In an exclusive interview, Julia Peloso-Barnes of the Peloso-Barnes Group (who are affiliated with Morgan Stanley) discusses how her team is uniquely poised to help members of the LGBTQ+ community find their financial footing. Their needs, as she points out, are both universal and particular to each client.
Question: Your tag line is “You have the right to feel well cared for, informed and secure.” What does that mean to you when you are working with LGBTQ clients?
Answer: It starts by embracing a connection with people, not just clients. Before we start talking about finances and goals, we talk about our lives. We all have a need to connect with other people, to feel that someone “gets” us, without having to explain certain things. When I talk about the things in my life such as the financial arrangements, my former partner and I made when we split up (before marriage and divorce were options), you know I’m not going to judge you for how you’ve handled your own finances with your partners.
Another conversation I have is about clients who never planned for retirement because they didn’t think they’d survive the 20th century. It’s a common experience for many of us; when I talk about helping them, you are more comfortable sharing if you find yourself in a similar situation. There is no shame or judgment, and no quizzical look because I’m surprised by anything in your life; I’ve got my own stories to tell!
I’ve also found that there are gaps in people’s knowledge, so I don’t make assumptions about what knowledge or experience you have when we start our conversation. I ask questions, listening intently to understand the journey that led you to be sitting in front of me today. While many of us celebrated the Windsor and Obergefell decisions, how many of us understood the “marriage penalty” in the tax code, or how to use the “unlimited marital deduction” in our estate planning? How many would even know to ask? By bringing these subjects into our conversation, I give you more information to help you make informed decisions for you and your family, whatever form it takes.
When I ask you “what are you trying to accomplish?” it’s not just about the numbers; it’s about your values and priorities in life. What’s important to you today, and what people, activities and responsibilities do you see in your life in the future? What role does your family of origin play in your life? What about your family of the heart?
What are your questions? By now you know that I am here to guide and work with you collaboratively, and help you explore and understand the trade-offs of the various choices you have now and will face in the future.These trade-offs can be complex because they involve both feelings and facts; while they are not interchangeable, they are both critically important. Most importantly, I will be by your side every step of the way. Pursue your dreams and passions; my team, The Peloso-Barnes Group at Morgan Stanley, gets you and has your back!
Q: Your team is very diverse. Why is that important to you and how do you think that reality serves your clients better?
Most of us spend a lot of time surrounded by people similar to us — we have the same frame of reference for many of life’s experiences. We don’t even realize the number of underlying assumptions we make in the most mundane things based on our life experiences.
For example, my wife and I were taking a long road trip and had rented a small SUV. After loading it up we ran into a problem with the back hatch so what did we do? Being older than 50, we went into the glove compartment in search of a manual. Of course when the 20-something person at the airport sought a solution he went to YouTube. Never crossed my mind — but it did the next time I needed a recipe!
The diversity of my team is across gender, age, ethnicity, education and sexual orientation. Because of our different backgrounds and experiences we are constantly explaining various references to each other. (Not only have my Gen Z team members never seen Norma Rae, they’ve never heard of Sally Field!) Our team culture is all about broadening each other’s experiences and we bring that curiosity and open-mindedness to problem-solving for clients. I’ve been a financial advisor for 35 years and my team has been communicating using technology and social media most of their lives so our clients get the best of both worlds.
Serving our clients comes down to problem solving, and anything that’s makes us better at that means a better result for clients. Having a diverse team is only part of the equation though: We each value and respect what the others bring to our work, and thrive on learning from each other. It’s important for me to remember that I can learn as much from them as they can from me, and when we bring all of those ingredients together, we create a nourishing feast for our clients.
How do you approach financial planning differently for a single LGBTQ person and one who has a family?
My advice and guidance are tailored to each client’s needs regardless of family structure. All of my client relationships are driven by their goals, which is no different whether I am working with a single LGBTQ person and one with a partner and/or children. The goals are often different, although not as much as you might think. Financial planning is about making sure the right person in your life has the right cash to do the right thing at the right time. That’s universal, but the “right” person, cash, thing and time are likely to be different for someone with a family than with someone who is single with no dependents.
Financial security and financial independence are pretty universal goals. They mean different things to different people, so every financial strategy we develop, implement and monitor is unique. But ultimately almost everyone wants to know if they are on the right track to provide for them and if not, what they need to do differently.
What are some of the most popular misconceptions about financial planning?
Anyone can call themselves a financial planner, but the only way you can know that the person helping you has the knowledge and experience you need is to look at the financial advisor’s education and professional certifications. Many of us who have been doing this a long time are CFP® Practitioners. Becoming a CFP® Professional includes classes on a wide range of topics, passing a comprehensive exam, a minimum number of hours of experience and ongoing continuing education. Someone who isn’t a CFP® Practitioner may have education, experience and expertise, but they also might not, so as the client you have to ask more questions.
Too many people think they don’t have enough money to work with a certified financial planner, or that they are too young, or that they’ll get to it once some life milestone is behind them and things calm down or when they have more certainty. While not everyone may need all the aspects of a comprehensive plan, such as estate planning, the sooner you engage in the planning process the more likely you are to achieve financial independence; time is on your side.
Three things to think about: first, start saving as soon as possible; your greatest asset is time. The sooner you engage in the planning process the smaller the changes you will probably need to make to achieve a successful trajectory.
Second, planning is not investing. As a planner, the first thing I need to do is identify all the things that can derail your plan and do everything we can to mitigate and manage those risks. Once we’ve done that, we can talk about a comprehensive financial planning strategy — different kinds of investments, your values, what your portfolio should look like and what you should expect from it.
Finally, financial planning is not “once and done.” It is an iterative process for at least two reasons. First, we explore possibilities based on your current goals and aspirations. In my experience, when I start to show people that some of the financial dreams they thought were aspirational are actually achievable, they develop new goals. Oftentimes there are new goals based on your current situation.
Even if that is not the case, it’s important to monitor and review “actual vs. projected” and adjust accordingly. One way to approach it is to think of having an annual “financial physical,” just like having a medical physical. A financial plan will help you make informed financial decisions and choices, allowing you to weigh the trade-offs ahead of time. One of my favorite sayings is “an educated client is our best client.” By reviewing your plan annually and keeping it up-to-date, you are more likely to be better prepared to make more confident choices as they come up in life.
Last modified: November 12, 2019