The Appleton Group is a fee-only investment advisor, which offers the highest standard of fiduciary care in the financial services industry. Our only forms of compensation are the low, fully-disclosed fees our clients pay us for investment advice, management and research. By law, we are required to act in the best interests of our clients at all times, and never accept commissions or hidden compensation of any kind. On the other side of the spectrum are registered representatives of broker-dealers (sometimes known confusingly as “fee-based” advisors) who are not required to act in their clients’ best interests and can offer conflicted advice, recommend securities that might pay higher commission than other products, and are insulated from anything more than a suitability standard. Sometimes they act as an advisor (often when the give advice), but they can also act as a broker when it comes time to act on that advice. This is a problem that is hotly contested in our industry because the client never knows exactly which hat the advisor is wearing at any time.
A: The Appleton Group LLC is an independent Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), that provides wealth management services to a wide range of investors, primarily in Northeast Wisconsin. We provide wealth management services to individuals, corporations, trusts, endowments, foundations, institutions and corporate sponsored retirement plans.
The Appleton Group Wealth Management Discipline™ is our firm’s investment process that makes investing as simple as 1-2-3. This discipline uses independent, objective research to 1) determine what to own (such as equities, bonds, real estate or cash); 2) to determine how much of any one investment to own, creating a target mix to use when markets are cooperating; and 3) to determine when to own any particular investment based on whether the primary price trend for any investment is rising. This simple 3-step process works to produce meaningful returns over time while managing the risk of significant losses along the way.
We believe strongly in the benefits of diversification, specifically in the benefits of having multiple wealth management styles present in a diversified portfolio. As such, we recommend that investors and advisors use our firm’s offerings as a core segment of a portfolio. From year to year, we recommend rebalancing the portfolio to trim back the outperforming management style (ours or anothers) and shift those assets to the underperforming management style (ours or another’s).
It is important to remember that rebalancing a portfolio cannot guarantee profits nor can it ensure against loss in a falling market.
By effectively managing investment risk, we believe investors will achieve the highest possible returns over time. We also believe it can lead to a more comfortable experience along the way. During every bear market in the history of capitalism, investors have been exposed to periods of great uncertainty. To the large number of Americans set to retire in the next ten years, financial uncertainty just before retirement is quite unwelcome, not only causing undue stress but also potentially forcing lifestyle changes as well. By working to keep investment losses to acceptable levels when they inevitably do occur, investors will be more likely to remain invested and will be more likely to realize the historically significant returns of the U.S. and global investment markets.
Our firm is one of only a handful of truly independent money managers in Wisconsin, and one of the nation’s true pioneers in active, dynamic asset allocation strategies. We believe that the true test of any advisory firm lies in its ability to create wealth over reasonable periods of time while at the same time exposing the investor’s assets to only as risk as is absolutely necessary along the way. Comparing the results of our firm’s wealth management strategy is easy, since we fully disclose all portfolio performance and risk characteristics. So long as the firm you might compare us to goes as far as we do in disclosing this important information, a fair and objective comparison can be easily made.
If you are an individual investor, we invite you to speak directly with one of our experienced advisors. They will listen closely to you, help identify which of our firm’s investment management offerings might be best suited to you, and show you how easy it is to get started.
If you are a retirement plan sponsor, one of our specially trained advisors can introduce you to our firm’s retirement plan offerings, or help you to simply add our firm’s suite of investment offerings to your existing 401(k) or other corporate retirement plan.
If you are an independent investment advisor, we invite you to contact us today. Our firm’s wealth management offerings are available through many of America’s leading retirement plan and brokerage platforms. If you use a platform through which we are not yet available, we can work with your firm’s back office to get started right away.
Bonds do have a role to play in a diversified portfolio. In general, most fixed income products have had a stellar run over the past twenty five years as interest rates have come down from the double-digit rates of the early 1980s. This period of time has been the most favorable environment imaginable for bonds, and we believe that run is likely over. With interest rates near fifty year lows, we believe rates may be backed into a corner, offering little reward for investors going forward. In addition, we believe investors with too much exposure to bonds are likely to face the increased prospect of outliving their money in retirement.
As a fee-only investment manager, we embrace our decision to openly disclose all fees and sources of revenue to our clients. We believe it is important for all investors to consider whether the fees that they are charged for wealth management services are fair, and whether they are receiving value for those fees. The best way to do this is to compare actual investor returns after all fees are deducted (net-of-fee returns).
We believe that all investors have a right to know how much they are being charged, whether the firm they use receives hidden compensation from other sources that may cause conflicts of interest, whether that firm is paid by other entities to sell their clients specific securities, and whether those fees are competitive and reasonable.