Stacy Miller of Bright Investments: Investing During the Pandemic; What Should I Do with My Money Considering All of the Volatility and Uncertainty Today
September 4, 2020 | Jason Hartman | Authority Magazine
As a part of my series about “Investing During The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy Miller, CFP®
Stacy Miller is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, Partner and Vice President with Bright Investments, LLC. She is a fee-only fiduciary wealth advisor and member of NAPFA and FPA. She is an expert in finding financial security through transitions, crises, and windfalls.
Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?
I am a military spouse, so I’ve got decades of experience supporting families through transitions and crises. Combine that with a love of finance, and becoming a Certified Financial Planner™ professional (CFP®) was the perfect fit for me. Finding solutions that bring financial security to my clients truly fills my tank and brings me joy.
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?
In May 2020, during the pandemic, I had an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. I’m always anxious to visit the dentist, but I was especially anxious about how safe it was to visit the office because I obviously couldn’t wear a mask for the procedure. I told my hygienist how anxious I was, and she said that’s how she feels when she visits her financial planner. It was pretty ironic, and we both laughed (she knows my profession, so it wasn’t random). The lesson was a reminder that personal finance is very personal and can be very emotional. I talk about money every day, so it’s easier for me, but I always try to remember that people can feel embarrassed, insecure, and self-conscious. It’s important that I am a good listener and an empathetic part of their financial solutions team.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Thanks to the pandemic and social distancing, I’ve seized several opportunities and started a series of webinars to shine a light on personal finance, focused on providing transparency and clarity for women.
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?
John Bright, Bright Investments, LLC’s Founding Partner and Chief Investment Officer, was a classmate of mine in my MBA program at Auburn University. He has always been my champion and believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to partner with him and others to build this firm.
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?
Many things are out of our control right now, so people have more anxiety and a feeling that they’re out of control. I find the best way to approach that is to focus on the things you can control, and to minimize the things you can’t control by educating yourself. Financial insecurity, for example, makes people anxious, but if there are opportunities to become more secure because you’ve educated yourself or found someone who can help, finances will become a source of confidence, instead of anxiety.
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?
Dollar cost averaging is a prudent way to invest a little at a time. In contrast, timing the market, especially during periods of volatility, means making decisions based on information gathered from a foggy crystal ball; ineffective most of the time. One alternative that may be suitable for some is to accumulate cash until an opportunity or need presents itself. Cash is crucial for emergencies, like losing a job, and great for investing when the market undergoes a correction.
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?
Buy stock in companies that have strong fundamentals (will likely survive and flourish over time), and especially those that are undervalued.
Are there sectors that provide exciting and lucrative investment opportunities today, specifically because of the volatility and uncertainty?
At Bright Investments, LLC, our strategy is to focus on five sectors: technology, healthcare, financials, utilities, and energy because we believe they represent the greatest risk-reward opportunity. Together, they represent 50% of public companies yet 70% of profits (Source: FactSet). We choose the best of breed within those sectors using fundamental bottom-up analysis.
Are there alternative investments that you think more people should look more deeply at?
It is vital to first consider the unique risk associated with such investments. Alternative investments might include gold, real estate, or private investments. These are sometimes worth consideration in order to diversify a portfolio. It really depends on a person’s specific investment criteria and suitability requirements. In addition, something that I’d definitely recommend is to invest in yourself. By this I mean, invest in a class that will give you a new skill. Start your own business. Do something that will yield better opportunities to increase your income through a promotion or a new job, or that will increase your satisfaction with the work you do.
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?
Using the five-sector strategy noted above, I would suggest researching ETF’s (Exchange Traded Funds) that represent each sector. This might allow you to diversify your portfolio with minimum expense and effort. Every person’s financial situation is unique, so there is no single investment recommendation that is suitable for all.
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?
I have two adult children; both currently in college. They are both investing in a Roth IRA every year. Here’s the advice that I’ve shared with them:
- Start by living within your means. One way we did this was to work hard finding ways to graduate college with no student debt. The opportunity cost of paying off debt is not being able to invest.
- If you’re not already, start investing today in order to maximize compounding your interest and returns. The younger the investor, the more years (and decades) your investments have a chance to grow.
- Use tax-advantaged accounts like a Roth IRA, a Traditional IRA, a 401(k), etc. There are ways to invest tax-free and tax-deferred. Maximize those options before you invest in a taxable account.
- If you’re not familiar with investing and investments, ask questions. If you’re too busy or not interested in learning more about it, then delegate the task to a trusted financial advisor.
- Not all financial advisors are equal. There are many different licenses and certifications. I recommend that you find one that’s a fiduciary, which means that they are required by law to put your best interests first. I also highly recommend that you find a fee-only (not fee-based) advisor, as this makes recommendations in your best interest more straightforward.
Can you please give us your favorite "Life Lesson Quote"? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Discipline is choosing between what you want NOW and what you want MOST.” Abraham Lincoln
I love this quote. Hard work is necessary for success, but sometimes the cool shiny objects along the way can distract me. This quote was the motivation that kept me actively working toward attaining the Certified Financial Planner™ certification. It took years and a lot of work, but I’m smarter and better able to help my clients because of all I learned.
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. 🙂
Women’s wealth is rising exponentially, and only 15-20% of financial advisors are women. Financial literacy is a critical topic that isn’t adequately addressed in schools; for women in particular. So connecting these two dots, educating women in a way that’s effective, by a woman in finance, is the movement that I would love to have more momentum, time and money. It’s a part of what my firm and I are working on currently.
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!