Meet Robert Russell
In only nine short years, the second-generation wealth advisor has amassed an broad base of local, national and international clients. He often contributes to CNBC, Fox Business, The Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report.
“We’ve accomplished a lot in nine years, it feels like so much longer than that!” he said.
The logical questions are: how does Russell stand out in a sea of advisors and why is he so popular with the press? He believes his approach to fiscal health, depth of industry knowledge and genuine desire to secure his clients’ long term goals are what sets him apart from the pack.
A graduate of Wright State University with a Bachelor’s in business, Russell went to work for a Fortune 500 Company right out of the gate, and though he enjoyed the stability and salary, something was missing. “It was a truly wonderful experience, and one that taught me a great deal, but I just felt like I was not helping people to the extent I wanted to … It wasn’t enough because I wasn’t making a difference in someone else’s life,” he said. After careful consideration and several conversations with his father (an accomplished CPA/Certified Fraud Examiner), he decided to launch the Ohio-based, Russell & Company. His Christian beliefs also instilled in him that affecting others in a positive way was the right choice.
“The most underserved and least represented segments of our society are retirees and soon-to-be retirees, the age 45+ crowd. I believe that Wall Street has failed this demographic miserably, and that there is such a massive difference between investing and planning,” he said.
One facet that he believes truly sets Russell & Company apart is their comprehensive, top-to-bottom approach to wealth advisement. Their goal is to help hard-working, affluent Americans preserve their retirement savings, and they have been meeting and exceeding that goal from the word go.
“We believe we have so many clients coming in that have been receiving really bad advice. For example, I will ask them when was the last time your adviser looked at your tax return, and the vast majority of clients, 9 times out of 10, reply by stating never, or not within the last five years,” he said.
Russell draws parallels between fiscal and medical health. “Your physician certainly would not prescribe Viagra without looking at the whole of your medical history, nor should your financial adviser provide advice without knowing your entire situation. If he doesn’t understand your tax situation, how can he give you financial advice?” he said.
Russell & Company begins with a bit of CPR (Complete Financial Review), in which potential financial problems receive close scrutiny. Often times in wealth advisement scenarios, the various arms are not in contact with one another, which is very problematic.
“The scenario is so familiar and one that happens over and over again: the tax person does not communicate with the legal person; the legal person never communicates with the financial person, and everybody is whistling their own symphony and you can’t. The problem with that approach is that what is good for one area may be catastrophic to another,” he said.
Russell & Company brings all players together to make sure a client’s entire fiscal house is in order. Without this cross-sector communication, there is a strong possibility that money is falling through the cracks. While the CPR brings many facets of retirement planning together, Russell admits that their services are not for everybody.
“We are certainly not experts in everything, and we are not going to make you a 100 percent return a year, that is not us. But if you want strategies that help preserve the wealth you have accumulated, keep it in your family and take your income the right way by paying the least amount of tax possible, we are for you,” he said. In fact, Russell foresaw the recent economic calamity long before most and warned clients in 2007 that they should begin to pull out of the stock market.
Russell & Company also differs in their approach to calculation and research. Many traditional advisers use a range of mathematical simulations based on data from the previous seven years, providing a weak forecast at best.“They run all sorts of scenarios and tell their client, ‘you shouldn’t run out of money.’ Well, the problem is that they are not plugging in the data that goes back 100 years, and the picture is incomplete,” he said. On the contrary, if most of a client’s money is in the market, there is a high risk of running out of money.
“We know clients are not interested in moving back in with their children, nor is their adviser interested in having them move in to their home,” he joked. An additional problem with traditional advisement is the common reliance on a one-size-fits-all type mentality that is far too rigid and not client-specific. “Every situation differs, and often times by vast amounts. It is a new era, and while relying on methods from the past is certainly the easy route, it is also the most dangerous,” he said.
According to Russell, the three biggest roadblocks along the road to enduring financial health are inflation, running out of money in retirement, and the next big bubble. The first two issues are rather self-explanatory, but Russell elaborated on problem three.
“I believe the next big bubble is in debt and it is in bonds, and it is actually the number one asset class in the world. There’s $93 trillion in bonds globally. We’ve had a 30 plus year high in bonds and debt; in fact, it is the highest in US history, and people are buying more bonds over stocks and holding on to them at the worst possible time,” he said.
Russell continued by arguing that when the bubble bursts, it will trump both the technology bubble crash in 2000 and the credit bubble of 2008 in terms of lost wealth. “I am 100 percent confident that this will happen, and it really is more a question of when than if,” he said.
His position is not just pessimistic, and Russell is also quite certain that there will be another stock boom, but the buzzword for today is insulation. “There are so many things that the average investor is just simply not told about, and these initiatives help shield you from volatility. A few examples that could be suitable include; secured floating income investments, opportunistic real estate investments, natural resource exploration investments and hybrid annuities,” he said.
While Russell acknowledges that his media credentials certainly heighten his credibility, he is first and foremost concerned with his clients. “I know it is comforting for a client to see the coverage and read the interviews because there is obviously a reason why I am there and other advisers are not. That being said, I am beginning to pull back a bit on those requests because my absolute top priority has been and always will be my clients,” he said.
A man of many parts, Russell authors a highly trafficked blog, “The Rob Report,” and recent headlines include, “The Tax Efficient Frontier,” and “Insane (LESS) Investing.” “The blog always features new and completely unfiltered material. I feel that it is very important to reach out to prospective clients through as many venues as possible, from writing to public speaking, I want to help as many people as possible,” he said.
Russell also recently completed his book entitled, “Retirement Held Hostage,” in which he outlines several of the strategies that have brought him into the public eye. Too many clients tell the same tale of feeling as if their hands are tied by Washington and Wall Street, and Russell’s book will provide tips to undo the knots. “People feel powerless and they feel like their future is held hostage by Europe, Wall Street and Washington. We cannot control any of that, but let’s focus on what we can control to get you back on track,” he said.