Finance Can Change Lives, One Neighbourhood at a Time

Financial literacy can mean the difference between working from paycheck to paycheck, and building real, lasting wealth. But schools, community organizations, and even parents often fall short when it comes to providing effective financial education. In his corner of Illinois, Jeffrey R. Secord, CFP®, CAP® is trying to change that.

Secord’s firm, IPI Wealth Management, Inc., has taken an educator’s mindset beyond their office and into the community. Secord was involved in a collaboration of offering financial literacy programs to women recently released from prison. The program, managed by a local YWCA, allows women reintegrating into society a chance to learn the tools needed to take charge of their financial futures. “If we can change one life, and one life takes it back to their neighbourhood, then we start to change the whole world. We believe that sort of education can be empowering for people from all walks of life.”

Jeff and his team have created a movement called Women’s Financial Empowerment Initiative geared towards educating women from all circumstances to make a difference locally and one day, around the world.

IPI Wealth Management, based in Decatur, Illinois, provides comprehensive financial planning and wealth management services. “We focus our individual wealth management process on client relationships that generate at least $2,500 of revenue annually but through our education initiatives we touch people from all levels of our economic spectrum,” says Secord during an “Advisor Magazine” recent interview.

Financial literacy issues present wealth managers with a serious challenge. Few clients come equipped to understand their financial situation and the products available to them. Secord said that Illinois is in the beginning stages of offering finance education as part of larger social wellness program, but the public school system still lags in preparing students for their financial futures. That said, the schools in Illinois are implementing financial readiness curricula, which is more than some other states can say, Secord added.

IPI Wealth Management also offers a financial literacy program targeted to children, with a take-home savings kit. Secord noted that parents often mistakenly believe they need to wait until their children grow older before teaching them how money works. He, however, recommends starting as young as four years old.

Financial literacy aside, investors need to take an active role in managing their money. As the financial industry moves away from one-size-fits all allocation strategies and the single-minded pursuit of “alpha” gives way to a philosophy emphasizing customized solutions, investors and their advisors must work closely to stay on track. And, for Secord, clients who understand that investing as a two-way street are a must.

“We’re looking for a planning engagement … Looking for people who are open and transparent,” Secord said. “If they just say, ‘What can you do for me? How much money can you make for me?’ then that’s usually a bad fit.”

Savvy, modern investors need to be active participants in achieving their financial goals, and advisors must be prepared to step in as educators to give those clients the tools they need to make informed decisions about their money. IPI Wealth Management engages prospective clients in long conversations about their goals and financial knowledge before any planning begins, Secord said. jeff head and body2

“We view ourselves as educators before we start managing money or doing financial planning,” Secord said, adding that a good initial conversation is one in which the other person does “90 percent of the talking.”

IPI Wealth Management does not stop at educating clients, Secord and his team continually work to improve their own knowledge as well. In recent years, the new millennial generation has begun accumulating wealth, and Secord has worked to understand these up-and-coming investors. Millennials, Secord said, want more than financial returns, they want to see their money create positive impact and go to companies that behave sustainably — and the repercussions of that can be felt anywhere in the market.

“The more that people understand what is going on, the more they’ll understand that sustainability issues are going to matter not only when it comes to picking individual stock investments but mutual funds that adhere to a higher level of social responsibility criteria,” he said.

But many millennials are not yet ready to participate in the financial world. Many struggle with heavy student loan burdens, often moving back in with their parents — who may already be financially strained taking care of older relatives. These millennials are in a difficult position, and pulling them out has become complicated due to the changing nature of work.
The solution to this, Secord said, is to emphasize the value of long-term thinking.

“The failure that people have is that they don’t think long-term enough,” he said. “If we can get people thinking in 30-year chunks, then they’re going to be more successful at imagining the future.”

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