Firm helps others reach financial goals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Financial planning can be burdensome. There are so many terms and numbers and tips that it's hard to sort through what applies to you and what doesn't.

Austin residents don't have to tackle the daunting task of organizing their finances alone, though – not as long as American Express Financial Advisors Inc. of Austin is around.

According to associate advisor Beth Johnson, the company specializes in comprehensive financial planning. "That sets us apart. When an individual comes in with money … we take the time to look at everything they have," such as their income and income tax and then the financial advisors work to make sure they are giving their client the best possible advice based on all those factors, Johnson says.

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"We talk to people about what is really important to them and then we use strategies and techniques to accomplish those goals," senior financial advisor Randy Kramer adds.

Therefore, every plan they create is as individual as the person seeking the plan. "We make sure our advice is tailored to their needs. We don't use a cookie-cutter approach," senior financial advisor Webb Davis says.

"Before we really give advice, we want to understand the client's goals and objectives and then we'll give them a list of suggestions to help them get from point A to point B," senior financial advisor Greg Thoen says.

As a result, people come seeking help of all kinds. "We help with retirement planning, income tax planning, estate planning, education planning, protection planning such as how to protect your assets in case a spouse needs nursing care," Kramer lists.

"We have all the products available in the business world: mutual funds, life insurance, CDs … everyone carries the same stuff, it's how you sell it that sets you apart," Davis says.

At American Express, the advisors analyze, then present the clients with written summaries of their analysis and the planners continue to meet with each client three or four times a year afterward.

"Financial planning is never done, it's always a work in progress," Kramer says. "We don't tell them what to do, we help them understand their choices and options so they can make a more educated decision."

"We pride ourselves on listening, not telling, but we make sure the clients know the reality of their goals," Davis adds.

Since they spend so much time make sure all financial plans are finely tailored to their clients, no one can expect to visit with a financial advisor at American Express and have his or her financial strategies planned and implemented in an hour or two. The process typically takes "one to two months depending on the schedule of the client," Thoen says. "Rome wasn't built in a day, so we encourage them to focus on one dream at a time."

Their approach seems to have worked. Currently, they have approximately 1,200 clients and manage $75 million for them. The associates feel the community has rewarded them for their approach to personal financing and "since the community has give so much to us, we like to give to them," Davis says.

That giving includes presenting educational seminars about financial planning and being involved with community organizations like the Red Cross and March of Dimes. That involvement is just another way for the advisors to understand their clients and help them plan for their financial future.

Amanda L. Rohde can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at :mailto: