Retirement Planning

Financial Planning Meets Wealth Management

“You’ll Never Go Wrong Putting People First”

The financial services industry is today’s most data-driven sector – technology and innovation bring continual change. In this numbers-heavy environment, does this focus on performance metrics and investment returns leave something missing from the equation?

“My philosophy has always been to put people first,” said Marguerita M. Cheng, chief executive officer of Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, Maryland “It’s about collaborating with clients.”

A detailed understanding of each client’s goals and finances helps Cheng customize the most appropriate recommendations for financial planning and wealth management.

Cheng joined Ameriprise as a financial planner in 1999. Some 14 years later, she decided to become an independent financial planner to help individuals and families. And in 2013, she opened Blue Ocean Global Wealth, a registered investment advisory firm, so she could have more flexibility in delivering financial advice.

“When I entered the business, I always felt that there was a distinction between investment advice and financial planning advice,” Cheng said. “My philosophy has always been ‘people first’; understand what's important to them and how they make decisions. It’s the people, then the process, and last but not least, the portfolio.”

A cornerstone of the Blue Ocean Global Wealth client experience is that Cheng does not accept money management-only clients. Financial planning is required for everyone, and asset minimums are not imposed. Doing the best possible job for individual clients requires having a complete picture of their goals and finances, including liabilities, income, insurance, expenses, and so on. Many clients find that the financial planning process helps them think through their goals and become better organized.

rita quoteCheng said she avoids using the term “financial literacy” because it “can be off-putting, as its opposite is financial illiteracy.” She prefers helping people become more financially confident and empowered so they understand how to apply financial concepts.

Blue Ocean Global Wealth attempts to create a “safe space” for educating clients. Cheng encourages people to ask questions and talk about what they want to accomplish as personal finance can be intimidating for many investors.

“We need to speak to our clients with clarity and conviction,” said Cheng. “That doesn’t mean dumb it down or talk over their heads – we need to meet them where they are. When clients better understand their options and the consequences of their choices, they become more confident in their decisions.”

“Most people today are not retiring from something,” she continued. Instead they view retirement as starting something new. Understanding retirement objectives helps us better tailor the portfolio to target those goals.”

While some planners say their clients overestimate their expected rates of return, Cheng noted, many clients seem to underestimate their life expectancy. People are living longer, so more thorough preparation is required to reduce the possibility of retirees outliving their assets.

Long-term care calls for similar considerations. Cheng encourages families to have early conversations on the topic. Planning for extended healthcare challenges doesn’t necessarily mean clients need to buy insurance, but they do need to consider their options and anticipate how they will handle that possibility. It takes courage to address those issues ahead of time, Cheng explained. Still, families need to think and talk about those contingencies sooner rather than later.

Whether helping clients plan for retirement or manage their wealth for short-term needs, Blue Ocean Global Wealth is committed to their fiduciary responsibility, and often, they educate clients on just what that means. A recent study by Betterment for Business found that only 42 percent of Americans could correctly identify what “fiduciary” means, and 27 percent did not know what a fiduciary is. Another 20 percent thought “fiduciary” and “financial advisor” had the same meaning.

“Many consumers are surprised to learn their financial advisors are not fiduciaries,” said Cheng. “As a fiduciary, Blue Ocean Global Wealth must do more than simply make suitable recommendations. We must provide advice that aligns with our clients’ best interests.”

It can be difficult for clients to know whether a financial advisor is a fiduciary. An excellent starting point is to ask questions about the advisor’s certifications and designations. An advisor must understand a client’s time horizon, goals, capacity for risk—and most importantly, the client as an individual, not just an investor.

Take the time to understand the services they will provide, the compensation method, their investment philosophy, their role in managing your portfolio, their communication style, etc.

Cheng believes that if the financial advice profession is to be effective in reaching diverse and multicultural consumers, it needs to tailor marketing messages to be more inclusive.

“In the past, some consumers would see advertisements and think, ‘I don’t look like the people in the ads. I am not sure if that firm understands me & my experiences,’” said Cheng. “Well, American demographics are changing rapidly, and the country is more diverse. If we are not intentional about how we communicate, we will miss the opportunity to help the next generation of investors build, protect, and transfer wealth.”

For more information on Blue Ocean Global Wealth, visit


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