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Chris Nichols has been in the financial services industry for over a decade and has enjoyed a long tradition of providing high net worth clients with a high level of financial advice and trust.
He specializes in the areas of investment management and retirement planning. Chris has held hundreds of public and private investment planning workshops that are designed to inform and educate individuals about investing and retirement planning. He has authored “Six Costly Life Insurance Mistakes and Some Simple Ways to Help You Avoid Them,” a booklet that reveals many unknown facts about life insurance. Chris is also the author of the popular financial book, “The Real Truth About Your Money: Simple Answers to Smart Financial Questions”.
MO: What are the advantages of using a proactive investment management system?
Chris: The advantages are generally two fold. For one, being able to protect capital by specifically identifying when the stock market trend turns down is crucial. When the market fell apart in 2008 and the average investor lost 40%, rather then riding the market down, and stressing, wouldn’t it have been nice to have a proactive system in place that helps identify when the market risks are high and then start moving to safety (i.e. money market accounts, cash etc.)? The truth is that if the market always appreciated there would be no need to have proactive management. One would just have to buy and hold their portfolio or invest passively. We know that what goes up must (at some point) come down as we’ve seen in the early 2000’s and 2008 stock markets and in the recent real estate market correction. Over the long term an investor’s ability to mitigate losses and avoid bear markets (being proactive) will likely put their portfolio well ahead of an investor who buys and holds (being passive). The second advantage of having a proactive investment management system is that it helps an investor identify when profit opportunities are available. For example, recently as a result of the recent Federal Reserve QE3 actions, the trend in the precious metals (i.e. gold, silver) sector has provided some nice short term profits. Being able to react quickly as a result of this Fed move created opportunities for the proactive investor.
MO: What are the most common life insurance mistakes that people make and how can they be avoided?
Chris: The first mistake is that many people are overpaying for their policy. The overwhelming majority of life insurance buyers never get additional quotes- they just buy the first policy they are shown. How do you know you’re getting the best deal? Not only is cost an issue but many policies have interest crediting methods and various features others don’t offer. Meet with at least a few independent advisors for different options before you make a decision.
The second mistake, and more alarming, is many never review their policies after the initial purchase. They stick it in a file cabinet and it collects dust. I would venture to say that many policies are “bad deals”. Have your policies reviewed at least every few years by an independent financial advisor or life insurance specialist. The insurance industry is very competitive and companies are always introducing product enhancements.
MO: What are your top three tips when it comes to creating a retirement plan?
Chris: Tip # 1: Come up with a plan- “If you fail to plan you plan to fail” It may sound silly but the best advice I can give anyone is just to sit down and create one!
Tip #2: Be responsible for your own financial well being. Don’t rely on your employer or the government to take care of you. Live by the mantra, “If it’s meant to be it’s up to me!”
Tip #3: Start today. Time is your friend. The sooner you start putting money away in your IRA, 401k or whatever investment vehicle you’ve chosen the better. Financial markets will fluctuate over time but you can’t make up 10 or 20 years. If you don’t start now you may miss out on your most valuable asset, time.
MO: What are some guidelines of writing a will and are there any aspects that you see people regularly overlook or misunderstand?
Chris: There are different types of wills so generally speaking, just make sure that you address all aspects such as creating a health care surrogate, financial powers of attorney and of course and executor who’s trustworthy. After drafted and executed many people don’t have them reviewed or updated. State laws regularly change so you want to make sure the will is up to date.
MO: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting to invest but isn’t sure of where to start?
Chris: Educate yourself and learn from the best investors in history. Go read books from authors like William O’Neil, “How To Make Money In Stocks”, Benjamin Graham’s “The Intelligent Investor” or a book from one of my mentors, Stan Weinstein, “Secrets For Profiting In Bull and Bear Markets”. The sad truth is most people won’t take the time to read AND study. If you want to get good at anything you have to practice and focus in on your craft. These books aren’t complicated and I encourage all investors to use them as a guide for investing success.
MO: What inspired you to write, “The Real Truth About Your Money: Simple Answers to Smart Financial Questions” and what do you hope that the average reader walks away with?
Chris: I wrote the book at a result of the financial and stock market meltdown we saw in 2008- 2009. I saw so many people hurting and it got me thinking that investors lost focus of the basics of investing: To invest for the long term using a discipline approach to investing. I just hope that the reader walks away with a basic understanding of his entire financial life. Truth is that financial planning isn’t that complicated but at times we as human beings make it so. Just live within your means, spend wisely on things you need, splurge on occasion and save your money to you can set yourself up for a higher probability of having a comfortable financial life and retirement. I wish most people would spend time understanding money, investing and their emotions around it versus the hours we spend each week wasting time watching TV. How much time do you spend each week on your finances and learning to become a better investor? Studies suggest that Americans are saving more now then they did 5 years ago so let’s hope this recent trend continues.
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