Greg Powell, president/CEO of fi-Plan Partners in Hoover
Greg Powell has seen the stock market go through many peaks and valleys during his 33 years in the financial services industry. Since 2005 as president and CEO of fi-Plan Partners, an investment advisory firm on Feldspar Way in Hoover, Powell has helped guide investment clients through the economic downturn known as The Great Recession. He is the creator of Your Financial House, a management tool designed to bring all aspects of financial planning under one roof.
In a Five Questions interview, Powell shared his thoughts on the whether the nation’s economy has improved enough to warrant the Federal Reserve changing its current low interest-rate environment. He also discussed why now is a good time to do a mid-year evaluation of your investment portfolio and how his involvement in the National Federation of Independent Business (he was recently named to the NFIB’s board of directors) makes him a better financial advisor and business owner.
1. For those unfamiliar with fi-Plan Partners, what sets it apart from other financial planning/investment firms?
At fi-Plan Partners we are an independent investment firm, which means that we have access to a wide range of investment products. We are not locked in to any one kind of investment. This freedom allows us to implement investment strategies that are in the best interest of our clients.
We also coordinate these strategies with a customized financial blueprint so that we fully understand the goals our clients want to achieve for their future. This is why we do all our financial planning and money management in house as compared to advisors who outsource these services. We can be much more proactive for our clients.
2. What was your reaction when you heard the news that the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee is taking the breaks off of keeping interest rates at the current record-low levels that’ve been in place since the financial crisis of 2007?
For the past two years, we have been saying that interest rates would not go up anytime soon. If you go to our website, fiplanpartners.com, you can see the video blogs we issued discussing this topic. We believe the Fed is still in a situation that will make it difficult to raise interest rates.
The Fed is fighting deflation and raising rates right now would choke the current economy. We think the media and the politicians in the beginning of this election cycle are using interest rates as a topic to get sound bites and sell media.
3. If it were to happen, what impact could the Fed decision to stop holding rates steady have on investors, both savers who have seen minuscule returns on savings accounts and CDs in this low rate environment and stock investors who’ve benefited as the stock market has hit record highs?
A: You can have all the discussion you want to have about interest rates, but if we are correct about our deflation forecast, the stock market still has upside to it. Of course, there are no guarantees. However, Corporate America is increasing earnings by embracing technology to help with the cost cutting. The American worker has felt the impact of technology replacing jobs.
This in turn has kept consumers from spending money, and instead, use their money to pay down existing debts. It is one of the reasons why new jobs have not increased in the economy. Consumers also need to realize that interest rates are not going to go up anytime soon. Their money markets and CDs will continue to pay very little.
4. What are some smart mid-year investment moves to make as summer approaches?
It is always good to evaluate the performance of your portfolio at midyear. You should also have dialogue with your financial advisor to make sure that your portfolio performance and 401(k) returns are in line with your financial blueprint. If someone is working with a financial advisor who does not do financial planning but is managing their money, that is like working with a builder who is trying to construct a house for you without a blueprint.
A big issue with us here at fi-Plan Partners, which is why we use our unique process called Your Financial House. This process allows us to make sure that portfolio performance is in line with our client’s financials dreams and goals. You would be amazed how many times we’ve had people come to us with way too much risk in their portfolio because their current advisor had not done a financial blueprint.
5. You have been so active in supporting capitalism, entrepreneurship, and the success of small business to the point that the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) asked you recently to serve on their national board of directors. How does your involvement make you a better financial advisor and business owner?
I believe that small business is a great indicator of how well our economy will do moving forward. These small business indicators give me great insight into how certain sectors of the market will perform whether it is looking at companies that are selling the products or companies buying the products.
Case in point, in tracking the trucking industry, I know that if truck line deliveries are going up, that is a good indication that in 90–120 days we will start to see the economy pickup because retailers and business owners have to place their orders in advance.
Also, the NFIB helps me track what legislation is coming out of Washington or state governments that can impact businesses throughout the country which in turn impacts the earnings they are reporting. As a business owner, and as a financial advisor who manages money for business owners, I am able to participate in the dialogue both nationally and statewide on issues that can prevent our economy from moving forward. Too often, political leadership does not understand the impact of the laws they may be passing.
ABOUT FIVE QUESTIONS WITH ROY WILLIAMS: This is the debut of a monthly small business Q&A feature Roy Williams was known for over 20 years as a business writer in Birmingham. If you have a business in Hoover, Homewood, Vestavia Hills or Mountain Brook and want to be considered for this feature, email Roy@starnespublishing.com