Financial Advisor and nVest Advisors CEO re-introduces the Money n30 Podcast with a talk about how a difficult upbringing motivated him to become a financial advisor.
I’d like to thank you for joining us today on this sort of reintroduction to the “Money n 30” podcast. My name is Jeremy Torgerson and I am the CEO of nVest Advisors LLC. We are a fee-only, fully fiduciary investment advisory firm based in a northern suburb of Denver Colorado called Brighton.
I began my financial practice in the great state of Texas at the very, very southern tip in Brownsville Texas. We actually lived in a small community named Los Fresnos, which is very close to South Padre Island (if anybody’s familiar with it) and began our business in what is one of the most economically depressed areas of the country . That’s a very weird place to do a financial advisory firm but it was important to me. I want to share today some of the story of why I started there, what my motivation is for being an advisor, and just give you the opportunity to hear a little bit more about what this firm does and what it believes in.
First off, a quick housekeeping note on our podcast. We are going to obviously improve the quality of the podcast as we go. I’m not going to be too worried about it though – I have a performance and theater background so I can improvise pretty well. I hope I can carry a conversation even if I’m just talking to myself and you’re listening but I wanted to let you know that as the podcast continues we will definitely improve the quality. So hang with us! We’re going to listen to your feedback as listeners, I’m going to get feedback from some of the people who love me – my friends and family, but also I want to get the feedback of industry professionals about the content, and then attack some of my performance friends and get their input on technical issues as well.
But I wanted to give you a little bit of info about myself and I’ll tell you a little bit about this firm and why it is very, very different than any other financial advisory practices that you’re going to look at. So if you are in the market for either your first financial advisor, or maybe you have one and are not necessarily happy with what’s going on, or just not sure if you want a second opinion, I encourage you to interview a whole lot of us before you make a decision. It’s supposed to be a long-term relationship with your financial planner and that means that you’ve got to go on a few dates before you get professionally “married” (if I can use that weird figurative language).
Let me start with this: let me give you a little bit of history about the firm and then I’ll go into my own background. nVest Advisors began as an independent company called Palo Alto Investments in 2011 in Brownsville, Texas, of all places.
I’m a Denver native and my firm is now back in Denver, Colorado after I relocated my family and my company three years ago, but I had been living in Texas for about a year before I became a financial advisor. My first three years in this business I was with Edward Jones Investments and we built a small office in the beautiful but tiny community called Los Fresnos. It’s very close to South Padre Island, if you’re familiar with the very southern tip of Texas.
After three years of being with a major firm (I had been a business owner previous to becoming a financial advisor – I’ll kind of share a little bit of that later in the podcast), it became clear to me that there was no good way to work for my clients if I also had to work for a company. There were always production quotas, there were incentives given to put you into a product that maybe might not have been the best fit for you but would send me on a trip somewhere in the world, and those kinds of things. That didn’t sit right with me.
I’m not wanting to knock Edward Jones or any of those other firms, but the people that work there are employees of that company, not employees of their clients, and that’s something that I wanted to be. I wanted to make sure that I had my client’s best interest at mind at all times, and that meant sometimes that you were going to be in conflict with your own employer.
I could share a quick story about that to give you an example, but the very day that I could leave Edward Jones (I had a three-year contract with them) I resigned and formed my own independent firm called Palo Alto Investments that was based in Brownsville, Texas until February of 2017.
Then we relocated my family and my business back in Colorado, because I had a kid who finally graduated college and one that graduated high school in the same summer. It was important for my wife and me to get them back into a better job market. South Texas, I will tell you, is an awesome, unbelievably great place to raise young children and I think it’s a fantastic place obviously to retire. We have a lot of snow birds that we call Winter Texans and Texas that come down and stay so it’s just an awesome place. The cost of living is low, there’s no income tax in the state of Texas… so it’s just a great place. Plus I love being near the beach where I can wear really bad Hawaiian shirts and then just enjoy the beauty. I owned a sailboat for several years it while we were there.
But it was time to think about my family, and I decided we decided to move back to Denver.
We still have a huge number of our clients in South Texas and I travel down regularly to give them face-to-face visits but we needed to figure out a way to serve them personally while still being 1800 miles away. We started to do a lot of video appointments, and that’s something that did definitely changed.
When I decided to move so when we began to relocate our firm we had to really think about how we wanted to do this. We didn’t want to just abandon all of those people that had placed trust in me and that I had relationships with – I really did not want to do that, and I don’t think they did either, because nearly all of them are still with me. But we we had to make some decisions and one of which was if I’m going to be remote we have to figure out a way to serve you in a way that is virtual because though I may be down three times a year or something like that for face-to-face visits, but what if you need me in between? Because sometimes life gets in the way, it was important to figure that out.
So we became a firm that really embraced technology. We do a lot of, for example, video meetings. We’re almost entirely paperless; you can do almost everything from your phone when working with us. And that lent itself to a different customer base than when I was at Edward Jones Investments.
They sort of had you go after and pursue your typical “retiring farmer” whose land was now worth $10 million, and he just sold it to a developer, and now he’s very wealthy but not terribly sophisticated financially. So that was kind of what you were looking for – retired clients who were just looking a planner, or clients that, -the market had just really started to collapse from the Great Recession who were used to getting 4.5% or 5% on their bank savings in certificates of deposit, and we’re now getting zero or just barely above zero, who needed to find something new. So they became bond buyers for the first time.
So there was that kind of client base. The folks who still use Edward Jones for their nvestment services are ones that want to be able to just stop in, sit and visit, sip some coffee with their advisor. It is a very laid-back atmosphere intentionally, and we had to figure out a way to still bring some humanity to what I’m doing, but be able to do it from 1800 miles away.
And so we embraced a lot of technology that lent itself, like I said, to a younger client base.
So we decided to continue making changes that would benefit a younger client base. nVest Advisors, though we still have clients in their late 80s and they do just fine using our systems and we have that relationship built, we are most definitely a firm that is focused on people who are honestly too busy with work and life to come hang out at their financial advisor’s office and sip coffee with me.
I would say that what I have learned changing my firm from being more traditional to far more technologically advanced and then getting the opportunity to work with younger investors is that I’m really thrilled with – and so impressed by – the seriousness with which younger investors are taking their money.
I’m 48 years old as of a few weeks ago. I see my age range as having a lot more of a laissez-faire attitude toward money, unfortunately. You have those people you knew in high school now that are fabulously wealthy, but by and large most of the people that grew up in my Blue-Collar type community in Aurora, Colorado (where I went to high school) are still pretty much that kind of person.
There’s been a few that have really launched off, there’s been a few with a lot of hardships, but by and large most of us are in the same economic condition as our parents were before.
People that are 30 or younger – I’m really impressed with. People who are only 27 or 28 years old that come to us are almost embarrassed to want to visit, because they’ve only got $75,000 in their 401K! I only wish that I saw that much money in someone’s 401K who’s 50, and unfortunately, we don’t see that a lot.
So anyway, this firm, being focused on younger people, is not terribly focused on how much money you have now. We’re worried about where you want to go. That’s the biggest philosophy difference between myself and many other firms.
If you’re a wealthy person, if you got a few million dollars to invest, you will have literally 50 financial advisors in your community and around the country banging on your door and trying to get your interest in them: inviting you to dinners, hanging out of the golf course, working through your church looking for rich people…
I mean in this business it has always been what I would call “whale hunting” – trying to find those few major clients so that you can serve just a few and do it really well, but still make a good living for yourself. That’s never been what’s motivated me.
And so I’m going to try now to share the “why”. Why did I focus on, for example… why did I start my business in one of the poorest places the country, which is the Mexico border in Texas? Why do we work with young people who don’t have any money yet? Why are we willing to work with just average working Americans?
I got the opportunity to tell this story to a group of financial advisors about 2 months ago, and when I told it I didn’t think much of it – it’s not something that I ever hid for my clients or my friends, but I just something it doesn’t really come up that often – but I grew up extraordinarily poor. I had two loving parents but they were teenagers when I was born. They got divorced when I was 4 and I lived with – the Court’s just defaulted to the mother being the primary guardian of the children, so my sister and I were given to my mother, who was a single mother until I was in high school. She had the occasional men in her life that we thought were going to become stepfathers and then these guys would disappear, but by and large she fought it out with myself my sister and eventually my younger brother Brian by herself.
We lived for many years on food stamps, we lived in government project houses, and she always drove cars that were coming apart at the seams I remember our old cars that were rusted out or the front driver side window didn’t go down. I just had a lot of those kinds of experiences.
We lived in inner-city projects. Thankfully we were in metro Denver and it was a fairly progressive community, so there were low-income houses that were being built in the suburbs so we spent a lot of our time out away from some of the real hard areas of inner city life, like some kids have to endure, but it was tough
We moved a lot because sometimes the rent was due and we couldn’t afford it, or sometimes my mom’s work – she always worked, but her work might be clear across town and we could find an apartment that was closer. Things like how much gas money we would have every month mattered, so we moved a lot. I remember going to three different schools in three different school districts just for 7th grade, for example, and as a kid growing up when you are not able to control those circumstances, I think you come up with ways to cope. Unfortunately a lot of kids drift into gangs or drugs. I never did any of those things, but I know that I carry with me a lot of shame for the life that we lived.
There are just some things that as a kid you you can’t control and I’ll give you a couple of examples: we used to go to near-new shops and thrift stores not because we were hunting for a cool bargain like a garage sale, but because we needed shoes. We got used shoes. We got used clothing. Sometimes we got presents at Christmas that were used – not always, like not every present, but I can’t remember a year we didn’t have presents that were that were “previously loved” by other kids.
My dad was definitely in our life but we saw him every weekend for a while and then every other weekend. When I was a teenager he and his new family moved to Seattle, Washington from Denver, Colorado and we saw him just in the summers mostly.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I remember – and I told this to the other financial advisors briefly – but I said one of the memories I have that sticks with me and still resonates with me now that I’m a father is when I was in second grade (so I was seven and I think my sister was in in kindergarten so she was 5), my mom had to tell us as Christmas approached the news that there was no Santa Claus. I was 7 years old; I think I would have probably believe for at least a couple more years, but the reason that she did it was because she knew that money was going to be extremely tight and there was probably not going to be a lot that we were going to get.
And you know how the story goes if you’re child – Santa brings presents to the good boys and girls, but not to the bad ones, and my mom did not want us to feel like we had been bad kids and Santa had overlooked us or had rejected us. So she had to tell us at that point there is no Santa and, “You guys are not going to get a lot this year, and I love you both very dearly but there’s no money.”
That’s always stuck with me and when I eventually married – I married my my sweetheart at 22 – and we had kids (I was 24 when my son was born and 27 when my daughter was born), it was very important to me that money became a thing that, although in my childhood it was always a fight and a struggle and money was something that we… we always lost when it came to money, I wanted to change that.
So early in my young married life and as a young father, I have always been entrepreneurial. My grandparents on both sides also owned their own small businesses, kind of blue-collar businesses. One set of my grandparents owned three Amoco gas stations, which was just a lot of work and not a lot of revenue plus a towing company and an auto clinic). But they just worked and worked and worked and worked and worked forever. And my other grandparents owned at one point in their lives two bakeries while my grandfather was also a forklift operator for Coors brewery.
So I saw the hard work ethic from my parents and my grandparents, and got the entrepreneurial spirit probably from my grandparents.
We got the opportunity to purchase in our small town, a video store in 2001, and then after that – I had been in the restaurant industry as a district manager and a director of operations before I became a financial advisor, but in a town right next to ours there was this weird combination video store / pizza restaurant for sale that a realtor kept wanting us to look at.
I pulled up one day to look at the building – he nagged me until I finally agreed to go look at it. He was trying to sell it to us as a second video store that we might own and run independently of the other one. I pulled up and the name on the business was, “PMS? We’ve got the Cure” and the PMS was spelled out “pizza, movies, subs”!
But it literally was the most misogynistic, just deplorably-named, awful idea that I had ever seen as a business person! I thought, my word. I can’t even believe… imagine my surprise that business didn’t make it!
But we went into the building and it was beautifully set up for a pizza restaurant and they sort of just made the lobby into a video store, so I thought, “Well, it’s easier to just move the videos to our current video store (which is a very big operation) and I should just turn this into a pizza shop.” I had been in the restaurant business for years already and had moved up the chain and was making other people successful as a restauranteur, so I wondered if I could do it for myself?
My wife, God love her, said. “If you want to give it a try, give it a try,” so we opened in a small town called Platteville, Colorado “Torgi’s Pizza”.
Torgerson is my last name and Torg or Torgi was my nickname for forever. We opened that in August of 2002 in August of 2005 we open the second “Torgi’s” in Greeley, Colorado and ran those until the Great Recession really began.
We got an offer on two of the businesses and we decided to close the other one. There was some decision-making to do there, partly it was the video industry was being wiped out by Netflix but the economy in Northern Colorado… there were a million foreclosures everywhere… it was the time when the subprime mortgage bust was about to begin. Also our kids were really growing up without seeing much of mom and dad. The businesses can really take over your life and, like… our dining room table became the second office desk, full of paperwork and there was always an ad that was due to the paper before Friday, the bookkeeper needed such-and-such and the CPA needed this, and there were taxes to pay, and payroll was due… and it was just much more work than we expected.
We had a CPA, we had a bookkeeper at the time, but nobody ever, ever talked to either one of us about financial planning for our family or financial planning from a business owner’s perspective. We just sort of made our profit, paid a lot of taxes, reinvested money in the businesses (because we sort of assumed the businesses would be our future and our retirement, or maybe the kids would want them – because everybody thinks the kids will want their business and kids don’t), but that became a real part of it and when we were faced with the decision of should we start over and close these things down, sell the two with the offer we got to shut the other one down, we looked at each other.
My wife and I were going to both have to do something different with our lives professionally and this point we were in our mid-thirties, and I said, “You know, if we’re going to do something different, let me do something really different.”
I had already started to do my own research on financial planning, trying to figure out the best way to move our business forward. You know, no one ever talked to us about a 401k for our own savings or our employees. No one ever talked about any of those things that would have saved us so much in taxes that we paid unnecessarily. So I began to do this research and realizing, “My God there’s got to be a million other business owners like me out there who are just struggling to make ends meet, or maybe, God willing, their businesses are really thriving but they don’t have an advocate.”
They may have an attorney- we all did – and they all have a tax person who’s thinking about this year’s return or this quarter’s estimated payments or something, but not thinking about you 5 years from now or 20 years from now. That’s a financial advisor’s job.
So I told my wife as I was doing their own research I there’s got to be so many business owners that could benefit from somebody who has been there; who knows exactly what it’s like to lay awake at night trying to figure out how to rob Peter to pay Paul because payroll is due on Friday – those kinds of things to keep a business afloat until its solvent and then finally profitable.
And so we decided to that I was going to become a financial advisor, and I made the other decision was that I had been lived my whole life in Denver Colorado and I said if we’re going to change, let’s do something really different, and we decided because my mom and stepfather have been relocated to a little city called Harlingen, Texas, clear at the bottom of Texas, that we would relocate to some place warm and tropical for a while, and let our kids grow up in a different place than where we were.
That’s how I ended up in South Texas. We moved there in January 2007 we left in February 2017, and moved home to Denver after my son Joshua graduated from the University of Texas with a degree and a full ride scholarship and two years early (I’m so proud of my boy) and my daughter Sarah graduated from Los Fresnos high school (she is now a junior with a going for a psychology degree) I’m very, very proud of both my kids.
But my heart was with working people who are trying to make ends meet; who were trying really hard to do it right. It’s really easy to not pay all those taxes, for example, if you take a lot of cash in your business instead of ringing everything through the register like you’re supposed to. I didn’t want anybody to feel like they had to cheat to be successful. There are plenty of opportunities and strategies to make your business thrive without having to resort to either cheating employees, cheating your customers, or cheating the government.
And so that was my initial plan – to focus only on small business owners, which there are a bunch in the South part of Texas where we lived. Though I soon found out that the major employers there were school districts, so I ended up – the recession was raging- here is kind of funny story I’ll share.
My very first day at Edward Jones that I could sell, was the morning that Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. We went in to make our calls at the training center in Tempe, Arizona – we finally could reach out to people and ask them if they’d like a second opinion on the portfolio or whatever – and the market fell like 1100 points that day, and it just went down and down and down for the first 6 months I was in the business. I literally joined this industry the morning that the recession really started, so the first 6 months were a very interesting thing. I think it made me a different kind of advisor than I intend to be. I’m not a significant risk taker. I’ve learned over the years how to minimize risk and how to minimize cost to help our clients’ money very early in this business.
But anyway, there was a chamber of commerce meeting and the Chief Financial Officer of the local school district said, “Jeremy, can you do teacher retirement accounts (they’re called 403b accounts)?” and I said, “Well yeah, I can, I don’t have any at the moment.”
He said, “Look, here’s our problem: we have a whole bunch of these teachers that have been sold these investment-related 403b products from advisors for the last 10 years. Now that the market is going belly-up, these teachers are panicking. They’re calling our office, wanting advice. They’ve been wanting to get out of this stuff, and we don’t do any of that. We don’t have anything to offer then and as the employer we really can’t get into giving them financial or investment advice. Can you come talk to our teachers?”
I said I’d be happy to. I went in and said, “Folks I can take your account, but let me just see if I can help you as a courtesy.” It was a small town, so it was the neighborly thing to do, but I ended up over the years becoming a 403b expert and we have a great number of clients that that we manage their their school teacher retirement accounts in both Texas and Colorado now.
But the other thing that occurred to me when we moved to where we did was that you had a lot of poverty. I saw a lot of kids growing up in similar circumstances that I did, and so my heart was also led to say that as an advisor, I never wanted to turn a family away that sincerely wanted the help. It’s one thing if you’re not serious about it – I can’t do anything about that. I can’t care about your future more than you do, but if I saw somebody who said, “We don’t have much but we want to do something better,” I felt I had a professional obligation to help them.
It felt like Ministry work to me in a lot of ways. I’ve learned over the last 12 years in this business that the difference, really, between rich and poor, other than having access to money – is having access to information about it.
Rich guys have got all the people in the world to offer advice. The average working-class person does not, and so they tend to be easy pickings and prey for unscrupulous salespeople and insurance agents that are selling products they don’t need, or financial advisors putting them in really expensive mutual funds that they make a good commission off of, and then wait two or three years and do it again. They make money off the client over and over and over again because of the client’s lack of sophistication.
So I decided as a financial advisor, that I was going to spend a great portion of my time educating and… you will find out if you were coming to a seminar, or you’re going to listen to this podcast you’re going to find out I’m a good guy. You know I’m not worried about trying to convince you that I’m honest or trustworthy or that I’m sincere and passionate about what I do. That’ll either come across to you or it won’t, and if you never grasp that you’re dealing with an honest guy, it’s okay! I would rather not work together!
So what I hope that this podcast will do for you going forward is, if even if you never become a client of nVest Advisors, let us be a resource for you. We’re going to answer things for working people to understand. We’re going to talk about subjects that working people need to know about – college savings, how do we get out of debt… the next podcast is going to be: “I just left my company either voluntarily or not – what do I do if I’ve got an old 401k? Do I leave it there or do I roll it over? Do I cash it out?”
We’re going to talk about these things in just simple, honest, easy-to-understand language.
Let me leave this podcast with that – it’s getting long. I want to thank you if you’ve listened to me this far.
Folks, money is not a fight. Money does not have to be confusing. Money does not have to be complicated. It’s actually fairly simple.
You know, I told that to the same group of advisers that I told my personal story to, and those advisor said, “God all we do all day is try to convince people that money is complicated and they need guys like us, and here you are building a firm telling people that it’s not difficult and it’s not complicated.”
I said it’s not if you have the knowledge, but I think my kind of client is going to be busy with their lives and so they’re going to want this handled for them at some level. They just want to know that it’s in good hands that the person that is taking care of their money cares about them and wants to make sure that they do well.
That’s what nVest Advisors does, guys. We educate, we get you started if you’ve never started before, and we have created programs and fee structures that make sure that you’re not excluded even if money is tight.
Our financial plans are $29 a month for a year and then you can either stay on with a maintenance program which is lower or you can go away at that point. But $29 a month! And we work with you and we build a financial plan for you just one little bit of it a month over that first year. And in the meantime, we get you fully educated on things like basic Estate Planning and debt management strategies and how to handle taxes and how to create a budget for yourself. And then we put it all into an online financial plan that you can access any time. And you get one-on-one time with the advisor every month while you’re building your plan out and then you get time every quarter afterward to make sure that we don’t need to make changes to it.
Should you need an investment manager, we never have a minimum balance on any account. You can start with $1 if you wanted to, and we don’t charge commissions -we charge our clients a fee to manage the money – we take it directly from the account, but our fees start at less than 1% per year for your first dollar.
We’re not here to make a fortune off each client. We’re here to help each individual family and we do it in a high-tech and virtual way.
That’s the the gist of nVest Advisors. I think I went on too long with my personal story and less about my firm, but if you have questions about the firm email us! My personal email (I’ll make sure I put in the notes on the podcast) but it’s email@example.com. Or you can also use just firstname.lastname@example.org and it will also be reach us.
We’re happy to spend some time with you to see if we’re a good fit. We offer that for free- we don’t charge anything for our time if you just want to explore this or you have a specific question you’d like to get impartial advice about. We’re happy to offer it.
We’re not the right fit for everybody, but I think we’re the right fit for most people who are still working. who are raising families. who want this handled in and not have to be terribly invested in long office visits and driving clear across town to sit in your financial advisor’s mahogany office and be intimidated.
There’s no there’s no reason for that. We can actually work together in a very casual and friendly and and virtual way, where we still look at each other on the computer screen and we can still share screens we still talk one-on-one, but we can do it after dinner with your family, we can do it on a Saturday, we can do it however your family needs it done.
So this is a very, very different firm. It is not meant for the super wealthy who want their backsides kissed by their agent or advisor. This is for folks who have basic, serious financial needs, want an adviser they can trust and don’t want to pay a fortune for it, and that’s what we’re about.
God bless you all – I hope you have a great day. I’m happy to be back doing this podcast. We’re planning to do one once a week.
Next week’s is going to be about if you have an old rollover or an old company 401K plan what do you do with it? We’re going to give you several options, and after you have some info about yourself what the right one might be for you.
Have a great day guys! Again this is Jeremy Torgerson. I would love to hear some questions from you! Send us an email with any kind of financial question you’d like to hear covered on the podcast
Have a great week we’ll talk to you next week! Bye for now.