After 26 years as a Certified Financial Planner, Shari Merle said nothing surprises her anymore. From her LPL Financial office in El Dorado Hills she has seen some things stay the same and some things change.
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In spite of the fact that more women are college graduates, and work outside the home, Shari finds that men are still typically handling the money. “Even when the couple doesn’t commingle funds,” said Shari. “Usually the man comes alone to review the couple’s finances.
“People are busy, and it’s easy to defer dealing with financial questions,” she continued. Shari said there is a lot of trust involved when only one person in a relationship handles all the money. Sometimes that trust is not deserved, she said. She told of one woman who came to her when her husband died and his pension stopped. The woman assumed that he had provided for her. Shari was able to negotiate a pension for her with the retirement system.
“Women outlive men,” she said. “People are living longer, and many of those years are not years when people are working to earn income.”
Shari said another reason to plan financially for the future is that more than half the marriages in California end in divorce. “The No. 1 cause of divorce is money,” she said. “People have different priorities and they don’t communicate them. They assume the other person has the same priorities.”
People also have different styles. One may be more aggressive about spending; the other may be more conservative. One may want to stay in the same home for as long as possible; the other may look forward to moving somewhere else. Her job is to find the balance between the differences.
Shari invites people who are interested in creating or reviewing financial plans to make an appointment for a free consultation. “This is the time to find out if we fit,” she said. “It’s not about financial transactions. It’s about becoming partners.”
She can provide a review of clients’ current financial picture or, more actively, manage investments in an advisory account.
Shari said financial professionals have different ways of pricing their services — by time spent, by commission or by fees. Shari goes by fees. “It’s transparent. There is no ‘load,’ no buried fees.”
Shari works with LPL Financial. She said that LPL Financial is the No. 1 independent broker-dealer company in the country, giving her the freedom to select from many options for her clients. “I have no quotas, and there are no proprietary investments.”
She sends a reminder to her clients for a semi-annual review, and recommends at least an annual review. As life changes, so do financial needs, she said. One example that is not uncommon is a major illness. Shari reviewed and adjusted a financial plan for a woman who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The woman’s grown children were brought in for that discussion, said Shari.
Shari’s son, Stephen, became a certified financial planner and joined his mother. “We work as a team,” she said, adding that she has no intention of retiring. “I love making a difference in people’s lives.”