Johnson Lyman Wealth Advisors (JL) is located in Palo Alto, a small town with cordial weather and warm sunshine. It is a wealth management firm that aims to help families and individuals to “live fully,” to better manage their financial resources and plan for retirement. I first met and talked with the staff: Gary, Linda, Pat, and Jennifer, who are in charge of different aspects of the daily functions at the firm; some are tax professionals, and some are operations experts. I learned that clients are mainly families and individuals who are small business owners. Some clients are investment-only, while others also need advice on tax planning. JL specializes in investment, a key for individuals (especially for those near retirement) to make solid returns on their financial resources.
In the morning, I listened to the meeting between Jennifer and Pat, who were preparing for the meeting with their clients tomorrow. As the clients are near retirement, tax planning was extensively discussed. The current family situations were also considered. Pat and Jennifer also looked at the clients’ investment portfolio and discusses if there was the need to adjust the proportions of different types of assets. I feel that managing financial resources become significantly more challenging when tax issues and personal expenditure plans were taken into account. Financial investments are therefore more people-oriented, rather than just looking for numerical returns.
During lunch Mr. Rob Lyman ’84 and I talked about my interests and career plans and I also got to know what Princeton was like in his time. My greatest takeaway is that it is important to remain flexible and constantly look for new interests as the world around us changes. After 15 years in startups, Mr. Lyman turned from engineering to financial planning, an area that he was very passionate about. He was very devoted to it, having seen the great needs and importance of financial planning. I feel that this spirit of constantly learning and improving oneself is very important, because it makes us more open-minded and enriches our personality as long as we are always curious to explore diverse interests.
In the afternoon, I listened to the meeting between Steve and Jennifer after they had met with the clients. The clients seemed not to have understood the investment plans very well. Steve talked about the main things to be crafted in the email, so that the clients could have a better idea. In this situation, communication is very important; it is crucial to explain wealth management plans in simple terms so that clients could understand the rationale.
As the co-President at JL, Steve was very insightful, and he always had a good sense of humor. As we talked about his experiences and one of his epiphanies in life, I also started to think about my various interests: could I turn my avocation into vocation? Steve said it was one of the most important realizations he had in life. I have never given it much thought, but our conversation helped me start to explore a way to merge my interests with my career plans.
Today I went along with Mr. Lyman to San Carlos for a meeting with Catherine. She is a marriage law attorney. They discussed clients’ needs and the possibility of getting in touch with more professionals in financial planning.
In the afternoon I attended a client meeting. The client is one of JL’s first clients and has established a very good relationship with JL. They discussed the client’s current investment plans and Mr. Lyman suggested some adjustments to it. Looking at the returns from the past ten years and the performance of different asset classes, they discussed a plan to do some minor changes to the proportions of different assets. During the meeting, Mr. Lyman and Jennifer cooperated with the client closely. They helped her understand the meanings of the figures in her investment portfolio, and offered advice and alternative choices. I feel that in financial services, good communication with clients is indeed the key. It establishes mutual trust and allows both sides to be more receptive of each other’s suggestions.
Mr. Lyman also shared with me a lot of insights on wealth management. Investing for families is apparently very different from the Wall Street business. Technically, individual wealth planning has different focuses, such as tax and retirement plans. More importantly, different families and individuals have different preferences and their situations keep changing. Therefore, effective communication is crucial. JL’s mission, to help people “live fully” and make full use of their hard-earned wealth, resonates deeply with me. This Princeternship helped me explore a branch of financial services that has an important impact on people’s daily lives. And I think the spirit of serving people remains even though I will work in a different area.
I truly appreciate Mr. Lyman’s tremendous effort in helping me plan this Princeternship. Besides the technical aspect of wealth management, the more important takeaway for me is to always be ready to serve the needs of the community, and make sure to communicate with clients effectively. Moreover, I have also learned a lot about life planning from Mr. Lyman and Steve, and appreciate the personal advice from all the wonderful people at JL. At this point, it is important to pursue