Founder of Fulcrum Wealth Advisors Chris Kemper compares financial planning to taking a road trip. “When I was a kid, we went out West to visit my Uncle Robert,” says Kemper. “When you drive cross country, you can’t just drive, especially with kids. You’ve got to plan out the way there and the way back. Same thing with financial planning. When you’re planning your life, you have to know where you’re going. You’ve got to have a destination in mind so the decisions you make today will be impactful and beneficial to you in the future.”
Fulcrum Wealth helps clients create a road map to lead them to the various destinations they hope to reach in life. An example many people can likely relate to is saving for college. “Say you’ve got the Mom and Dad who’ve got high school-aged kids, and they’re freaking out about how in the world they’re going to pay for college,” says Kemper. “We can actually help them plan, prepare and pay for college in the most effective and affordable way.”
Another “destination” many people can understand planning for is retirement. Kemper helps clients identify their “financial independence point,” the age at which you don’t have to continue working if you don’t want to. “It’s where you have the ability to do what you want to do or not do financially,” continues Kemper, citing to the disturbing statistic that the average household aged 55 and older has less than 100k saved for retirement. “When you figure out when you want to retire, then you do the math and determine how much money you have and the current growth rate. If you don’t have enough, you either have to work longer, save more, or you have to earn more on your money.”
What Fulcrum Wealth is not is a place to get quick investment advice. “We’re not a firm for someone looking for a hot stock tip,” says Kemper, who also doesn’t deal in debt counseling or mortgage refinancing. “We’re on the high end of the planning process. We’re really for those businesses and individuals who are at a plateau. Where their current advisor is only able to do so much, we go far above that.”
“When you hire us, you’re hiring us to design for you specifically,” continues Kemper. “If you decide to hire us, then we’re going to implement the plan we design with you. But you can take your plan from us and walk out the door with it. We don’t use planning to sell you something. The plan – backed by our knowledge and experience – is the product.”
Because Fulcrum Wealth is a fee-based financial planning firm, it’s important to Kemper to find clients who are a good fit. “We believe that we have to show value for that fee. We’re looking for long-term clients,” says Kemper, adding that clients tend to stay with Fulcrum Wealth for upwards of ten years. “We don’t believe that everybody that comes through that door and can pay the fee is a good fit.”
It’s particularly important to Kemper when he remembers his granddad, a man who was so excited to get his first big New York City stockbroker – but then never seemed to make any money. “I’ve seen how the financial services industry can truly take advantage of people and abuse the power they have,” says Kemper. “When we created this, we never, ever, ever wanted someone to leave here thinking, ‘Did they work for me or did they work for themselves?’” It’s something Kemper takes so seriously that it’s spelled out in his advisors’ contracts: if any of his advisors do work that benefits themselves instead of the client, they’re terminated immediately.
Owning his own financial services firm wasn’t always the destination Kemper envisioned for himself. Like many kids fresh out of college, Kemper wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. “I went home after graduation and I asked my dad, ‘What do I do?’” he recalls. “My Dad throws a newspaper at me and says ‘Get a job!’”
Kemper wound up working as a Manufactures Representative for a local company, The Jim Burton Agency, before being recruited by the Fortune 500 Company Southwire. At Southwire, Kemper worked with his regional manager to design a process where they would purchase copper and aluminum futures for large clients. Kemper enjoyed the design aspect of this work but didn’t feel he’d found the right fit yet. So in 2002 Chris took a course at CPCC called Human Resource Development class that suggested he was a good fit for the stock brokerage business, but after interviewing with “the Merril Lynches of the world,” Kemper still wasn’t happy.
“I didn’t want to be a ‘stock jock,’” says Kemper. “I wanted to be able to do what I was doing at Southwire, which is the design aspect.” In 2002, Kemper started working with Sagemark Consulting, a subsidiary of Lincoln Financial Advisors. “Their whole premise was financial planning,” says Kemper, but it was their service-oriented business philosophy that really drew him in. “Serve first, serve last, serve always. I really believed that.”
Seeking a change in 2014, Kemper left Sagemark to open the business that would become Fulcrum Wealth Advisors, Inc. When Kemper decided to take the opportunity to strike out on his own, there was just one problem: what would he call his firm? He didn’t want to be “The Kemper Advisory Group,” so he asked his wife and a friend of hers in marketing to come up with some options that didn’t include his last name. He vetoed their first option – Oh Snap! I need financial advice! – which left him with option number two: Fulcrum.
“Fulcrum? I didn’t even know what that means,” Kemper recalls saying jokingly. “I literally had to look up the word, but then I said, yes, that’s absolutely what we do. We don’t normally deal with clients that are new to financial planning, investing or saving for retirement. Normally they’ve had work done and they’re way out of balance. So our job is to bring balance back to their portfolio and their lives so they know what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what they can expect. It’s perfect in what we call Financial Clarity of Purpose!
Fulcrum Wealth opened in 2014 in the South Park area, where Kemper operated from for 12 years. Frustrated by the traffic and high rental rates in South Park, Kemper began looking for a new location that would be easily accessible for clients from Ballantyne to Huntersville to Monroe. In 2014, Fulcrum Wealth moved to Matthews. In 2017, Kemper brought Fulcrum Wealth to his hometown of Mint Hill, purchasing the space from where he currently operates near Town Hall.
Fulcrum Wealth provides financial planning and investment services for families, businesses, foundations and endowments. For more information, visit https://www.fulcrumwealth.com
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