Building Trust
Independent financial advisor Walter Watson and his team take care of clients by taking care of the issues—and the people—most important to them
by Dana Dobson

When a woman turns 50, she has serious issues to ponder. She realizes the clock of her life is ticking. According to statistics, she will outlive her spouse by several years. She has some money-making years left—that is, if she has a job and stays healthy. She wonders what she’ll leave behind to her children and grandchildren.

It all boils down to finances: Is there enough money to cope with the inevitable twists and turns that women face in the third season of their lives? Will she outlive her savings? Has she saved enough for retirement? What if she gets sick or disabled? And most important, who can she trust to help her make these crucial decisions?

Walter Watson, president of Atlantic Wealth Group, an independent firm based in Bala Cynwyd, helps women aged 50 and older, as well as their families, create, preserve and invest their wealth in order to enjoy life and leave a legacy. His mission is to help his clients plan for financial independence through professional advice, sound risk management, suitable investment products and personal, efficient service, using a tailored, three-step process that serves his clients well.

“Education is a first and ongoing part of every client session,” Watson says. “We spend time developing a clear understanding of what resources they have and where they need to go. I present solutions, explain how they work and how it may benefit them. Once my client is comfortable with each concept, we move on to the next step, which is collaboration.”

Watson augments the value of his investment advice with services from strategic alliances with both in-house and outside professionals in areas such as estate planning, tax planning and insurance services. One such outside partner, Philip Levin Esq., is a local trust and estate planning attorney who, like Watson, believes in and enjoys helping clients make educated decisions. Levin’s value proposition is “Everyone Has an Estate Worth Planning.” The other such outside partner is Joseph E. Jackalous, CLU, ChFC, with Saybrus Partners, a wealth management consultant. Jackalous has been working with Watson for the past 10 years. “We work with clients to solve problems where the solution is life insurance,” he says. [Disclosure: Philip Levin Esq., Joseph E. Jackalous and Saybrus Partners are independent of Raymond James Financial Services Inc.]

The third step is consolidation. “Women, typically, have assets spread over many places,” Watson says. “We help them place these assets into more centralized solutions where they have the opportunity for the maximum benefit according to their specific needs.”
And what are his clients’ needs? They are as diverse and as complicated as life itself, but most can be narrowed down into specific categories.

“They want to be able to enjoy the same lifestyle after retirement as they do now,” says Watson. “Together, we consider health care costs, which are inevitable as we age. Long-term care, too, must be factored into the retirement plan.”

A big emphasis is on estate planning this year. On January 1, 2013, the federal estate tax exemption may be lowered from $5.12 million and a 35 percent tax rate to a much lower $1 million estate tax exemption and 55 percent estate tax rate.

“This takes us back to levels not seen since 2001,” says Watson. “In other words, on a $3 million estate, you’ll pay taxes on $2 million. Your kids will see their inheritance cut in half. Overall, it’s a big hit for the beneficiaries. No one knows exactly what’s going to happen in 2013, but we’re taking the time to help our high-net-worth clients plan for it now—together with estate planning attorney Philip Levin, there are strategies and solutions we can show them.”

Watson discovered the “investing bug” in 1988 after reading George Anders’ “Merchants of Debt.” The ability to analyze and make investments came easily to this Temple University finance grad. In 1997, he joined Olde Discount as a stockbroker, then moved up the experience ladder to Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Dreyfus Investments and Wells Fargo/Wachovia Securities. In 2009, he established himself as an independent advisor with Raymond James Financial Services, one of the largest independent financial services firms in the United States.

“Raymond James is an amazing company and very supportive of their advisors,” says Watson. “They pioneered the concept of financial planning to help people reach their goals. As a goal-oriented person, that resonates with me. I also savor the challenge of being an independent advisor and an entrepreneur. To succeed, one needs many skills, but at the end of the day, it’s about benefiting my clients.”

A Wise Approach
Watson approaches life in an orderly manner. His desk is neat. He is organized and collaborative. He is someone who believes that all things are possible: for his business, for himself and for other people. Simultaneously, he exudes peace, confidence, deep intelligence and humor. There is another word that comes to mind when describing Walter Watson: wisdom.

“My personal goal is simple—to stay healthy.” He looks down, clears his throat and remembers. “Prostate cancer runs in my family. That’s why I support the Gary Papa Run every year on Father’s Day. I will continue to contribute to the research of breast and prostate cancer until there’s a cure.” A promotional poster for the 5K Run is proudly displayed on his office door.

He serves the community in other ways, too. A ranked tennis player in U.S. Tennis Association Middle States doubles, Walter conducts youth development programs in tennis for at-risk kids.

The “enjoy life” part of Walter’s personal plan starts with his wife, Sharron, his two children, Ayanna and Khary, and a grandchild. And he loves to listen to jazz—Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon.

Part of his life’s enjoyment includes a thriving business that continues to grow. He recently brought in an intern and soon a junior partner. He will teach them what he believes is the most important skill for an investment professional: listening.

“If you’re a good listener and a good consultant,” he’ll tell them, “you have a client for life.”

Walter Watson, CEP
President, Atlantic Wealth Group
Financial Advisor, RJFS
1 Belmont Ave., Suite 606, Bala Cynwyd

Dana Dobson is a freelance writer from Bucks County.
Rob Hall is a photographer from Plumsteadville.

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC