At 74, CFP Larry P. Ginsburg can look out of his Oakland, Calif. office window and see San Francisco, a place he calls “a fabulous city.’’ On a good traffic day, he can be downtown in 15 minutes.
“It’s a great place to live if you’re elderly or single; there’s so much going on, COVID, aside,’’ Ginsburg says.
Despite being at an age that is considered elderly, Ginsburg is far from interested in retiring, and has the forceful personality, even over the telephone, of a much younger person.
He is the owner/president of Ginsburg Financial Advisors, Inc. (GFA), a fee-based financial advisory firm with about 142 clients with $252 million assets under management. He founded the firm in 2007.
“Why put myself out to pasture when I still have a lot to contribute and a lot to do! I am so much better at my work than I was 20, 30, 40 years ago, without question,’’ Ginsburg said.
Those earlier years were spent working in marketing and finance. While an equipment leasing broker at a Fortune 500 company, Ginsburg’s friends and clients told him they were unhappy with their stockbrokers’ “next best deal’’ approach to financial advising.
He said that void in financial advice nudged him into changing his career about 40 years ago. He started as an independent financial advisor with a securities firm, then joined the then-Associated Financial Group, which, in 2007, became a division of LPL Financial.
“At peak, I worked 50, 55, 60 hours a week. Now I probably work 40 hours a week. However, I play in a golf tournament during the week, and I schedule time to be with my kids and grandkids, and so if I need to, I can work nights or early morning. I’m not getting on any planes!’’ he said.
“What I tell my clients who are talking about retirement is to have a portfolio of activities, like a portfolio of investments. You need to have a ‘retirementality.’
“I remember when, against my better judgment, I allowed one client to retire, because he said he was going to play a lot of golf. That was great. Until he got injured. Then the depression kicked in. So, we tell clients, you need a number of activities to keep you happy.’’
Pre-Covid-19, Ginsburg and his wife, Lynn Simon, loved to travel to faraway places, and they intend to again. Recently, to celebrate his 74th birthday, the couple spent a long weekend on the Monterey Peninsula where he golfed non-stop. Did his wife join him in golfing?
“My wife walks.’’
Ginsburg said he continues to do “a fair amount of media work on behalf of the Financial Planning Association,’’ and the support staff at GFA helps with non-profit community service.
Ginsburg says that clients, who must have a minimum of $1 million in assets, do not seek out his firm because they want coaching in how to make better decisions. But, that is a gratifying result of the relationship.
“We all get hired to do an effective job in making money. But this is what I do know: It’s much more satisfying for clients and for me, to help them in ways that they usually don’t expect. For example: I can’t tell you the number of clients who are retired, or in the process of retiring, and who we have confirmed are more than successful and have the financial resources to live comfortably, but won’t do the things they intended to!
“My job is to kick them in the rear end. Help them make a decision and do what they want to do,’’ he said.
An example was the client, now 85, who retired 20 years ago, and was a World War II buff. Ginsburg encouraged him to take trips to explore the various sites of the war.
“I told him that he could learn a lot and enjoy it, too. ‘No! That’s too expensive,’ he said. Then he got colon cancer, but he recovered. I asked him if there was any reason he didn’t want to take the trip now, and he took one!’’
But first, the client called him an unprintable name; still, he saw the light, Ginsburg said.
“That motivated him and he started to take trips every year. He’s enjoying them and he hasn’t dipped into any of his principal.’’
Under 40 Need Not Apply
Ginsburg said he understand his colleagues’ wish to acquire clients under 40 but it’s not for his firm.
“We’re not interested in working with millennials; they want to get online and do it all in 30 minutes. Their thinking is they can learn what we know in no time, so there’s no loyalty; they’d prefer to do it over the phone.
“How is this a way for building solid relationships? We are in the high end of the service spectrum; we’re not in race at the bottom for the lowest fees, which big companies can do more efficiently.
“We want clients over 50 who are serious about wanting relations with advisors through difficult times; we’re a support system.’’
GFA has one staff member under 30, but the remainder are 50 and over, by design, he said.
“We want people with emotional maturity who respond to the needs of our clients, who expect that they know what they are talking about. People in their 30s don’t have the life experience.’’
Ginsburg said his firm has up to three generations of clients from families.
“When a client dies, 70% of the family’s money stays with us because the family knows us. We’re a good fit.’’
As could be gathered from the anecdote about Ginsburg’s gently gruff handling of the World War II buff, he said he prides himself on two rules:
“I always articulate on the first phone call: There is no such thing as a foolish question when it comes to money, and I will tell them what they need to hear, which is not always what they want to hear. If they’re not willing to have that sort of direct relationship, we’re not a good fit.’’
Despite hearing from clients that they were unhappy with their stockbrokers’ method of handling their money, Ginsburg said he had an early stockbroker mentor.
“He wanted me to join his firm. They did not have a serious focus on financial planning, so I did not affiliate with that firm. He continued to give me very helpful advice as I started my career in financial planning.
“And I have mentored many advisors, both affiliated independent broker dealers and others who have asked me for support. I enjoy being a mentor and giving back to our profession,’’ he said.
Forty years ago, Ginsburg said, financial planners were compensated by commission.
“Seeing consumers move from paying for transactions to paying for service is the best change that has happened in my 40 years in this business.
“Since the CFP Board started in the early 1970’s, it is trying to be viewed as a ‘profession.’ We are less than 50 years old and trying to manage the change from being part of the financial services ‘industry’ to being seen as professional service providers, as are attorneys and accountants.’’
The Best Laid Plans
Ginsburg said his master plan, at 33, of making enough business revenue to equal 50% of his historical earnings within three years did not materialize.
“I foolishly started in this business by ‘hanging out a shingle’ with the support of a broker dealer that had a financial planning focus. Today I recommend career changers as well as recent college graduates affiliate with a successful firm so they can accelerate their professional development.
“My biggest mistake was not joining the FPA during my first 10 years in this business. Once I joined a study group and could share successes and failures with others, we all benefitted from this opportunity to share and learn. ‘’
Aside from providing a kick in the pants to clients in need, Ginsburg said older clients have helped him do his job better than he did 40 years ago.
“My experience has made me far more effective in helping my clients make better decisions so their lives become more of what each client really desires for themselves and their family. I learned that I am really in the ‘anxiety reduction’ business,’’’ he said.
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.