As the mother of an 8-year-old boy with special needs, Dana Singla was well aware of the importance of having a financial plan that would ensure her son was properly cared for throughout his lifetime. But finding a financial advisor who was up to the task wasn't easy.
Singla was living in Arizona when her son was born and she first met with a financial advisor. The problem was that the advisor, although "great," she said, "had no clue how to advise us."
"When it came to … [special needs] … they didn't know what to tell us to do," Singla said. In one instance, she was even given misinformation: She was instructed to transfer money into her son's name, which could have prevented him from receiving certain financial benefits later on.
When her family moved to Illinois a few years later, she started working with a national life insurance company that marketed itself as specializing in families with special needs. But, it turned out, company representatives "were really insurance-product salesmen," Singla said. "They were always trying to sell something."
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She added, "They were looking out for their own best interest, not what was needed for our family."
When people have unique financial needs, finding someone who truly understands their circumstances and can provide advice that is fitting to the specific situation can offer tremendous value. What Singla needed was an advisor who understood the financial idiosyncrasies of special needs families and would put the interests of her family first. After six years of searching, she finally found someone.
Two years ago Singla met Michael Walther, founder and president of Oak Wealth Advisors, during a conference for the National Association for Down Syndrome. The experience has been a game changer.
At their first meeting together, she said, "he had an agenda of things that he wanted us to have in place.
"It wasn't just the financial piece; it was the whole picture."
Singla added that because Walther, a certified financial planner, has a family member with special needs, he was able to apply a personal touch—which made a big difference.
Pro fisherman and TV personality Roland Martin had also tested out different financial advisors over the years. But it wasn't until he met certified financial planner Jared Reynolds 10 years ago that he found someone who really understood his needs.
"I met [Reynolds] on a fishing trip up at a boat dock at Truman Reservoir," said Martin, host of "Fishing with Roland Martin" on the NBCSN sports network. "I have had different advisors over the years, but when Jared came along … I was really impressed."
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According to Martin, the biggest difference between Reynolds, who is co-founder of Wilkerson & Reynolds Wealth Management, and other advisors is that Reynolds' forte is working with fishing and sports enthusiasts. In addition to growing up with a father who was a professional bass fisherman, Reynolds attends industry trade shows that cater to various types of outdoorsmen.
"He's really hands on," Martin said. "It's good to have a financial advisor [who] knows the ropes."
Word of Reynolds' standing in the industry has gotten around. "Others have gravitated to him because he's done a good job and is known in the industry as a good advisor," Martin said.
Reynolds' client roster has grown to include numerous fishing hobbyists as well as hunters and other sports enthusiasts. He also has business relationships with fellow professional fishermen Jimmy Houston and Bill Dance.
When Amanda Craine started her search for a financial advisor, she wasn't looking for a specialist in a specific area. As it happened, finding one that focused on women turned out to be better than she could have imagined.
"I was interviewing a number of financial advisors, many from larger companies, but I wasn't finding anyone that I was connecting with," Craine said. Then a friend referred her to certified financial planner Stacy Francis, president and CEO of Francis Financial. Everything finally clicked.
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Francis satisfied all of the criteria in a financial advisor that Craine had been looking for, but "the clincher for me was her focus on women," she said, adding, "That really impressed me.
"No one, up until that point … had talked to me about the special needs of women."
In Craine's opinion, "Stacy's special brand of relationship management and empathy toward women in particular is something you don't typically find in other firms."
A few years ago Craine and her husband decided to leave corporate jobs to start a business of their own. Francis was incredibly supportive of the process, Craine said. "I can't imagine a male advisor being willing to sit on the phone and talk to you about all the ups and downs in your life," she said.
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The fact that Francis is also an entrepreneur has also been inspiring to Craine throughout her own journey. "I think that connection with her has been very important for me psychologically and emotionally," she said.
Also, because Francis specializes in the financial needs of divorced women, Craine said that when her close friend was getting divorced after 20 years of marriage, she referred her to Francis, and the two have been working together ever since.