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Dennis Shirshikov Photo credit: Natalie Bakman
Dennis Shirshikov

My Life as a Client: Spoiled by the Personal Touch

A lot can be learned listening to clients’ experiences working with financial advisors—good and bad. We talked to Dennis Shirshikov, a strategist with Awning, a real estate investment platform.

I found an advisor for the first time around 10 years ago, after I got my first salaried job with consistent hours. I wanted someone to help me navigate all the stuff that comes with a position like that—a 401(k), health benefits, savings, etc. And I knew one day I wanted to get married, and it would be a large expense.

I was pretty naïve about how the financial advisory world worked at that point. I didn’t even find the advisor through a recommendation. It might have been a Google search. I wanted someone who wasn’t far from my house in Queens, N.Y. He was with a big, established firm

When we started working together, we met in person and he explained things to me about my 401(k), how my taxes would work, things like that. A lot of stuff that was new to me. But, while I realized I was working with someone who knew more than me, he’d also often try to make that obvious. I felt he strong-armed me on certain decisions. Ultimately, while the person was very good at selling himself and financial products, he didn’t really have my best interest at heart.

After about a year and a half, I stopped working with him. About six months after that, I left my job. It didn’t move fast enough. I ended up joining a startup—the first of many I’ve worked for or founded. At that point, I got another advisor—someone who was recommended by a friend. Your finances at a startup get pretty complex pretty fast. There’s equity and all kinds of benefits. You really need help. This advisor ran his own firm.

The first year was good. Then the advisor’s business started to do really well, and he developed quite a reputation in the local startup scene. But I wasn’t exactly a high-net-worth, high-priority client. He was focused on growth, and he paid less and less attention to me. We eventually stopped meeting completely, and I ended up leaving him.

After a while, I got married. When we had a baby on the way, and I started thinking more about putting money away, I looked for a new advisor. This time, I did more vetting. I got referrals from friends in similar financial situations and met with probably 10 advisors before I settled on one.

He was great. I wasn’t pushed to the side. He also had an exceptional ability to pay attention to my needs. For example, he might point out where I had contradictory goals, like buying a house or car and also putting away a large amount of money. He would suggest that maybe we plan for a smaller wedding or get a used car. And he took a more holistic view of my financial picture. Since I was working for startups, which are risky, he wanted my portfolio to be more conservative, something that normally might be more appropriate for someone in their late 50s than their 20s.

He was able to help me to get through a lot of financial and personal milestones.

After five or six years, he retired. Since then, I’ve been handling my financial situation on my own. Things are more on autopilot in terms of my goals now that I’m settled. I have a lot of ETFs, some blue chip stocks and I’ve made some bets on solar companies and security companies. It’s low maintenance. And I haven’t really looked for anyone else.  It’s like, if you have a great slice of pizza and then go to Pizza Hut, it’s just not the same.

Read More My Life as a Client Stories

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