PITTSFIELD — When was the last time a business asked you about your feelings? Or if you're optimistic about your future? Or, if you're living alone, that you'll be checked on and taken care of?
For Allen Davis, the founder of The Davis Financial Group and a certified financial planner professional, good feelings need not be absent from your planning for the future, your investments and their results.
"What is most important to us is how we want our clients to feel. We want them to feel calmer and more confident about their finances and the trajectory of their lives — that there are solutions to real and potential problems, alternatives to fear and other barriers to proactive decision making."
Davis notes how people exert a lot of energy in avoiding a deep dive into their own financial lives; The Davis Financial Group acts as a gentle, non-judgmental guide to "turn the lights on" for its clients, relieving financial tension while helping set the fiscal house in order.
"We want folks who might begin by saying, 'I don't know anything about this stuff' or 'my partner handles all that' to reach a place where they actually feel smarter about money than they thought possible. We help them see how all the parts of their financial and personal lives are interconnected," says Davis.
The firm makes the basic elements of financial planning accessible to its clients, from cash flow to investments, as well as risk management, and tax and estate planning. "Not Ph.D. level, but basic things they never learned in school or from their parents," says Davis. "We're very patient teachers, and there are no exams."
A new level of optimism
The Davis Financial Group wants its clients to overcome their insecurities and reach a level of optimism they didn't think was possible.
"We want them to feel that risks are being confronted squarely, and that there are things they can do to live the life they want. We believe that fact-based hope and optimism lead to a new kind of peace. So many of us are so nervous about money that we can't take yes for an answer — we want our clients to relax into a sense that, yes, they are going to be OK," says Davis. "We want our clients to be calmer, smarter, more confident and optimistic, and to feel supported."
Whether the firm's clients live alone or with a partner, or are worried about one day living without the partner they have depended on, The Davis Financial Group has a clear message.
"We want them to feel that they are not in it alone, that they can depend on us as advisers and coaches who will help them make good decisions, and coordinate a team of advisers and specialists to help them navigate the challenges life will throw their way," says Davis.
Who are Davis Financial's clients, and are there investment minimums?
Many of the firm's clients had been living their lives without looking strategically into their finances and asking tough questions about their futures.
"This is very common. Their call to action is often a life event — a marriage, death or illness, retirement or birth of a child. It can often be a recognition that 'I'm not getting any younger,'" says Davis.
The paths to that recognition are as varied as the clients living through the experience, whether a separation or divorce, sale or purchase of property, a parent requiring help, college planning, an inheritance, a new job or loss of a job, impending retirement or a major business transaction, like acquisition or liquidation.
"Clients often will say that they have been managing their investments by themselves, and now wonder if there's something they're missing. And sometimes procrastination just hits a wall. They find that there are things you just can't, or at least shouldn't, put off forever," Davis says.
Other clients who benefit from working with The Davis Financial Group already have a financial adviser, perhaps inherited from their late parents, or have settled into an unquestioning routine with a longtime investment manager, such as Merrill Lynch, TIAA or Fidelity.
"Inertia is powerful, but there are moments when curiosity, nagging doubts or disquieting events can lead to reevaluation, interest in seeking a kind of 'second opinion.' It's these moments that are often revelatory for those who become our clients," says Davis. "They might have referred to their investment managers as 'financial advisers' or even 'financial planners,' but they learn that, in most cases, they were not getting — and see that they need — the kind of concierge-level financial planning available by working with us."
The Davis Financial Group certainly provides investment strategy and asset allocation recommendations, but that is only one piece of a puzzle that includes cash flow, estate, tax planning, and protection and insurance strategies, says Davis.
Oftentimes, Davis Financial Group clients maintain their relationship with their existing investment adviser and look to the Western Massachusetts firm to create the plan, within which their investments serve as the fuel.
"We want the power of our planning process to benefit a wide range of clients who are motivated to do the planning and can afford to pay the modest fee. It's true that many such clients eventually move some or all their investments to our management — our options are cutting edge, and we're known for our low fees — but it is never a requirement," says Davis.
As planners who coordinate a team that addresses its clients' many financial, legal, health care, accounting and protection requirements, The Davis Financial Group applies a flat annual planning fee that pays the firm for its time and allows it the freedom from investment minimums or the need to "sell stuff" to support its business.
A specialty: socially responsible investing
It's a point of pride for The Davis Financial Group to help clients match their investment choices with their ethical, moral and political values.
"We've come a long way from what socially responsible investing once was — the simple exclusion of 'sin' companies from a portfolio — tobacco, alcohol, adult entertainment, munitions, firearms and carbon-based energy. It's a whole new world, now referred to as ESG: environment, social, governance-sensitive investing, which we have embraced with a special interest and passion," says Davis.
Lou Davis, financial planner and adviser, says the firm helps clients invest in companies with low-carbon footprints, and whose labor practices, hiring procedures, management diversity and community involvement present a way to reward these efforts.
"ESG investing not only excludes the bad actors, but proactively seeks out companies to invest in that are doing well by doing good," says Lou Davis.
Rather than 'taking a hit' for investing in ways consistent with conscience and values, these ESG-screened companies can be even more competitive and profitable than companies that fall outside of these parameters, he notes.
Another specialty: 'Solos'
There is a population that The Davis Financial Group serves that is hiding in plain sight: adults known as "solos" or "solo agers," or the less apt "elder orphans," notes Mary Young, the firm's director of research. A large number of Americans over 65, for example, live alone, and have no children or other close family to provide support as the years go by. Professional service providers have largely been blind to the special needs of this growing population, whether in terms of elder care, legal services, or financial planning.
"You may live alone, but you don't have to be in it alone," says Young.
Most other financial service groups are so focused on protecting a family or leaving an inheritance that they have overlooked a very different set of needs for solo agers. This growing group is wondering: "Who will care for me when I'm old? Who will be my executor/personal representative, or health care proxy or power of attorney? How do I plan for retirement with only my assets and income to work with? And, perhaps most poignantly, who will remember me after I die?"
To serve this existing need, The Davis Financial Group has partnered with the MassMutual Trust Co. and developed a model of providing enhanced team-building services. The group also has sponsored original research, held a symposium and publishes an informative e-newsletter, "The Soloist," available through The Davis Financial Group website.
For many Davis Financial Group clients, developing a philanthropic plan for their years on the planet and beyond is front and center, and the firm is well-equipped to help, says Joanna Ballantine, a financial representative with the group. All of the firm's advisers have deep philanthropic connections, as board members, executive managers and donors, she says.
Ballantine says the work of helping Western Massachusetts residents achieve their goals surpasses the material.
"We help our clients balance financial realities with personal fulfillment, giving, making a difference in their communities and living life with joy," says Ballantine.
Davis says his firm is uniquely able to align clients' values with investment strategies, and their estate and personal cash flow plans with their commitment to providing meaningful support to organizations and causes that are important to them.
"We use traditional financial instruments to support this activity, often in nontraditional ways, and encourage our clients to think expansively and creatively as they make meaning in their lives, and work to make a better world," she says.
Complex family systems
The firm also has a special strength, history and expertise in advising clients who are facing complex family issues in estate equalization, emergency medical and long-term care cost sharing, inter-generational gifting and support, planning for special needs, and pre- and post-divorce planning.
In collaboration with other professionals, such as attorneys, accountants, long-term care managers, social workers and family therapists, Davis Financial creates a team that is focused on families' unique and complex situations, leading the way toward solutions that satisfy all their needs.
While there are clearly universal planning needs, everyone comes to the process through their own unique angle of vision and circumstance. For members of the LGBTQ community, things are “the same,” but different in important ways. The Davis Financial Group has deep and longstanding relationships with LGBTQ folks who appreciate the firm's agnostic and supportive approach to planning.
"While we understand and provide guidance for the specific 'technical' issues that come up — tax filing status, estate and legacy concerns, the 'mine-yours-ours' budgeting paradigm, prior family considerations — we employ great sensitivity to the full spectrum of this special set of life and financial planning challenges and opportunities," says Allen Davis.
Longstanding Berkshire connections
The group's connection to the Berkshires is a longstanding mix of professional and personal: Lou Davis, of Northampton, has led market potential and branding studies for the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and for the Housatonic Railroad Company during his prior career in market research; Allen Davis, of Amherst, formerly worked in Great Barrington and spends considerable time in the Berkshires every year, including at Tanglewood; and Joanna Ballantine, also of Amherst, most recently served as vice president for the Western Region of The Trustees of Reservations, including providing leadership for the 14 iconic Berkshire properties and was, previous to that, executive director of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.
The Davis Financial Group has recently added staff and the capacity to accept new clients, and advisers have been working effectively remotely during the pandemic. The firm is happy to provide free initial consultations to prospective clients to explore the potential fit that might exist between their needs and the group's unique services.
Securities, investment advisory and financial planning services offered through qualified registered representatives of MML Investors Services LLC, member SIPC. Supervisory Office: 330 Whitney Ave., Suite 600, Holyoke, MA 01040, 413-539-2000. The Davis Financial Group LLC is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services LLC.
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