Some wealth managers have a minimum portfolio size they
work with; they might manage accounts of $500,000 and up,
or start at $2 million. But even if you haven’t accumulated
significant assets yet, seeing a professional can help you get
your ducks in a row. “I see people of every age, every income
level,” says Bob Goldman, a Sausalito planner who charges an
hourly fee instead of the more typical 1 to 2 percent of assets.
They call themselves by different names — wealth managers, financial planners or advisers — but all these financial
professionals help clients make important decisions about
their money such as allocating the investments in retirement
accounts, setting budgets and planning for children’s education
and eventual inheritance. One important thing to know when
hiring an adviser is how they get paid; some are compensated
only by your fee, while others may earn commissions on finan-
You can do really great decision-
making in your 30s and 40s that has
solid impact 30 years out.
cial products they sell you, and some combine both methods.
The advisers featured in this article operate on a fee-only basis.
Marin is one of the most expensive counties in the
That makes careful planning at all income levels especially
important, Goldman says. “People who have good incomes
and are not spendthrifts find it extremely difficult to successfully live here. It’s true in the whole Bay Area, but the difficulty
is really acute in Marin.”
Working with a manager is also a good idea even if you’ve
been very successful in your career and feel you have good
judgment about money, says Dave Shore, a founding partner
at Marin Financial Advisors in Larkspur. Shore cites overconfidence bias, a psychological phenomenon in which we believe
our judgments are more accurate than they really are, which
often leads to money mistakes. Overconfidence bias crops up
a lot in the Bay Area, he says.
“We think, we’ve always been top of our class, we tend to
think life is a meritocracy, so the same rules should apply in
money management,” Shore says. But if you’re not trained in
the principles used by wealth managers, you’re unlikely to
avoid errors no matter how smart you are.
Building a model that accounts for earnings, savings and what
you want out of your money — when you want to retire, what you
would like to leave to the kids and what charitable donations you
want to make, for example — allows advisers to tell clients how
much investment risk they need to take on to get there, says James
Demmert, managing partner at Sausalito’s Main Street Research
investment and wealth management firm. “Too many families
have taken way more risk than they needed to,” leading to unnecessary losses when the stock market crashed in 2008, he says.
For some clients, the problem is, believe it or not, having
too much money.
“A good portion of our clients have that problem — ‘how is
this wealth going to affect the next generation?’” Demmert
says about planning for heirs. For these clients, making a
model can help them figure out how much they can safely give
to charity now, instead of leaving everything to their estate.
Many people want to retire early nowadays, and yet
Marin wealth managers also see clients who postpone retirement out of love for their work or who never fully retire in
the traditional sense.
Joseph Anthony Matan, a 77-year-old orthopedic sur-
geon, sets down his coffee at Peet’s in Bon Air Center and
announces, “I’m going to retire on Sept. 30, 2014.”
Well, sort of. Matan, who is one of Shore’s clients, will close
his Pinole practice. But he will continue conducting his weekly
orthopedic clinic at San Quentin State Prison.
Matan, wearing a blue San Jose State sweatshirt — one of
his 11 grandchildren is on the football team there — and carrying a battered Samsung non-smart phone, does not conform
to any image of a well-heeled surgeon at the end of a successful
career. He started working with Shore only about eight years
ago. “I didn’t have any wealth before that,” he says with a grin.
At that time, Matan and wife Kay, who holds a doctorate
in education, had just sold their home in Ross and moved
into a rental property, leaving them with a substantial sum
to invest. “Before that, I spent all my money putting the
kids through college, law school, medical school,” he says,
counting off his six children and their careers on his fingers:
There’s his son the surgeon and his five daughters, an attorney, a real estate agent, a school administrator, a teacher and