BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - After spending 20 years working in the investment field in Tokyo, Rotterdam, Singapore and Wall Street, Berkeley Heights resident Eve Kaplan established Kaplan Financial Advisors in 2004. Kaplan has just completed her 9th year with her firm and reports she has enjoyed every minute of her time.
Kaplan always have been interested in foreign culture – her entrée into finance in Tokyo was the result of years of study of the Japanese language. Kaplan said working overseas as an equities analyst and portfolio manager in the 1980s and 1990s was “really valuable” since she gained experience advising and managing $950 million for institutional clients.
In 2000, she moved back to the United States when her husband was transferred to New Jersey. They fell in love with the small community of Berkeley Heights and have been there ever since. At the time, Kaplan was working for Standard and Poor’s on Wall Street but she found the commute from Berkeley Heights to be arduous. Kaplan always was interested in financial planning, so she studied financial planning at Fairleigh Dickinson, passed the rigorous 10 hour Certified Financial Planner® certification exam in 2003 and opened Kaplan Financial Advisors the following year. Starting and running a business is gratifying, but Kaplan said it’s not easy. It took several years to fully structure her company, register her firm as a Registered Investment Advisor in NJ and NY, set up software systems and gain “on the ground” experience managing investments and advising clients on financial matters. Kaplan mentioned that membership in NAPFA (www.napfa.org – the largest fee-only planner organization in the world) was critical to building her successful financial planning firm.
Kaplan reports she finds it gratifying to work closely with individual clients. “I like working personally with clients -- when I managed a lot of money [as a portfolio manager] it was very impersonal,” she said.
Kaplan generally acquires clients through referrals from existing clients. Clients also find her by reading her columns in Forbes, Morningstar and other publications. Kaplan began a “Kaplan on Your Money” column in The Alternative Press in 2011. Her clients tend to be in their 40s-60s, are planning for retirement or already are retired. She works with couples and specializes in working with women. Her typical clients have $1-3 million of investment assets that Kaplan manages in part through investments in low-cost, no-load Dimensional Fund Advisors mutual funds. She also employs other strategies to generate income, grow assets and reduce investment risk.
Kaplan’s firm is Fee-Only – which means she does not sell products or earn commissions by working with other professionals. According to Kaplan, this means she can provide the highest standard of fiduciary care in the planning/investment industry by putting her clients’ needs before her own. “My core clients engage me to help manage their financial lives in order to minimize the risk of outliving their assets,” Kaplan said. “I don’t really believe that you can offer objective advice and have benefit from selling clients products.”
Kaplan assists her clients with investment strategies, tax minimization, estate planning and insurance strategies that address each client’s need - be it generating more income, reducing risk and/or growing assets over a longer period of time. For clients with insurance planning needs, Kaplan works together with several insurance specialists but she does not split commissions or otherwise benefit in any way – apart from helping her clients.
Kaplan’s 20 years of overseas investment experience were a good base for making the transition to becoming a Certified Financial Planner® Practitioner and running her own firm. She likes to be her own boss but reports she’s extremely tough on herself in terms of the quality of services she provides.
Most clients come to her home office in Berkeley Heights, but Kaplan has out-of-state clients in North Carolina, Georgia and Washington State. She maintains frequent communication with out-of-state clients by phone and email. With both creative and analytical skills, Kaplan feels she can connect with clients who approach planning from various angles. “I feel I’m both right brained and left brained, so I can help either type of client,” she said.