How To Go Independent

An objective source to learn about independent business models

How financial advisor Ashley Hodge manages $100 million from his home office without an assistant

InterviewsSean KernanComment

This is a transcript of HTGI podcast episode 23 (click HERE to check out that show) I did with Ashley Hodge. It has not been edited to a final draft quality, so please excuse any hard-to-follow passages. You can also listen to the show using the media player to the right. 

Sean: Today I’m joined by Ashley Hodge. Ashley is an independent advisor, who spent time at wirehouses and went independent about 12 years ago. So, Ashley, thanks for joining me.


Ashley: Glad to be on.

Sean: Ashley, why don’t we go ahead and get right to it. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background in the business and otherwise and how you ended up looking to go independent way back when.

Ashley: Sure. I started in the business in 1993. I worked for Merrill Lynch for 6 years in Fort Worth and then I moved to a small regional firm J.C. Bradford in 1999 and went to a serious buyout, PaineWebber was the first one and then UBS after that. And so I had some contract obligations until about 2004 and in 2004 I decided to go independent and so that was when I made the watch into the road of an independent financial advisor.

Sean: So how long did you take a look at that before you pulled the trigger and what did you do to prepare for it?

Ashley: Well, the business was evolving around in the age of the internet certainly, telecommuting, working from home, became more of a viable option so I started actually working from home probably in 2001 and I just knew that having children, raising a family, quality of life, I thought that would provide the highest quality life so I decided the desertion I wanted to go in 2001 so I really started planning all my business practices to try to make that a reality and in 2004 made the jump and was really glad that I did.

Sean: Okay that’s funny I didn’t realize that and that’s a Sean: Today I’m joined by Ashley Hodge. Ashley is an independent advisor, spent time at wirehouses and went independent about 12 years ago. So, Ashley, thanks for joining me.

Ashley: Glad to be on. Sean: Ashley, why don’t we go ahead and get right to it. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background in the business and otherwise and how you ended up looking to go independent way back when.

Ashley: Sure. I started in the business in 1993. I worked for Merrill Lynch for 6 years in Fort Worth and then I moved to a small regional firm J.C. Bradford in 1999 and went to a serious buyout, PaineWebber was the first one and then UBS after that. And so I had some contract obligations until about 2004 and in 2004 I decided to go independent and so that was when I made the watch into the road of an independent financial advisor.

Sean: So how long did you take a look at that before you pulled the trigger and what did you do to prepare for it?

Ashley: Well, the business was evolving around in the age of the internet certainly, telecommuting, working from home, became more of a viable option so I started actually working from home probably in 2001 and I just knew that having children, raising a family, quality of life, I thought that would provide the highest quality life so I decided that's the direction I wanted to go in 2001 so I really started planning all my business practices to try to make that a reality and in 2004 made the jump and was really glad that I did.

Sean: Okay I didn’t realize that and that’s a big thing I want to talk to you about. At some point I didn’t realize you were doing that as an employee so I assume they were not excited that wasn’t really an option to get full time I’m guessing.

Ashley: I didn’t get much kickback from it but it was an encourage. I would say my attendance at weekly sales meetings was pretty sporadic and I’m sure the manager was with wasn’t happy about that but really it just suited me well and I’ve always received more energy from dealing with clients and just trying to be more productive with my time versus actually talking to coworkers. I like my coworkers and enjoy the office environment to some degree but when I start really to evaluate it, there’s just so much time wasted, 2-hour lunches, talking about the weekend sporting events. I mean, you know, when I started doing time logs which is about 2001-2002, I just start evaluating, okay take out the commute, take out the 2-hour lunches, take out the 45 minutes recapping all the sports action from the weekend. You’re killing a big portion of the day here. That’s really what motivated me to make that move.

Sean: Excellent. And just for context, what part of Fort Worth were you living at that point? How far were you driving?

Ashley: I lived in Fort Worth and then Southlake but it’s the same time that I was wrestling with these ideas, I actually decided, I didn’t have kids at the time, and I decided I was gonna start taking seminary classes at a Dallas theological seminary and so we moved to Dallas. And so I was actually working at the Fort Worth office, living in Dallas, that was a big motivation for officing from home. But then it was a plan that once I was able to work with a contract that I was gonna make the jump in 2004 so I made all these moves with that in mind that that was eventually gonna be my landing spot. big thing I want to talk to you about. At some point I didn’t realize you were doing that as an employee so I assume they were not excited that wasn’t really an option to get full time I’m guessing.

Sean: Excellent. Okay so you sort of have a several year time horizon that you were looking at the earliest opportunity that made sense given that time track to make the move.

Ashley: Correct.

Sean: And then when you decide to pull the plug and make the move, how did that go? How did the clients perceive it? Anything, lessons learned for those that are looking at that today that stick out? You know, it’s a different environment. Things change but some things stay the same.

Ashley: Right. Well you know I think that if you’re thinking in terms of 2-3 years ahead you do things differently than if you just make a rest move obviously. The transition was actually very smooth. I made the transition from Merrill Lynch to the small regional firm. It was the first time I’d ever moved firms and that was a messy transition, ended up being sued by Merrill Lynch, had to go to arbitration but, there was a lot of circumstances. I was the 10th employee to leave that Merrill Lynch office within the last year so that’s clearly baiting them to sue you ‘cause at some point they wanna stop the bleeding. So I had arbitration and the results of that were not favorable for me. So the second go around, I made sure that I had my ducks in a row, that there was nothing that I did that would jeopardize my employment contract, the firm wouldn’t have much to stand on in terms of taking me to court to get a temporary restraining order. I think it was more well thought out. I consulted some attorneys and so as a result is this new transition.

Sean: That’s interesting ‘cause when you were making that move between wirehouses so to speak or I guess that was more of a regional at the time, the one you went to, you weren’t a big/huge producer for Merrill at the time, were you?

Ashley: No, I wasn’t. I think I had 40 million under management. Probably still a little over 400,000 in business. Yeah still not typically a guy that they were worried about but I think the fact that I was the 10th guy to leave their office in the last year, they wanted to send a firm message to the other employees that remained so I was the guy that caught that.

Sean: Interesting. Because that would be, kind of, I don’t hear that when people make the move and I know you kind of talk this, you stick to yourself and get your clients taken care of instead of, like you said, doing what you are doing, talking to advisors all day or a lot of the day. But I guess the lesson could be maybe you need to beat your coworkers out the door if you’re gonna make the move.

Ashley: I think that’s a good lesson.

Sean: Or in some ways you just don’t know until you actually pull the plug. But that’s surprising ‘cause I didn’t know about that move and I don’t hear that too often but like you described you just don’t know circumstances might be unique. Interesting.

Ashley: And just to be totally transparent I think a lot have to deal with the fact that when you move from a brokerage firm to a brokerage firm, oftentimes there's, you know at the time, I don’t know if this will do this but there is some pretty significant upfront bonuses being paid to make that move and so I think the difference between going from a brokerage firm to independent is obviously higher payout with independent but there's no upfront significant compensation. So the firms can easily claim damage, you know when there's upfront payment being made it’s easy to say “Okay, we’ve been damaged. Here’s proof, this person’s receiving this amount of compensation for moving.” If you’re going independent you’re not receiving that upfront bonus then that’s different story.

Sean: Gotcha. That’s great point. I think that still happens, things evolved a little bit but my understanding, all those wirehouse to wirehouse moves, I think that’s one reason a lot of people don’t look at the independent model as closely is there’s some money involved these days but nothing like that would be when you have a 10-year commitment to your next employer.

Ashley: Right.

Sean: Okay, very interesting. So sounds like your retention on your second move was relatively high at least from what you were looking for. How'd you position it and then tell us a little bit about the specifics in terms of how you got setup and where you went from there.

Ashley: Well I don't remember specifically telling my clients that I was changing firms but I did plant seeds. One of the seeds that I planted which was a genuine motivation was I told them that I want to cut out a lot of the overhead and I want to get into very inexpensive cost-structure and so doing that, that I’ll be able to charge less than I could charge at the full brokerage firms and so I was thinking about what kind of business I wanted to run and the types of clients I wanted to attract. I really focused on three things: one was providing value not only from a cost perspective, but to be able to impart some wisdom from over 10 years at the time and now over 20 years of experience in the investment businesses. The second thing I wanted to do was just to focus on stewardship. I had a passion for specifically biblical stewardship and now that could play out living at your faith and focusing on simple living and generous life. Those two things are a passion of mine. And then third thing is, I guess I discovered it, focus on value from an advisor standpoint but also from a cost perspective. I felt like if a client has a certain amount of money that I would want to be able to cap my fee and not charge any more than that and at the time I did it because I thought it was a right thing to do but it had been a pretty successful marketing ploy as well because a lot of people would spread the word that I was charging quite a bit less than other advisors at a certain asset break point.

Sean: Yeah, very interesting. Can you touch a little bit on that last point in terms of how you outline that and what the appeal to the client is and how do you go about, that was interesting in talking to you, how you implement that.

Ashley: Yeah so the big conviction I had was this, I wouldn't charge more than 10,000 dollars in asset fees to any client regardless of asset size. Typically if you have a client that has 2 million plus obviously 2 million that would be half a percent but as the numbers get higher, if you have clients that have 5 million, 10 million, you can slide that asset fee down to make it really competitive and was able to plant some clients against some pretty lofty competition. One guy talked to you, heavily courted by Goldman Sachs, I mean, there's just no comparison from the fee perspective. I was able to blow away their fees by sticking to that policy.

Sean: Very good and then what would you say if anyone were to say “hey, you’re discounting your value.” How do you answer that? I would assume you had people say that or the thought has crossed your mind or you read that elsewhere.

Ashley: Yeah, I may not say every client obviously the more assets you have there's gonna be some added complexity to it. If you're officing from home and your overhead is low, most of that 10,000 dollar fee you’re taking to the house so, I mean it gets to be a question of what is your time worth and are you really gonna spend that much time to justify 25,000 dollar fee 30,000 dollar fee? For me the answer is no I thought that 10,000 is very fair fee structure for some of the more complicated or hire asset clients. And you know it’s like anything. In this business what I found is when you take on a new client a lot of the work is the first couple years. As you establish the plan, you do a lot of planning, get to know each other, more frequent meetings, but then after that first couple of years the actual amount of work starts to decline. So I think you definitely have happy client from a fee perspective and they’re gonna tell other people about it. I think it’s a win-win situation.

Sean: Yeah that's interesting and I think I would thank the economics of independence especially the way you're doing it, make that a whole different ball game than sort of the firms that you and I came from where that 10,000 dollars the client pays is nowhere near, all that goes to the bottom line.

Ashley: Yeah. In Merrill Lynch you’re probably talking. With all the fees that they layer on I would guess the advisor take home maybe 2500 of that. The payout may be 40-41% but then they have some additional haircuts in their advisory business where it would lower that even more so it’s a whole different ballgame for sure.

Sean: Great and then on the other two points that are probably more endearing to your heart, I’m talking about imparting value and wisdom and living out your faith. How does that manifest itself when you come across that maybe there are potential clients or existing client for that matter who you realize at some point maybe that doesn't fit as well with what you feel is most important. How do you handle that or does that come out very often?

Ashley: That's a great question. I think that back in 2001 I probably had more idealistic plots of what that might look like and how I would run my practice and integrate faith into my practice. As time goes on, I think there are definitely clients that that connects with and they want to seek that type of advice from you. That would say, my client base currently, maybe 25% would really actively want that type of advice, incorporating how to give, and lifestyle issues, Christian worldview. The other 75% just want someone who’s honest, they can trust, that they like, that’ll manage their funds and be a good steward over their funds. I don’t think it’s inconsistent for that other 75%, I think there's some respect as long as they feel that it’s authentic. But the 25% really resonates with them and they want to be a generous, they wanna live for a Christian worldview, they want to advance the kingdom of God so to speak. There's more vibrant conversations about that, but the other 75% are like “I don't want a sermon, just give me solid advice, charge me a fair fee, and take care of me, manage this money like you would manage your own money." I try to implement that and just be the best advisor to everyone that I can and as this conversations come up I'm glad that I entertain them but I’m not as forceful to try to force a square peg into a round hole that maybe I was 10 years ago.

Sean: Okay, that’s interesting. I think that gives, at least to me personally, sort of hope that the idea of having this very narrow, that’s a wonderful niche, I don’t know if that’s a niche per se, that's not exactly what I think from a marketing perspective. We think of a niche but it’s more about not having to sacrifice your personal values and what’s important for you is the advisor as you work with people. But that’s with a lot of experience in general that there are clients who really want to kind of share everything and have us help them think through bigger picture issues but many just want “hey take care of me" and I think your faith probably serve you well in doing that. Yeah, that makes sense that not everyone’s looking for that kind of relationship. Great, very good. Interesting.

Ashley: I would say that cause I’ve had a few of these situations that’s come up recently. I do think that for those who may be listening that are inclined this way and have a Christian belief system, people watch. I had a client that ripped my heart out. She got at age 58 I think, she was diagnosed with terminal brain tumor and she’s one that I never really had these conversations with but immediately as we started some pretty emotional, deep conversation after death diagnosis, she had mentioned “hey I've always noticed that your faith is important to you and I’ve always respected that about you.” Those conversations come up I think in times of distress or times of change or, you know, life changes so it’s one of the things where, I've been encouraged lately that consistency and not shining away from it but at the the same time, you certainly don't want to shine the light too bright either. I mean, you want to have a good balanced approach to it so that people know who you are but make sure you’re there to serve them, so you're not there to force something that they don't want.

Sean: Great story. No, not a great story but it’s good that people know who you’re about. I guess that is part of what I do now. I don't think if you've been independent for a while, maybe we forget that newer advisors or maybe those who are in the employee model think they need to try and please everyone and it just seems to me when you can afford to only take on clients you really feel good about working with and who seem to appreciate what you do, it just seem to make life a lot more fulfilling and I think we do better work that way. And also if someone did want to make evangelism the primary focus, they just probably need to think that through from, that’s gonna draw line where you may turn off some clients, otherwise would be fine with knowing that but sure who make it uncomfortable. That goes for anything we do if we say we focus on a particular type of client and that client doesn't fit that profile but I think as long as you can build a practice the way you want to which we can where we are, that's a wonderful freedom to have.

Ashley: Right.

Sean: Now tell me a little bit about your office situation. I know you work from home. And that was I think one reason that we got linked up when I was looking at the different independent options, trying to decide what I want to do office wise, the recruiter for the firm will say “hey this guy's done a great job working from home.” So tell us about your setup. What are the pros and cons? I know you've got kids that are still fairly young. So how do you get work done at the house? Talk to the person that doesn't get that. How do you operate?

Ashley: Well there has to be some intention about it. No question. When I moved to Dallas the house set up wasn't ideal especially if you're having young kids, which we had at the time. So it was a 3-bedroom house and had an office. And the office is right in the middle of the house and it has two french doors so you could see all the action, the kids could see you. I will never forget that I got a really had a good referral one day. It’s like a three million dollar client and my son comes in to the office, opens the door, has poop in his diaper and his hand and says “poopy, poopy!” And so obviously that's not the impression you want to make on a client that you're talking to, prospective client for the first time. I actually got declined by the way. But now I moved to hers in Fort Worth side and I built an office. We built our house and the office is built with a lot of intentionality. Mine is on the other side of the house at the back. It’s got a door that's extra thick. The walls are extra thick. Got a lock on the door. And so my kids, you know I've been working from home for so long, they just know that from 8:00 to 6 daddy's probably gonna be in his office. During the day I come back and have lunch with them. And we homeschool our kids so I actually am the math professor for my son so I spend some time during the day doing math with them. You know that math is pretty much, you know I try to keep it very disciplined approach and I’m big on “don’t start the next day until you have it finished”, set goals, to-do list. And my goal is pretty simple, I wanna have three quality client reviews everyday and I think If I do that everything will take care of itself. If you try to touch three clients a day in some way and you do that consistently I think everything else takes care of itself. And I found that to be true. My business is slumpy usually when I get away from that, when I lose sight of that. It’s all about having three quality client reviews whether they be face to face, from the phone, or by email. If you do that consistently good things will happen.

Sean: Yeah it's funny ‘cause that sounds, you know, if you have really ambitious people sometimes you think three sounds low.. but you do the math and even with some vacation that's a lot of, when you say quality, that's a lot of quality time with the clients, talking to them, meeting with them, sending emails. Whatever the case may be. That’s, I don’t know what that is, 6 - 700 a year so by your client based and it’s just a matter of the consistency I would think.

Ashley: Yeah and if you do it right it’s probably an hour and a half of work or preparation per client to do that. So you talking 4 and a half to 5 hours obviously that is to include things that could come up during the day like just the normal routine administrative task that you have to do everyday or responding to clients. That’s more reactive but if I focus on those proactive things and carb out that time what I found is really, referrals come and you have happier clients and it’s easy and simple as that. When I was in Merrill Lynch there was an advisor that even said “I do one client review a day.” and I just thought “man how lady is that!” Just one client review a day. But when you get 20 years in the business you can see how that you could have freedom so be that, where you just kind of drift. And so I think that being intentional is critical especially if you're gonna work from home ‘cause you don’t have anyone to really spur you on. You have to be more intentional about it.

Sean: Right. And there’s always, as long as you're responding quickly to the inbound stuff, that always helps with the maintenance and the quality time you spend with clients hopefully but that's interesting and you mentioned doing the administrative stuff now. Tell me about the staff you have in place to manage the business that you've grown.

Ashley: I have a staff of one and many hundreds of people that are behind the scenes using the scale of investment companies that I do business with or the company that we clear our business with, LPL. Using their skill and their expertise, with technology, I think you can get away without having an assistant. It has challenges, I just found that I was always the type of person that did manage people very well and so knowing that weakness about myself, I just decided to go without an assistant and a lot of cons taking ownership of a lot of the administrative tasks which are a whole lot easier now that we have paperless documents, docusign and able to scan. I mean it’s way less labor intensive than it was 10 years ago but I just found that doing it myself the buck stops with me. I get to know the situation of the client a little bit better. As you input the paperwork you’re getting more familiar with the clients. It’s okay for me to go without an assistant.

Sean: Awesome. I’ve always been impressed with that. I could see you're kind of my hero in that you can see it could be done and people that make excuses about “I need this office, or I need this staff to get things done”, a lot of that is just pure organization and discipline.

Ashley: Right

Sean: And it’s always good to hear that it can be done. Even if i don't want to do it myself necessary that way, I like to have you in particular as an example. Do you mind sharing a little bit about the rough terms, the scale of your practice, so people are gonna appreciate what you've been able to build either in terms of assets or whatever.

Ashley: Sure. It’s a little over 100 million in assets and I have probably somewhere in the 120 households as far as the clients that I served. Those are pretty accurate numbers somewhere in that ballpark.

Sean: And you've been able to grow that fairly significantly in the 10 years or what, 11, 12 years you've been independent, right?

Ashley: Yeah so I think I missed it earlier that when I left Merrill Lynch I had 40 million dollars. I only took a portion of that over to the new firm because of the lawsuit. I actually had a one year non-compete that was enforced. I think I left paying UBS with about 25 million so that was from the starting point, was not bringing a lot assets over but in the 10 years I've been able to grow that from 25 to over a hundred. So it’s been tremendous. I think it does reenergize me a lot really. In 2001-2004, I didn't have a lot of enthusiasm for the business and it is shown, you can never fake that. And in 2004 when I went independent I was doing my own thing and have myself to answer too. You got away from a lot of bureaucratic Issues that you have with a large organization. I think it still energize me and the gross came because of that.

Sean: That’s awesome. Congratulations on doing that especially doing it the way you want to and with relatively minimal distractions. I know it’s a lot of work to build and maintain that. That’s impressive. Do you have any favorite tools that help you keep on top of things, or technology that's evolved for the last many years that sticks out as you couldn’t do without it at this point?

Ashley: Well, let’s see what I use. I definitely am a big fan of the Money Advisor. I use it religiously myself for budgeting, keeping track of the expenses, setting goals. What I preach to my clients, I definitely try to implement myself. So I have a lot of clients who love it. I actually think every client should use it, but a lot of them have the attitude of that’s-what-I-hired-you-for. That’s a great tool. I still use MetroFax. Faxes are becoming less and less frequent, more and more companies are taking email, scans, but I use MetroFax. I don’t have a fax machine. I just scan documents in either to my phone or to my laptop and then pay 895 a month to have this designated fax number. And you know lately, I’ve spent some time this year setting up a new office system. I still was playing lot of basketball up until 2 or 3 months ago and had herniated disk so my latest teacher has been giving one of these desk that converts from a sitting desk to standing desk. And so I replaced my computer, got a laptop using a docking station and so I’ve gotten rid of all my files and all my journals now so now I’m 100% paperless. I keep some paper files that I have to keep for compliance reason in my closet but everything else is digital. I think embracing the digital, 100% paperless office if you're gonna do it the way I’ve done it is a pretty important thing otherwise it can be tough to manage from a space perspective. So those are the main tools that I embrace.

Sean: Okay good. I'm sorry to hear about your back. I didn't know about that. I know that’s not fun at all and I know you've been pretty consistent with playing basketball for all those years. So I’m sure that’s not comfortable to deal with.

Ashley: Yeah, they crashed my NBA aspirations but..

Sean: How did Baylor do this year by the way? Did they have a decent..

Ashley: They had a pretty good year. They lost in the first tournament to an Ivy League school..

Sean: That’s right. That was not good. I didn’t mean, that wasn’t supposed to upset you..

Ashley: You know I had a very good team and Baylor had trouble containing their sophomore point guard. I think they had 30 points against Baylor. That was not a good end of the season but a pretty good year overall.

Sean: Actually he’s a very big supporter and very interested in Baylor basketball. That’s an understatement, right?

Ashley: Yes.

Sean: And then you've already touched on it quite a bit but I just want to highlight it for people that, they think of going independent which I’ve been debating, is that the right term even? Or what does it mean? I think a lot of people that don't really dig into the option or options because it sounds intimidating. If we think about our country going independent you have to fight a war to get there and set up a whole new government, etcetera, start from scratch. How much time do you spend running the business? It’s just you and you've built a substantial practice so obviously you’ve done a good job. Can you give us a sense of how intimidating it is to go from being an employee and having people to do that stuff, to do it your own, or hiring someone to do it.

Ashley: It’s an adjustment period. I think that it takes about 2 years to really hit the groove to where you feel like going from a wirehouse to an independent broker that there's no difference as far as the amount of time and effort. When I look back, perhaps it’s experience but it just seems like there was so much time wasted. I’ll speak with Merrill Lynch. Merrill Lynch was a good firm. I don't want to bad-mouth but I would make the comment that when you’d call for support at the time, it may have changed since then, so many people that you would talk to to treat it as a job and so as a result you just got stuck in this black hole of service. Call, get a client situation taken care of, pass the buck, pass the buck. No one wants to take the responsibility for it. I think with the independent firms, at least my experience with LPL, there’s been much more of an ownership, more of a mindset from the top down that these are your clients. Just like what we serve our clients and if our clients call up you're not just gonna say “Hey, let me get to that next week” you take care of that issue right now and right then. Same thing I found is true from the service perspective being independent. There’s just a lot more ownership of problems so from that standpoint your frustrations and the time you spend actually goes down, which I’ve been really happy about. So I would say there’s a 2-year adjustment period but now I’m sure that the amount of work that I'm putting in, the amount of time that I’m putting in, certainly if you add up commuting and sales meetings and all the stuff that you have to do at a wirehouse is equal or are less than at the wirehouse years.

Sean: Okay, very good. And I think one of the interesting things I find in talking you and a bunch of other independent advisors before I made the move myself, just all the different ways you can set up a business to solve those challenges. You wanna hire a bunch of assistants because you wanna have file cabinets and someone to create people walking the door, you can have as much or as little staff as you want. You can have as much or as little office space as you want assuming you can afford all that overhead. It’s not really for you or me necessarily but there are people who’d like to have culture months. It can be expensive but there’s no one’s gonna tell you “no you can’t do that until you do 1.72 million of production” or whatever the random arbitrary benchmark that a firm has established. But I think learning the system definitely and figure out how to get things done, there’s always gonna be adjustment. For better or worse you are independent, we are independent day to day so no one is gonna babysit us to make sure we get our stuff done as much. There’s certainly compliance but it’s a different environment to say at least.

Ashley: Right. I was just gonna make the comment that it’s impossible to eliminate stress. Stress is obviously gonna be a natural part of any work environment but I've always been big on, you know, begin with the end in mind. What lifestyle is gonna bring about the most peace and the least amount of stress over time? And so with business decisions I try to make, with that in mind, and I think certainly for me even though it sounds frightening to some people to give up the security of the big company and the employee status certainly being independent has been less stressful and more financially rewarding too but I think if people really look at “how can I set my business up and make it as simple as possible” if that's the goal I think a lot of them come to these conclusions that there are better ways to do things. Just because there's layers of people that you have to go through to get things done at the wirehouse doesn’t mean that’s the right way to do it.

Sean: Yeah. Amen. One of the major issues that I know concerns people that I want to talk to you about. I tried to ask most advisors that I have on, how do you get health insurance for your family? Does your wife have a corporate job? I guess not. She’s homeschooling, the kids are help in homeschool but how do you handle that for your family?

Ashley: That's a complicated issue because unfortunately my wife has neurological problems and so she is considered a separate entity. She’s actually on Medicare because she's got a long term disability so my kids and I are on our own policy and I’ve done it through and I would say that my satisfaction with that was high before Obamacare and probably much lower after Obamacare because the level of care have declined and the price has gone way up. I know that something that I’ve look into last year and I may take the job next year and do it is I've had clients and people I know that spoken very highly of some of these health sharing organizations. There’s one called Medi-Share, another one called Samaritan, I forgot the other part of that name. But have you heard about this, Sean?

Sean: Yeah, a little bit. In fact one of the guy that works with me has done that and so far his experience has been pretty positive.

Ashley: Yeah it’s an option I’m gonna look into. It’s basically much lower monthly fees but it’s not health insurance. It’s a commitment to share each other’s expenses if you commit to certain lifestyle behaviors. Not smoking, not excessive drinking, no drug use, those are the kinds of things you're asking for from a commitment standpoint. So that's interesting to me and I’m looking to it. But right now I've been using eHealthInsurance and I’m with UnitedHealthcare currently.

Sean: It’s funny, I don’t know if I got that from you or just from the recruiters that we would have both talked to when we make the move. That’s exactly where mine is. Do you still have the existing policy? Have they given you any, the way I read these letters it says, maybe we can only keep it thru October 17. Have you read between the lines or is that what you understand? Or have you looked at that closely?

Ashley: I’ve actually been browsing that a little bit. I had BlueCross BlueShield through eHealthInsurance and they stopped offering the plan that I was on when the affordable HealthCare Access was enacted. And so I think it’s been UnitedHealthcare the last two years but I have the HSA account. I max stand every year and then I pay for insurance on top of that. All told it’s probably 1100 a month if you include the HSA, the the maximize in the HSA account. It’s not a terrible policy but being relatively healthy so you don’t go to the doctor very much, it’s seems like there could be better options out there. With the affordable HealthCare Access you just happen to pay for, you’re kind of forced to pay for more than you need

Sean: Yeah and the way I've tried to position that or explain to advisors is unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you view it, that doesn't appear to be unique that challenge to being an employee or being self-employed it seems to be consistent across the board that costs are going up. There might be some sharing a little bit with an employer but if you look at that in terms of, here’s what costing you as an employee, if you're self-employed yes it might cost you more. But if you sum up the total cost, look at only the delta. And then compare that to your gross topline, what’s gonna shop in your bank account before expenses. The math is kind of silly. It’s obviously more than enough to cover the delta from what I see.

Ashley: I mean it’s crazy sometimes, the mental traps that you get into, you hear some resistance on health care insurance or I’m gonna have to pay my portion of the social security, the implied tax or, you know, I get invited on this trip every year and the big brokerage firm pays for me to go on this trip every year. You know, those things, you’re saving pennies to lose dollars. This doesn’t make good financial sense. I mean, like you said, at the end of the day what I found is, what you pay to the bottom line increases substantially and then you can make your decisions on how you allocate your money from there. All these benefits. If you’re making 90% payout or 70% payout or whatever the case may be versus making a 30% payout, they tend to get pretty small, pretty quick.

Sean: Yeah it makes me understand a little bit more why any firm has these different pieces of compensation, all the behavioral finance stuff. It kind of teaches us we all like to have lots of little positive hits. And even that of those that should be able to do math pretty well in this business don’t always go for doing it. We don't seem to acknowledge that, like you said a mental trap. And there are the reasons people don't make a move. They’re comfortable, there’s fear, there’s “hey I inherited a bunch of clients at the big mother Merrill type firm.” That’s okay but the math is pretty straightforward when you look at, if your clients will move with you which we all hope. Most of us, if we do a decent job they will go with us.

Ashley: Right.

Sean: Okay is there anything else that you wanna touch on that we haven't had chance to talk about or anything if you had to do something different in your career, or that you don't like about being independent? What else haven’t we touched on that you think would be critical for someone that might listen to this?

Ashley: I would say for any younger advisor that maybe been in the business for 10 years or less, I think in all that age that do what you love and the money will follow is true to some degree. I think that if you become passionate about things and you surround yourself with quality people, that tends to be attractive to clients. I know that even though it hasn't been my intention going into it, to get clients per se, you know, just to basketball and supporting Baylor Athletics and teaching bible studies on finances at churches. If I look back at my client base a lot of my best clients come from those three areas. And so I think more than just concentrating on, and I also think those who aren’t independent help because you don’t want to office from home and stay in your home all day. I mean, you definitely wanna have activities that are getting you in front of people and getting out of the community. And if you can do things that you're passionate about, do things you love, I do think it’s not gonna be an immediate payoff as far as business but do it consistently and people see that they know you, they like you and they trust you. They tend to build business with you. I will just give that advice. Design the life you want to design and go for it.

Sean: Yeah I think that’s great advice. Well, Ashley, I really appreciate your time. Make sure you spend that wisely, that stewardship that you reference. I really appreciate you spending a little bit of that with me. And I hope, I know some folks out there will benefit from it. If anybody wanna reach out to you and had a few questions or one that kind of pick your brain a little but more. How will they get ahold of you?

Ashley: Sure. They can email me at my personal email which is and I have a website, it’s I’ve had the information on that as well.

Sean: Great! Thanks again and I hope you continued success and I appreciate your time.

Ashley: Thanks Sean! And let me say, Sean is one of the deadliest outside shooters I‘ve ever come across. I remember learning that the hard way. You were Steph Curry before Steph Curry.

Sean: Thank you, that’s funny. I told someone the other day who used an analogy about thanking him, he thanked me for a layup in the business. So you better enjoy it ‘cause I usually just check it up. I think you thought I was kidding but as you know I was not.

Ashley: I do remember playing with you and I said “Sean, I’m open” and you said “I don’t see you sitting on the rim.” I mean you kept saying that to me. Now that makes more sense.

Sean: Yeah just keep the rebound. Ashley is about 6’3 6’4, you just get the rebound in case I miss..

Ashley: That’s right. Alright. Have a good weekend. Take care

Sean: Alright. Take care.