Advisors in the Spotlight Series: Matt Roberts, Financial Advisor in Iowa

Wealthramp May 06, 2022
matt roberts

This month’s Advisors in the Spotlight series stars a new advisor on the Wealthramp Network, Matt Roberts, CFP® in Des Moines, Iowa. Matt is the Chief Compliance Officer and Chief Co-Planning Officer for his firm, Syverson Strege, and specializes in comprehensive financial planning and charitable giving. Matt sits down with Wealthramp founder, Pam Krueger, to discuss his business, his personal life outside of work, and his experiences helping clients discover and formulate strong charitable gift planning that also maximizes their tax savings.

Pam:

Welcome Matt. Thank you so much for your time today, we’re eager to get to know you and learn more about your business and expertise. Now, have you always been a financial advisor throughout your entire career?

Matt:

Thank you Pam, it’s a pleasure to be here. I wish I could say that this is what I wanted to do from the time I was born, but no, this is not my first career. Out of college, I started in auditing and I worked with magazines and newspapers to audit their circulation. As technology progressed and with a lot of people switching to consume their information online, I began searching for something where I could interact with clients more on a daily basis and help impact their lives.

Now at the time, my brother-in-law was at Syverson Strege and he offered me a position as an associate planner, as sort of a stepping stone to financial planning. I had never really considered it before to be honest, but after I met with the team, I just knew that this was the right fit for me and the culture was amazing. They had a focus on education, client-first attitude, and overall was just a team that I wanted to be a part of… and I've never looked back!

Pam:

That's great to hear. It sounds like you really uncovered not only a passion, but the perfect partner. Was there a point where you knew you had to make this your life long career?

Matt:

Well, it's interesting. When I first came in, I thought I wanted to be analytical. I wanted to maybe be behind the scenes and help clients that way. I never pictured myself as being a client facing advisor, but within two years I had the opportunity to sit in a lot of client meetings, have a lot of conversations with clients, and that’s when I began to realize that this is what I wanted to do for my career.

Quickly, after joining Syverson Strege, I got my CFP and it was great because at Syverson Strege, we do what I believe is true financial planning and the curriculum through the CFP just really lined up with the work I was already doing. So that kind of just reinforced my knowledge. And through that process, it just convinced me that this was what I was meant to do. And shortly after that, I started taking on clients as the lead advisor and from there moved on to actually supervising the advisors and now wearing many hats as chief compliance officer and also the chief planning officer.

Pam:

That’s amazing to hear! So what would you say inspired you within those client meetings that made you realize that you want to be client facing?

Matt:

It was the relationship. I don't know what it is, but we seem to attract really good people to be clients here at the firm. And that connection was what convinced me. It wasn't scary. It wasn't intimidating. These are real people that really need our help. And I think I just hadn't had that exposure up until that point.

One of the fun parts is just seeing the plan become a reality. And whether that be helping them retire or help sell a business or make a major charitable gift, those are the moments that are just so fun because we spent years planning for it. And then you see it happen and you see how it really... how impactful it is for them. It's not just about their money, but also their life.

Pam:

We love an advisor who actually cares about their clients! Now do you have a specific type of client or financial planning services that you offer?

Matt:

Yeah, we typically work with people that have a little bit of complexity in their life, and that could be because they're going through a transition, whether it could be a sale of a business, or maybe it's moving from work life to retirement, or just changing careers. Those situations tend to create some complexity that you need some advice from a professional that's seen people go through those same transitions before, who's asking you the right questions, and has the toolbox to help you figure out how to navigate it successfully.

We also like to work with clients that are philanthropic. That's one of our firm’s niches. And so not that we don't work with clients that aren't philanthropic, but we love to work with clients that are looking to make a charitable donation, but also need expert strategies on how to donate money to charity more effectively.

In addition to philanthropic planning, we offer comprehensive financial planning, and we start with a plan first. We don't come to the table offering you a bunch of investment solutions, first. We want to talk about cash flow. We want to talk about making sure you're on track to be financially independent. We want to look at your estate plan. What do you have for insurance? And then investments are just one component. Now, we can do financial planning on a standalone basis. We can do investment management on its own, but for the vast majority of our clients, we do both services at the same time. And we call that wealth management.

Pam:

Charitable gift planning that’s very unique and interesting, what made you interested in specializing in this area?

Matt:

Well, I think for me personally, it's because this is something that's been part of the DNA of Syverson Strege since it was founded in 1997. And so early on in my career, I had the exposure to work with clients that were highly philanthropic and were seeking ways to do it more effectively. So I've just had a lot of experiences with helping clients set up donor advised funds, charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, pooled income funds... things that most advisors don't have ingrained in their practice. But early on in my career, I got the opportunity to help identify those tools for clients and also help set them up. So it really has been a bit of an evolution for me.

And a lot of my experience comes from working at my first wealth management firm, but also just working with these clients, you get to see the impact that they have on the organizations. Yes, it's great to save on taxes. Yes, it's great to give money to charity, but having the impact they want to have with those dollars is something I'm becoming more and more passionate about so they can really magnify the impact of their charitable gift.

Pam:

Great. So when it comes to charitable gift planning, is there a memorable client story that you could share with us?

Matt:

Yeah, so I have a client that is passionate about theater and there's a theater in our area that puts on a lot of different shows. He volunteers for that organization and one of the challenges was that they had the space to do the shows, but they didn't have a lobby. The building was just kind of like a warehouse almost, and they needed some money to build out this lobby on the front of the warehouse. Through conversations, we determined that yes, you have enough resources to fully fund the project and here's the way that we will do it. We ended up doing it with highly appreciated securities and through a donor advised fund, which made him happy on several fonts. Not only was it a huge need for the theater, but he got to rest easy knowing that he did it in the most tax efficient way possible. Overall it turned out to be a really rewarding experience for everybody involved and is helping that community and specifically the theater grow.

Pam:

That’s a very empowering story, I’m sure the client was very grateful to have used you for your advice and expertise. Are there any challenges you come across when helping people with charity gift planning?

Matt:

I think one of the greatest challenges is, for many, they understand that they're motivated by the tax benefit and we can demonstrate really effective ways for charity giving, but there's no such thing as a 100% charitable deduction. Helping the client understand how much charitable giving is tax deductible can be challenging sometimes. It's still a charitable gift at the end of the day, so it isn't a dollar for dollar... you don't get a dollar back when you give money to charity. Many people are trying to determine what they are motivated by more, the tax benefit or the charitable donation? And I think in my experience, we start with the tax motivation, but then we start talking about how do these dollars really support that charity to paint the whole picture for the client.

The donor advised fund is an interesting tool, because you can get the tax deduction you need in the year you need it, but you don't have to give that money all away to charity. You've got really an indefinite period of time to give the money away from a donor advised fund. It's really neat for us to work with clients that are philanthropic, but don't know exactly what they want to support, because it gives us time to determine how they eventually want to give those dollars to charity.

In fact, we guide clients through a charitable workshop going through what are your values, what's really important to you about your community or about supporting those that are less fortunate. After going through those touch points we start defining it through their values and whittle it down to maybe four or five charities that really exemplify their values. There are over 1.5 million charities in the US, so we are bound to find an organization that supports your values. Guaranteed.

Pam:

Wow it sounds like you’ve really fine tuned your processes within your business practice. What would you say is your favorite part about your job?

Matt:

Yeah. I may have touched on it earlier, but to me, it's about the relationships that I have with my clients. That's what wakes me up in the morning is meeting with my clients and helping them determine what their goals are and formulating a plan to help them accomplish them. And the most rewarding part is seeing those goals come to fruition and I've got to see quite a few of them come to life here in my time at Syverson Strege and it just fills up your tank and it makes you want to keep doing it for more people. Looking forward, I think the next phase of my career is to continue serving clients, but I also want to coach our team here at Syverson Strege to do it the same way I have been and really build and grow a firm that's going to last. We've been around for 25 years. My goal is to keep us around for many more.

Pam:

With your hard work and motivation to constantly help others, I know you’ll be around for a long time. Now we all know that running your own business and serving clients can be a lot of hard work and is time consuming. What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

Matt:

Yeah. In 2019, I made the decision to just kind of control my health, not because I was unhealthy prior to that, but one of my goals was to start running. So I spent a fair amount of time over the last couple of years running and training. I've done a half marathon and then I also like to pace people in ultra marathons. This June I'm going with a friend to Wisconsin and he's going to be running a hundred mile race. Now I myself won’t be running the entire hundred miles, but I'm going to pace him for 20 miles. I get a lot of enjoyment in just being there to support other people, while also scratching my itch to run.

Pam:

That’s amazing, even 20 miles is extremely impressive! We also heard that you enjoy playing music. What is your favorite band?

Matt:

This is a tough question because I've had an evolution in my musical taste I suppose, over the years. So when I first started playing music in high school, I really liked heavy rock. As I've aged and sort of calmed down, I can't listen to that music as much anymore. So my favorite band today is Lord Huron. They're a really kind of folksy rock band, which is a little bit more tame than the music I grew up on.

Pam:

Interesting! Do you play any instruments?

Matt:

The first instrument I started playing was a bass guitar. It only has four strings and you can only have so much fun with the bass when you play by yourself. I then quickly moved to a guitar and I played guitar for a while, and then eventually I picked up the drums. So I can play all three instruments, but if I had to say guitar is probably my favorite.

Pam:

I’m impressed, you’re very talented. Now you live in Iowa. What do you and your family love most about the great state of Iowa?

Matt:

For people that haven't been to Iowa, it's a really interesting place because even in Des Moines, which is our largest city, it's like living in a small town, but you have everything you need. It has all the conveniences of bigger cities, but with the small town vibe. I truly believe it’s just an excellent place to raise a family. I have two young boys that are four and six and I can get them to school in five minutes and I can get to work in 10 minutes, which maximizes the time I can spend with my family. I've lived here my whole life and I absolutely love it.

Pam:

We have fellow team members from there, so I’ve only heard great things about Iowa. Alright we’ll wrap our conversation up with our final question. Is there any advice that you would give to someone who is considering hiring a financial advisor?

Matt:

Yeah, I think it's really important that the advisor you work with focuses on financial planning and what I mean is a comprehensive financial plan that touches on all facets of your financial life... not just investments. Investments are one of six components in a comprehensive financial plan. And so I strongly encourage people that interview our firm, and are considering other firms, to make sure that no matter which direction you go, you're working with a planner that understands estate planning, understands how to make sure you have the proper insurance in place, understands cash flow and budgeting. In so many ways, those are more important takeaways from working with a financial advisor than just having the right investment mixture. You've got to have it all put together.

Pam:

Yes. I really like what you said at the beginning, that investments are just one part of the whole plan. I'm learning a lot from you and all the other financial advisors that we have on Wealthramp. It's been amazing. Well Matt thank you so much for joining me on this month’s Advisor in the Spotlight, it was a pleasure to learn more about your business and personal life.

Matt:

Absolutely. Thank you again for having me, I really enjoyed speaking with you.

Pam:

Likewise. Now for all our readers at home, you can learn more about the fiduciary financial advisors in the Wealthramp network, and our advisor vetting process. Whether you need help with general financial planning or special needs planning, you can answer some quick questions to see your best advisor matches.

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