Authority Magazine Interview
As a part of my series about “Investing During The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vijay Khetarpal. Link to the interview.
Vijay Khetarpal has been dedicated to providing financial advisory services to his clients since 1983. Holder of a degree in Economics Honors from St. Stephens College at Delhi University, India; Vijay has continued his career-related education and has earned the professional designations of Accredited Investment Fiduciary(AIF®), Chartered Life Underwriter(CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), and Certified Financial Planner(CFP®).
Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT®) recognizes Vijay for his exceptional professional knowledge, commitment to excellence in client service and highest ethical conduct. Vijay Khetarpal is a 25-year life and qualifying member of the Million Dollar Round Table — The Premier Association of Financial Professionals.® Vijay has multiple exclusive “Court of the Table” and “Top of the Table” qualifications. Top of the Table status is the highest level of MDRT membership and places Vijay Khetarpal among the top professionals in the global financial services industry.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I bring almost 40 years of experience as a highly lauded Financial Advisor, and have worked as a registered Financial Advisor since 1983. I have professional designations of Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP®).
I am also a 25-year life and qualifying member of the Million Dollar Round Table — The Premier Association of Financial Professionals, ® and have multiple exclusive “Court of Table” and “Top of the Table” qualifications. The latter status is the highest level of MDRT membership and places me among the top professionals in the global financial services industry. Overall, it recognizes exceptional professional knowledge, client service, and ethical conduct.
I studied Economics in college and also worked as a Management Consultant and later as a Financial Controller in Nigeria prior to immigrating to the US in 1983. Consequently, I was anxious to use my education and experience in the Financial Services industry. The choice came down to working for banks, brokerage firms, or insurance companies. I chose the latter to begin my career with New York Life Insurance Company.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Early in 1984, a 19-year-old man walked into the office where I had just started in the business and asked a receptionist for help. He detailed that he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and needed assistance purchase a life insurance policy. He could not afford much, and while normally this type of prospective client would have been handled by a much more experienced advisor than a rookie like I was at the time, none of the others wanted to invest the time with someone they did not feel was a promising enough client. So I was asked to assist and of course agreed to do so.
I was able to establish a small policy for him for a very modest premium and hardly any compensation to speak of and did not think much about it. Fast forward about 12 years and I get a call out of the blue from the same man. After catching up as he did not think I remembered him, he tells me that he now is the CEO of a major auto parts dealer in Florida because his father-in-law died and his girlfriend (now wife), being the only child, was a homemaker — so they inherited the business and he became the CEO. The man’s accountant asked him to change the advisor on the company pension plan as they were disappointed in previous providers and he thought, why not call the only guy he knew who helped him with insurance all those years ago? So, he asked me if I could handle the company’s $7M pension plan? Of course, I agreed and they have been a client for years.
The lesson I learned was that you can never underestimate the potential of a client and should look at the lifetime value of a client relationship, as it can lead to unexpected outcomes.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I recently published my first book, “Optimized Outcomes, Financial Solutions to Help You Make the Most of Your Future.” The book is a primer for achieving long-term financial stability through uncertain times as well as the certain ones like no other.
“Optimized Outcomes, Financial Solutions to Help You Make the Most of Your Future” provides strategies and solutions in many financial situations faced by individuals, small businesses and non-profits. The book also:
- Discusses issues like how to really design retirement accounts and optimize distribution of assets while taking into account tax considerations.
- Serves up a fresh look at insurance as the do-all, “Swiss Army Knife” of financial planning.
- Outlines strategies for closely-held small businesses -offering advice on dealing with the eventual sale as well as the unforeseen events such as a partner becoming disabled and more.
- Offers invaluable advice for non-profit organizations on optimizing the management of their endowments.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Too many to name as I certainly have relied heavily on the industry greats that have preceded me. Honestly, it would be a disservice for me to just name one person, but if I could find one commonality amongst those that have made a positive difference in my early career success, it would be that they were all members of the Million Dollar Round Table. As such, each of those individuals brought an optimism, combined with hard-working qualities, as well as the conviction that what we do “changes lives for the better.” That, no doubt, has rubbed off on me in an enduring, lasting way. In my book, Optimized Outcomes (available on Amazon); I do pay tribute to many of these people who have made a positive difference in personal and/or professional ways.
Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
In 4 words, “this too shall pass.” Optimism is the only realism and better days are ahead for sure. Ensure your estate planning is in order to have “peace of mind” for all, now and in the months and years ahead.
Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know the stock market and the economy in general have become extremely volatile and uncertain. Many people “dollar cost average” and put aside a monthly sum into a long-term savings plan for retirement, college, or a home purchase. If a loved one or a client came to you and said, “I have been saving and investing $500 every month in an S&P 500 index fund. Over the next few months until the dust settles, should I be doing something else with my money?”, what would you say to them?
- Saving money in all times is realistic as we can all live on say 90 cents of every dollar we earn.
- As a general guideline people should have a target to build an emergency fund ideally equal to 6 months of living expenses. In some cases, this can be modified depending on risk tolerance; job stability; dual earners in household, etc.
- Start by saving at least 10% of your income; if you are already doing that see if you can build up to 20% of income which is the advised.
- Although Savings accounts yields are low; this is a good place to begin due to liquidity but you can also consider some other proxy “savings” assets such as ROTH accounts and/or Cash Value Life insurance if you have a need for life insurance. Choosing the right combination of these might entail a consultation with a qualified Financial Advisor as each person’s situation is unique.
- If you are in the ‘Retirement Red-Zone’ (ages 50–70) it is also a good idea to consider hiring a Retirement Advisor if you don’t already have one.
Eventually the economy will recover and rebound. Certain sectors, like travel and hospitality might be hurting for a while. But other sectors, like technology and healthcare, might do very well. If someone wanted to prepare today to take advantage of the future recovery, what would you suggest they do?
Invest in equities. The Fed will not allow markets to collapse, because if they do unemployment will skyrocket. Consequently, interest rates will remain below historical lows for the foreseeable future. Select equity investments within your risk tolerance after you have adequate savings and protection accounts. Apart from the sectors you mentioned, I like infrastructure plays, given a bipartisan commitment to that by the new administration and Congress. They have not had the bump yet that technology and healthcare have had which will continue to be dominant for the foreseeable future as well.
Are there sectors that provide exciting and lucrative investment opportunities today, specifically because of the volatility and uncertainty?
Semiconductors, Financials, Commercial Real Estate, and Industrials.
Are there alternative investments that you think more people should look more deeply at?
For the conservative investor or someone concerned with a possible downturn; consider Market Linked CDs and/or Notes, which offer combination of protection and growth opportunities. Also Structured Index Linked Annuities maybe suitable for those in high tax brackets or those in or close to retirement.
If a person in their thirties and forties came to you today and said that they have $10,000 that they want to put away today for a long-term investment what would you advise them to do with it?
Find a suitable Equity Growth-oriented Mutual Fund and/or ETF and invest in it. Some good examples are Growth Fund of America from Capital Group and Vanguards S&P500 index fund as well as XLI and XLF for ETFs.
Ok, thank you! Here is a more general finance question. You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
1) Protect your downside risk for the big exposures with adequate Medical, Disability Income and Life Insurance.
2) Follow the 80/20 rule of spending vs. savings.
3) Keep 6 months of liquidity in the bank; the rest in mostly equity investments.
4) Create balance between “Taxable; Tax-Deferred, and Tax-Free” Accounts.
5) Use an independent, credentialed, experienced Financial Advisor who adheres to the Fiduciary standard — he/she will keep you from making a costly mistake and eliminates your being an expert as well as making decisions emotionally and all that will be worth their fees.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The road to excellence is always under construction — success is never final and failure is never fatal.” I have had my share of both and looking back all the obstacles that came along the way in hindsight came to instruct and not to obstruct even though it did not always seem so at the time.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Pay it forward not one but two generations. It is time for those of us who have had the good fortune to reach the pinnacle of success — or if you prefer — the penthouse of our chosen path; to now send the elevator down and lift others up. This can be accomplished for “pennies on the dollar”, and is perhaps best understood in hindsight by the history and outcomes of two iconic American families so here it is:
Some 200 years ago, a young man borrows $100 from his mother to start a ferry service across the Hudson River in New York. He becomes very successful with that and goes on to buy all the railroads and bridges into New York and by the time of his passing in 1877 his personal net worth was over $100 Million — more than the entire U.S. Treasury at the time. The name of the man — Cornelius Vanderbilt. His son, Billy, who had taken over the business decided to bequeath his business interests to his two sons — against the wishes of his father. Fast forward 6 generations, there are no multi-millionaires in the Vanderbilt family downline in terms of inherited wealth as a result of rivalries, competition, and the like.
About the same time as when Vanderbilt started his business empire, another iconic American Family was starting theirs in the oil business — the Rockefellers. In fact, they did business with the Vanderbilt family as the Vanderbilt trains carried the Rockefellers’ oil. However, the Rockefellers did two things very differently than the Vanderbilt family:
(1) They required every adult member to “pay it forward” two generations; and
(2) They required every adult member to attend the family forums where they together acted as the stewards of the family fortune to determine which initiatives to pursue in business, personal and philanthropic efforts. These commitments continue to this day and 6 generations later there are several billionaires and plenty of multi-millionaires in their family downline.
You can see from the vastly different outcomes because the Vanderbilt family had an attitude of entitlement to family wealth whereas the Rockefellers had installed a system of empowerment — that made all the difference.
Incidentally, other families such as the Rothschilds, JP Morgan family; Henry Phipps, and Carnegie Mellon family have used these for generations with similar success but the point is it need not be limited to them. This can be done and installed for any family with the commitment, desire and vision to make a positive contribution to society and future generations.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
*Qualifying membership in the MDRT Court of the Table is based on minimum sales production requirements and gross business generated within a year. MDRT is not based upon performance or returns experienced by any client, or opinions of the advisor's clients or former clients. Each MDRT status designation is granted for one year only. All members must apply every year and remit the required Court of the Table dues to continue their affiliation with the Million Dollar Round Table.
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