By C.B. Hall
Launched in late 2015 in Vergennes, Vermont Retirement Planners has moved southward and is now working out of offices in Rutland and Manchester.
In its new locations, the company continues “to walk clients through the complex and challenging process of planning for and transitioning into retirement,” as stated on its website.
The company takes a specific perspective on how to advise soon-to-be retirees on their investments. Founder and owner, Nick Strom-Olsen, said a clear distinction has existed between investment advisers and investment brokers. While both buy and sell securities, investment advisers such as his business, he said, have held themselves to a higher, fiduciary standard.
“Our interest has to be behind the client’s; we have to be responsible for the investment,” Strom-Olsen said.
But changes are in the works. While brokers and advisers will continue to hold different licenses, the fiduciary standard will soon apply to both types of professionals, Strom-Olsen said. A new rule recently finalized by the U.S. Department of Labor at President Barack Obama’s instruction will mandate the reform, thus putting the client’s interest first throughout the sector, Strom-Olsen said.
In an official 2015 release, the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimated that ordinary investors lost $17 billion in asset value yearly because of self-interested advice from their brokers and advisers.
“The brokerage industry has fought this for years,” Strom-Olsen said, adding that the incoming administration of Donald Trump may choose to roll back the rule.
For its advice and for the transactions it conducts, Vermont Retirement Planners takes a percentage of the client’s asset value balance annually, rather than charging a flat fee, for example. That ties the client’s well-being to success of Vermont Retirement Planners as a business.
“Our average is under 1 percent,” Strom-Olsen said. He pegged the average for comparable firms in the sector at about 1.5 percent.
Strom-Olsen cited exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as the primary investment vehicle for his clients. The internal cost ratio of ETFs — their maintenance cost, essentially — is generally lower than that of mutual funds, since the latter have human managers. By contrast, ETFs work electronically, by means of a computer algorithm based on an analysis of value trends in the underlying securities — which, Strom-Olsen noted, do not in his company’s case include derivatives.
“We’re not going to go into very complicated, risky strategies,” he said.
Strom-Olsen has been in the investment advising business for over 15 years. Equipped with an MBA, Strom-Olsen went into the business “right out of college.” He took on Melissa Bartlett as a business partner in Vermont Retirement Planners when he moved from Vergennes in November. Bartlett has worked in the sector for 10 years, he said.
Strom-Olsen anticipates further growth in the enterprise.
“One employee and one client at a time,” he said.
The offices of Vermont Retirement Planners are at 87 North Main Street in Rutland and 54 Highland Avenue in Manchester. The website is www.vtretirementplanners.com.