger advisors to show respect, to listen to their elders and be patient. They have a lot of experience and you can learn from their stories. The thing with younger executives and business owners is that they don’t have a lot of time to give you, but the older people who are retired, they have more time, so, you gotta be patient.’’

Leveroni says he regularly hears from clients who start financial planning in their 40s that they wish they had met him 10 years earlier, when they could have gained even more from compounding.

“We tell people, ‘Time flies so quickly, so the sooner you get started the greater chance you have of reaching your goals.’ Time doesn’t wait for anybody,” he says.

Tim and Jody Leveroni have lived in Milton, Mass., 10 miles south of Boston, for 40 years. They play golf and tennis and have traveled widely but their favorite spot is the Hawaiian Islands, where they have been for business and vacations 40 times. Leveroni says his wife is a gourmet cook and that none of it shows on her, but does on him. They now have more time to spend with their two grandchildren, 7 and 5.

“Above all else, I enjoy being with my family, especially my grandkids.’’

Not surprisingly, Leveroni refers to the firm that he and his brother founded in family terms.

“I still come in every day because I love it; it’s been my baby,” he says. “The company has been set up so it will continue for a long time. I don’t want it to end when I retire. I love it, my father loved seeing us being successful, and my mother ultimately did come around, once she saw how well we were doing.’’

In a four-decade career in journalism, Eleanor O’Sullivan has reviewed many books on best practices for financial advisors, has written for Financial Advisor and the USA Today network, and was movie critic for the Asbury Park Press.

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