He should know. He has more than 25 years of experience as a financial consultant. Since 2003, he has been the managing director of WealthPro, LLC. His firm manages between $50 million and $100 million for individuals, families, firms and foundations. Solomon said it is the largest independent investment institution in Fulton or Montgomery counties.
“A lot of what I advise sounds boring,” Solomon said. “But I believe if people have a vision and a mission they can change the world.”
Solomon indeed wants to change the world — one person at a time.
“I think of myself as a financial problem solver,” Solomon said. “I lead responsible adults to fiscal fitness through planning, implementing and coaching their financial decision making.”
Problems Solomon solves as an independent certified financial planner come in all sizes and depend on the client. He may help plan for retirement, long-term care for an aging parent, a child’s college education or a specific goal of any kind.
Solomon isn’t afraid of the big guys, either. As a member of the Financial Planning Association (what Solomon compares to the American Medical Association for doctors), he and his associates took on the Securities and Exchange Commission in a lawsuit they won last year.
The decision, handed down last year, made the SEC more responsible in ensuring the oversight institution made financial advisers act in a “fiduciary” manner.
A fiduciary, Solomon points out, must act in the best interest of a client when entrusted with the client’s holdings.
Previously, a member of a large firm might act in the best interest of the firm rather than a client, but with reinterpretation of the 1940 Investment Advisors Act, the management of $277 billion must now be on behalf of consumers rather than big investment firms.
For the individual investor planning on retirement, it’s all about choices, he said.
"It's first about setting goals and objectives, and thinking about what you want to accomplish in life in general," Solomon said.
Solomon has written a foreword to the book "The Art of Investing & Portfolio Management" written by colleagues Ronald Cordes, Brian O'Toole and Richard Steiny. It is one more way Solomon hopes to get the word out about saving and investing responsibly.
"What retirement planning is about for young people is beginning to save money. The older you get when you start the harder it is to catch back up. I've got people with $1 million portfolios that started by putting away $25 or $50 a month."
Solomon said he started saving in high school by putting $500 he had made delivering The Leader-Herald into mutual funds. With careful management, that $500 is now worth about $40,000. While he has many other investments, that first investment has sentimental qualities for him and Solomon said it has remained untouched.
Everyone can put a little something a way, he said, whether it's through a plan at work that automatically removes a small portion of your paycheck or via some kind of Individual Retirement Account.
"Just getting started is important," he said.
Solomon said it is important to check the qualifications of any financial adviser. The most important of these qualifications being the certified financial planner designation. As such, the advisor must act as a fiduciary agent, always working in the best interests of the client.
"That is the gold standard of professional designations for people doing personal financial planning."
Even though financial planning is as complex as it is and recession has been forecast by many
financial experts Solomon maintains that people should not panic.
"While recession might be frightening, and while it would certainly be disruptive ... it's not the first time we've experienced that," he said. "Gloversville has had its share of recessions, and Fulton County has had its share of boom or bust cycles and there are always people who will figure out how to survive and thrive through those cycles."
Solomon said he wanted to be part of the solution for Gloversville rather than part of the problem. That was the reason he located his office in Gloversville rather than Saratoga Springs, where his wife works as a medical doctor. He also maintains his legal residence in the city so he can vote there as well.
“I try to keep our office looking presentable and hire local people,” he said. “I even furnished the office with Stickley Furniture because it is made in Syracuse and not out of state.”
Solomon admits most of his clients are from out of the area but with just two support staff and some work out sourced he is able to manage many portfolios through the power of computer technology and the Internet.
“I have a six-figure investment in technology,” he said. “I can work from anywhere.”
Solomon means “anywhere.” He will be leading 80 financial advisors to Russia later this year as part of the People to People initiative started by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to help Russians with financial planning. He said that while there are a few very rich people in Russia, there is virtually no middle class, which can be a foundation for democracy.
“Teaching and educating on financial resources doesn’t exist in Russia,” he said. “It will help build financial stability for a middle class.”
Solomon said the global economy must be taken into account. He said he was in China in 2000 when the World Trade Organization admitted the county and it was a very exciting time.
“Security is a big issue with us,” he said. “People can trust us to keep their transactions secure and confidential.”
Solomon said his mother was a teacher as are many of his friends and he loves teaching others how to make their financial future secure.
“I have the best job in the world,” he said.
Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Neal Solomon is pictured in his office in Gloversville Thursday. Above, Solomon holds a financial planning book he contributed to.