Trust: I believe it is the single most important factor in determining whom one should hire as a financial advisor. Quite simply, you have to trust your advisor. You have to know that they genuinely have your best interests at heart and that they really are committed to helping your family achieve its goals.
As part of our series about what one should look for when hiring a financial planner or adviser, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gideon Drucker.
Gideon Drucker, Certified Financial Planner, is the Founder and Director of the Wealth-Builder Division at Drucker Wealth, a family wealth management firm started by his grandfather Bernie Drucker in 1959. The 3rd generation Drucker, Gideon specializes in working with young professionals looking to take a more proactive approach to their financial future.
While meeting many of his firms’ pre-retiree clients during his first year, Gideon kept hearing a common refrain: “If only I had met you 30 years ago.” This sentiment, repeated dozens of times by new Drucker Wealth clients approaching retirement, became Gideon’s inspiration. Gideon created the HENRY Syndrome™ suite of services as a way to educate and empower young professionals, newlyweds, and young families to make smart financial decisions for their futures.
Gideon was recently named by Forbes as a Top Next-Gen Advisor and is a sought after public speaker, presenting his HENRY Syndrome™ workshops to hundreds of companies, organizations, and nonprofits throughout New York City and beyond with a primary focus in the tech community. Gideon graduated from Lehigh University before serving as a combat paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Absolutely…though I have to say that the truth is kind of corny! Here it is…I never wanted to do anything else. Quick background: My dad has been running our firm going on 35 years now and he’s always been my hero…so growing up, I wanted to know everything about his business! I would go to his financial workshops all over New York City, listen to client stories at the family dinner table, attend every client event and business conference I could. I would badger my dad about what he did and why he did it until he would explain every story, parable, and (to me) exciting detail. Not surprisingly, when it came time to choose my path, I knew what I wanted to do. To me it was simple: my dad was able to build a business and become financially independent by helping friends plot their own course to financial independence. I thought that was an awesome way to live, so I aspired to build upon what he (and my grandfather before him) had accomplished!
Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
Wow…one definitely comes to mind! During one of my very first meetings, I had asked prospective new clients about their family plans. All good, right? The problem was I didn’t exactly ask if they wanted kids. I wasn’t thinking, and instead asked something like “So, when are you planning on having children?” They were taken aback, because they weren’t planning on having children and asked why I just assumed that they would. I became red as a strawberry as I tried to walk back my question! I realized immediately that I was projecting my own personal wishes & dreams onto them, making assumptions about how they wanted their lives to go. I’ve (at least tried) never to do that again!
While not my greatest moment, it was a learning experience worth having! We all have totally different goals, fears, and financial motivations. Some of us might want to make all the money in the world and are willing to work 15-hour days to do so. Other clients may be committed to achieving a work-optional lifestyle and are okay spending less money now to get there someday. Some families might want kids. Others might want to travel and move around!
One of my primary roles is to provide my clients with some level of clarity about what their future can look like if they plan properly. I need to be their coach, advocate, and (if necessary) critic. Well, in order to do all of that, I need to know and truly understand what my clients are motivated by, passionate about, and looking for! That only happens If I’m open, nonjudgmental and most importantly (as I learned that day) not coming in with any preconceived ideas when listening!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My entire focus, and something that has already exceeded my expectations, is in continuing to grow our Wealth-Builder Division of Drucker Wealth, which is geared around working with what we call HENRYs (High Earners Not Rich Yet: young, high earners that are looking to build out their financial roadmap. I’ve just written a book for HENRYs and we have trademarked this idea of combating HENRY Syndrome™. I see my role (and my book) as helping these successful, high-earning young professionals become educated & empowered to make smart financial decisions for their financial futures. I say that it’s exceeded my expectations because I think that even I didn’t fully appreciate how many young families, newlyweds, and singles aged 30–40 are doing incredibly well but still feel like they’re not progressing any further towards those “next level” financial goals: buying a home, starting a family, sending kids to college, taking time off to travel, etc. Everything we’re building here at Drucker Wealth is about combating that feeling of “I haven’t done enough yet.” To say I’m excited about everything we have in store is an understatement!
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?
Actually, I don’t think I have reached that “tipping point” yet — at least I hope not! And I’m not sure there’s ever going to be one moment or event that changes everything. Rather, I’m just trying to keep grinding and consistently doing things the right way so I can build and grow with my clients over time. My dad always tells me and my sister (shameless plug — she owns her own burgeoning fitness empire, Drucker Fitness) that our businesses are a marathon, not a sprint. Simply put, we have to grind day in and day out to make stuff happen.
One thing that I see as my own internal “tipping point” of feeling like I’d achieved something great was when my friends started to reach out to me and say “Hey, can we talk about my planning and investments? I’d love your help.” Over the years that’s been happening more and more and I’m definitely more proud of that than anything else in my career. The idea that the people that have known me the best and the longest trust me to safeguard their family’s financial future is an honor. That trust and responsibility is something I don’t take lightly.
What three pieces of advice would you give to your colleagues in the finance field to thrive and avoid burnout? Can you give a story or example?
- Have passion for what you do and stay optimistic about what you’re trying to achieve. I know this sounds corny, but I think avoiding burnout in any field is all about staying passionate so all the hard work doesn’t feel like “work.” I truly love sitting down with clients and hearing about their financial universe. To me, that’s the coolest part of what I do. If I didn’t feel that way, I don’t know how I could stay motivated doing this.
- Find mentors that you look up to and can trust. I realize how fortunate I am to have my dad not only as my best friend but as my professional mentor. I think everyone needs to find that person that can encourage them to be the best version of themselves. I listen to a lot of podcasts. Every successful person I hear on these podcasts always points to an important person or group that helped them when they were young and just getting started. Being open to learn and adapt when you find your own “Rabbi” can change everything.
- Knowledge is power. To paraphrase my dad, we have to become “students of our craft” to truly excel. The more time we spend learning, reading, thinking about our business — rather than just being “in” our business — the better we’re going to be and the more indispensable we make ourselves to our clients. Doing all of this also allows us to get more excited about changes we want to make to our business and ways that we want to adapt to the future. I think that this sort of self-created disruption keeps us fired up and on our toes!
Ok. Thank you for all of that. Let’s now move to the core focus of our interview. As an “finance insider”, you know much more about the finance industry than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor (not you :-)), which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing? Can you give an example or story for each?
- Education: A starting point — a mere invitation to the dance, so to speak — is evidence of a continued pursuit of knowledge in the various areas that are encompassed by financial planning: retirement planning, education planning, cash flow management, etc. It’s important that the advisors you’re looking at have specific certifications, such as the CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, and RICP®, to name a few. Possessing these certifications alone certainly doesn’t make an advisor the smartest person in the world, but it does show that he or she has gone a bit further down the educational path than others have. It shows a commitment to the craft as well as an understanding that being an advisor is not just a passing phase, but their calling. Just based on my own experience, if an advisor has gone the extra mile in getting these designations, it is far more likely that they will still be working with you and growing with you five and ten years down the road. They won’t be working at an investment bank or have decided to become an accountant. I say that because these designations and the continuing education necessary to keep using the letters require a lot of time, money, and personal sacrifice. You should only be ready to commit to an advisor who is committing themselves completely to what they do!
- Youth & Experience: Most likely, you are not just looking for help over the next few years, but for the next decade or longer, so it’s important to know that your advisor is going to be there with you every step of the way while staying as committed as you are to the process. Here’s a true story: a friend of mine who had been working with a family friend since before we met recently asked for us to take over his planning because the family friend had recently quit being an advisor in order to become a high school basketball coach. While I wish the new coach the best and personally hope he becomes the next Bob Knight, you probably want to find an advisor who is in it for the long haul! When I’m sitting across from my own HENRY clients and showing them important ways to save for their first home, or discussing the importance of life insurance after they get married, etc., they know that these aren’t abstract ideas to me. I am thinking about these very same issues and planning areas in my own life — which goes a long way! While I believe having an advisor who you can relate to is important, I also know how crucial it is for that advisor to be a part of a team with older, more accomplished and credentialed advisors who have been down the path we’re walking and know the way. On our team, for example, while I personally meet with all of my clients, all of the planning we do together goes through our Director of Wealth Management, Kitty Ritchie, and our senior advisor and President, Lance Drucker. Collectively, they have over fifty years of experience in connecting and guiding clients. Having sat down with thousands of people over such a long timeframe, Kitty and Lance have a truly unique perspective when listening to a new client. They’ve seen firsthand all sorts of situations that can arise in a client’s life. They’ve personally seen the ramifications for clients who get too emotional and move money out of their 401(k) and wait a decade to get back in. They’ve seen the consequences for young families that refused to acquire additional protection. These stories and anecdotes become the armor and shield that protect clients today and tomorrow from living through the same thing.
- Fiduciary: Being a fiduciary simply means that your advisor has to put the client’s interests ahead of their own in all of their actions and recommendations. They can’t do things for clients that are merely “suitable” or “acceptable,” which is the standard that non-fiduciaries are held to; it must be in your “best interest.” As I’m sure you can imagine, this is a big deal! To me, being a fiduciary is similar to the educational requirements that you should be looking for, in that it’s a mere invite to the dance. Not everyone who is a fiduciary will be a great advisor, but all great advisors should be fiduciaries. As with most things, the more complicated an advisor’s fee structure and the more convoluted it is to explain, the less transparent the client-advisor relationship will likely be over time. I can only speak to my experience as an advisor, but when a soon-to-be client asks us how we get paid, they receive a clear and direct answer. We’re not trying to obfuscate our fees or sugarcoat them. In fact, we’re proud to explain our fee structure because we’re confident in the value that all of our clients are going to receive when they commit to our process.
- Trust: I believe it is the single most important factor in determining whom one should hire as a financial advisor. Quite simply, you have to trust your advisor. You have to know that they genuinely have your best interests at heart and that they really are committed to helping your family achieve its goals. Without having this belief that everything your advisor is doing comes from the right place, honestly, nothing else even matters…because without that trust, that advisor won’t be able to do everything they need to for your family.
- Connection: Before you can trust someone, you have to like them. You don’t need to be best friends (though I think the relationship will be much stronger if you are close), but there needs to be some connection there, some personal bond that draws you together. This advisor is going to be an important part of your life. They will know some of your innermost goals, passions, dreams, and fears — and furthermore, they will be one of the most instrumental people in guiding you through fulfilling them. There should be a warm, positive feeling when you meet, and while this probably won’t happen in a first meeting, getting an idea if this is someone you like and feel good around is important for the long-term health of the relationship.
I think most people think that financial advisors are for very wealthy people. This is likely not actually true. Can you explain who would most benefit from hiring a financial advisor and why? Can you give an example?
This is such a great question because I 100% agree with this premise, and it’s something that doesn’t get addressed enough! Uber-wealthy people have financial planners because there is typically so much going on in their financial lives from an estate planning, tax planning, and investment management standpoint that they need a professional to ensure they’re taking care of every opportunity made available to them. Don’t get me wrong, these are planning measures that can make HUGE differences over the course of your life. But at the same time, if you’re sitting on $50 million, let’s be honest: it’s pretty tough to mess it all up! You’re going to be at various stages of “in pretty good shape” for a long, long time!
Where I think we make the greatest impact is for families and individuals that are doing well, making money and living comfortably but have no clear plan that lets them know that they’re on the right track. They don’t know if the $2 million in their retirement account is enough to last for a 30-year retirement. Or for a young couple making $350,000: are they saving enough that they won’t have to take out student loans for their 3 children to attend college in 15 years? These sort of everyday questions (which boil down to “Am I going to be okay?”) are where financial planners can do the most amount of good.
Why do people hire a personal trainer or a fitness coach? Because coaches help us get to a place that we wouldn’t otherwise get to on our own, and they keep our eyes on the big picture: continuously getting better. That’s how I see our role: to always make sure that our clients are on target to achieve their goals while they’re out living their life.
To dig a bit deeper — because I think so many people hear “wealth management” and they think it’s all just about “managing your money” — I want to paint a picture….
Here is what a competent, trustworthy, and committed financial advisor who cares about you and your family will bring to your world. He or she will sit down with you, with no predetermined ideas or judgments, and have an open, honest conversation about life. He or she will ask, gently, what keeps you up at night and what your greatest planning worries are. He or she will learn what makes you tick, how you grew up thinking about money, and what has changed over the years as you’ve begun working and started a family. They will ask about what excites you and what you’re passionate about achieving in the next five years. They will ask you to share a bit about what a life without financial worries would look like for you and your family: Would you be doing something different? Would you volunteer more? What sort of legacy do you hope to leave when you’re gone?
Your advisor will spend time creating a budget with you to strike the right balance between living the life you imagine and saving to defer some enjoyment for the future. He or she will create your savings program and then help you automate it so that each month you’re putting money, consistently and diligently, into the appropriate vehicles. He or she will show you what saving money will do for your future and continually motivate you to keep building upon what you’ve started.
Your advisor will review and revisit this plan with you early and often, so that two years down the road, when you may have switched careers, seen your income rise, or started looking for that first home, you will have planned and prepared effectively for that moment. He or she will help you adapt to your changing circumstances and show you what financial changes you need to make in order to stay on your goal-oriented road map. He or she will do his or her best to ensure that your family will be taken care of if you get sick prematurely or pass away, and while they’ll be devastated, they won’t have to think about the financial ramifications of the tragedy because he or she is there.
Over time, your advisor will behaviorally coach you out of making the wrong moves at the wrong time for the wrong reasons in regard to your investments. This may be seven years out, when you’re thinking about moving from your well-balanced, diversified portfolio in favor of the hot fund of the month that all of your friends are raving about. This may happen twenty-five years down the road, when the stock market is down 20 percent a mere five years before you’re ready to take your well-earned and greatly anticipated retirement, and you call your advisor in a panic, proclaiming that you need to sell your investments. Your advisor will gently, but firmly, remind you that this, too, shall pass and nothing would be a surer way to devastate your family’s retirement plan than to react to a temporary market swing. They will become a friend and a critic, an advocate and a coach, depending on what the moment calls for. Does that sound like someone you would like to have in your corner?
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Well, I think I’ve quoted or referenced my dad about 95 times already…so you might be sick of hearing about how grateful I am for everything he’s taught me over the years. I know this is boring, but I’d have to say I’m also most grateful to my mom and sister. I dedicated my book to them for a simple reason: the three of them are not just my family but my three best friends in the world, and I feel more privileged and thankful for that than anything else in my life. Starting from that baseline makes everything else feel pretty manageable! I also liking taking every opportunity to thank my brothers from my paratrooper unit of the Israel Defense Forces. That was the hardest, most challenging experience of my life and without such great people by my side every step of the way, I would never have gotten through It all. I will always be grateful for my brothers in Tzanhanim 202.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Ha…I’m not so sure about the “person of great influence” part! But my singular goal is to help as many young people as possible feel comfortable around money and finance so they can do the most for their families and their futures. So many people grow up with money being almost taboo to speak about and it’s not something most of us learn about we’re young, so there can be this intimidating mystique around personal finance. I want to end that! If I can inspire people to go out and get educated about personal planning and to feel excited and motivated to make positive changes in their financial world, that would be amazing.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@DWMGideonscorner on Instagram and Drucker Wealth Management on Facebook! We share a lot of great videos, articles, and content so check us out…
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Absolutely…I enjoyed it, thanks for having me on.