Morningstar Advisor - June/July 2013 - (Page 12)

Advisor Profile Working to Build a Niche By Kate Stalter Carol Berger sees a need to serve same-sex couples. For same-sex couples, financial planning can be more challenging than for their heterosexual peers. Carol Berger recognizes this problem and wants to do something about it. In early 2012, she founded Halcyon Wealth Management in Peachtree City, Ga., with the idea of serving gay and lesbian couples. When she opened her firm, she had been an advisor for six years and a Certified Financial Planner for three. Before founding Halcyon, Berger was a wealth manager with Cambridge Southern Financial Advisors, now known as Cambridge Wealth Counsel, in Stockbridge, Ga. There, she honed her planning skills and served as the firm’s head trader. The client base at Cambridge was fairly traditional. She had a full workload, assisting the firm’s owner by serving about 85 of the firm’s 130 clients. But Berger realized that if she wanted to expand her practice into the gay and lesbian community, she needed to strike out on her own. “It was a good group of clients,” she says. “I learned a lot. But I wanted to be able to get more of my own clients, and I didn’t have the time.” From Mobil to Mail Boxes Etc. Berger took a somewhat circuitous route to the advisory world. She grew up in the Canal Zone in Panama, the daughter of a teacher at an 12 Morningstar Advisor June/July 2013 American school. She graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with an industrial engineering degree and went to work for Mobil Oil at a refinery in Texas. At Mobil, she designed computer systems and served as a financial analyst. During those years, she had an inkling that she would be drawn to investing. Cambridge Southern and joined the firm as an analyst, gradually working her way up and taking on more responsibility. She passed the CFP exam in 2006 and earned her designation in 2009, after logging the requisite three years of work experience. Staying With DFA “When I was working for Mobil, my first boss did his own investments and followed mutual funds, and he taught me a lot about it,” she says. “That’s how my interest started.” Berger eventually took a buyout to leave Mobil. She moved back to Georgia and opened a Mail Boxes Etc. franchise. That experience gave her plenty of first-hand knowledge she would later use when opening her own advisory practice. She owned the mailbox business for about five years before tiring of the retail environment. She sold the store and saw a newspaper ad for CFP courses at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. “I’d always been a numbers person; I was good at math and science,” she says. “I did a little research into financial planning, because I didn’t know much about it, and I thought it would be a great way to work with numbers and investments, and also help people.” While taking the courses at Oglethorpe, she learned about the opportunity with Many of the lessons she learned at Cambridge apply to her practice today. She continues to use funds from Dimensional Fund Advisors. Dimensional, which makes its products available exclusively to fee-only shops, requires advisors to attend training seminars before being approved to sell the funds. Berger took the training while at Cambridge. In keeping with Dimensional’s philosophy, Berger is a proponent of the efficient market hypothesis, which maintains that publicly available information is built into a stock’s price. “So, you don’t gain a whole lot of advantage buying and selling,” she says, noting that she prefers the passive investment approach, which minimizes turnover within client accounts. That also serves to keep client expenses lower than they may be with actively managed funds. Like many advisors, Berger allocates portfolio investments according to individual client objectives, adjusting the equity-to-fixed-income mix on a case-by-case basis. The tent pole of

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Morningstar Advisor - June/July 2013

Morningstar Advisor - June/July 2013
Letter From the Editor
Not Your Values
How Do You Use Alternatives for Clients?
Working to Build a Niche
How to Put Buffett’s Investing Philosophy into Practice
Sophisticated Strategies for the Masses
Investments á la Carte
Investment Briefs
The Percentile Trap
Defense Firms Will Stay Aloft
Beware the Lure of Diversification
Using Alternatives in Practice
Managed Futures and Cash Rates
The World Is Getting Grayer
Waiting to Pull Up Anchor
The Price of Managing Volatility
Let’s Get Back to Basics
Our Favorite Mutual Funds
50 Most-Popular Equity ETFs
Undervalued Stocks With Wide Moats
Mutual Fund Urban Myths

Morningstar Advisor - June/July 2013