A team effort

At Goldstein & Associates, wealth management marries morale-boosting fun

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Nerf guns and “bacon apologies” are things you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a wealth-management office, but at Goldstein & Associates, Jon Goldstein, CEO and financial advisor, recognizes the importance of keeping things fresh and morale high.

Everyone in the 20-person office has a Nerf gun, and once, after slightly damaging Goldstein’s car, an employee apologized with a large delivery of bacon, Goldstein’s favorite food. “You never want to take yourself too seriously,” he says.

But jokes aside, when it comes to handling other people’s money, it’s serious business, and Goldstein has shined in the industry. This year, he was named the #3 top advisor in Wisconsin by Barron’s, an honor he shares unabashedly with his team.

Goldstein, 42, has a reputation for caring as much for his employees as for the clients they serve. “I hate turnover,” he admits. “I don’t like losing people or having to retrain. It’s just not a model that makes sense.” It’s important, he states, to be especially cognizant of employees’ wants and needs because “if you just treat them like traditional employees, they’ll treat you like a traditional employer.”

He encourages giving back, and this year the company was a major donor to Shake the Lake. “It’s interesting because you like to think that altruism for altruism’s sake is a good thing to have, but it’s good for business, too,” he states.

Fisheries to finance

His road to financial success may have been a bit unconventional. Early on, he was drawn to population dynamics, fisheries, and Department of Natural Resources work. “I like looking through data and trying to analyze things,” Goldstein says. While at UW–Madison, he was conducting research for the DNR and the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission when he accepted a position with IDS Financial Services [which eventually became Ameriprise), and never left.

Interestingly, he found similarities between his two very different pursuits.

“In population dynamics, if there’s a population of rabbits that grows out of control, you introduce a predator, like a fox, to control it. That’s not unlike equations for compound interest and how people latch on. The predator in that scenario would be taxes instead of a fox. It’s the same math.”



IB recently spoke with Goldstein to learn more about the other side of the equation — him.

IB: How do you distinguish yourself from all the financial advisors out there?
There are a lot of them but when you break it down to how many have CFPs (certified financial planners), that list might be reduced 25%. Then, how many have multiple designations … or a good team. Nowadays, to do a good job, you have to have a good team. There are just too many rules.

IB: What are the hot topics in your industry right now?
Regulatory changes and new laws. The industry requires much more paperwork and is more compliance intensive than 20 years ago. It can get self-limiting at some point. Some advisors don’t want to deal with it anymore and may leave the industry.

IB: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
When our clients suffer personal tragedies — whether a death in the family, or divorce, or other stumbling blocks. We have to help them through it.

IB: Looking out over the next year, what do you see?
When the dollar is strong, it can hide a lot of issues, and the U.S. economy is rewarded for that. It’s somewhat cyclical. The artificial reduction in interest rates can hold a lot of bad credit in the low-interest rate environment. So when interest rates start to go up and interest is raised on the debt, then you’ll find out how strong some of these companies are and what their balance sheets actually look like.

IB: What about the economic effects of Greece or China?
Greece’s GDP is not really very high. They have little other than tourism, and very few companies have a direct investment in Greece. So it makes a lot of noise but doesn’t have a lot of relevance.

China is different. Its currency devaluation is causing a lot of short-term chaos. They’ve acquired a lot of our commodity contracts, which is impactful here, but those contracts have finite time frames and won’t likely be renewed.

Then China will be in a difficult spot, and when that happens it comes full circle and will hurt China but help us. Am I worried about both of those long-term? No. But in the short term, it’s impactful.

The volatility, though, is reasonably healthy because it creates opportunities to take profits and buy at a discount. If you don’t have that, you’re always buying at full value, which isn’t always best.

IB: You’re a people guy in a relationship-based industry. What might people not know about you?
I don’t like cilantro or cucumbers, but I like pickles. Does it make sense? No.

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