Can I afford to buy a car? How can I get cheaper prescription drugs? Should I collect Social Security at age 62 or 66? Would now be a good time to refinance? How much will it cost to send my kid to college?
These are the kinds of questions that come in routinely at Ostrofe Financial Consultants in Grass Valley. Celebrating its 30th year in business, the financial planning company is currently managing $180 million — comparable to a medium-sized bank, said company president Allen Ostrofe. The average client — of which there are 355 — has been with the company for at least 12 years, and 90 percent of their business comes from referrals.
“We track every asset you have — we focus on the big picture,” said Ostrofe.
“We want to know about all loans, debts, etc. We won’t work with someone who comes to us and says, ‘Here’s $50,000 — do what you want.’
“Our company is based on the principle that education and understanding of your current financial situation is vital to successfully make prudent decisions concerning your future financial condition.”
In other words, if there’s something related to your finances that is keeping you awake at night, the Ostrofe advisors want to know about it. The concierge component — or personal touch — is what has given the longtime company a competitive edge over the years, said Ginger Ward, who handles all client operational functions relating to new and existing accounts.
“We work with our clients one-on-one and quarterback all investments,” she said. “We also give them a lot of life tips, such as helping them reduce prescription drug costs or tracking the value of their home.”
There’s a big difference between a financial planner and a stockbroker, emphasized Ostrofe, because financial planning goes way beyond investments.
“We often spend as much as 50 percent of client meetings not talking about client investments, but about the various other financial avenues which keep our clients awake at night,” he said. “These might include their business planning, personal real estate, the purchase of a home or vehicle, lending money to other family members, charitable giving considerations, estate planning options, etc. It’s not just about watching the stock market — it’s about protecting your assets long range.”
Consultants routinely review balance sheets, income statements, stock alerts and company reports and attend key continuing education programs.
“Our employees here have to have passion for their work, be caring and pay attention to detail,” said Ostrofe. “They also have to have the confidence to stand up to a client and say what they think. They know how to put themselves in their clients’ shoes.”
More than three decades ago, Ostrofe received his master’s degree in international business in Arizona and went to work for a company in Germany. It was there that he met his wife, Sabine, who accompanied Ostrofe when he was transferred to Buenos Aires after putting in a request to work in a country that was “less predictable and more emotional.”
Although Ostrofe enjoyed the challenge of the ever-changing economy and unpredictable political landscape of Argentina, the couple opted to raise their family in Grass Valley. The schools, lifestyle and proximity to Ostrofe’s father were enough of a lure to open Ostrofe Financial Consultants, with Sabine providing supervisory assistance and overseeing bookkeeping, staffing needs and general back office support.
Today, the staff of nine has seen little turnover — two have been with the company for more than 15 years.
“When it comes to our approach we can be boring and conservative, but we want our clients to have realistic expectations and keep their feet on the ground,” said Ostrofe.
“Most people are hurt by buying and selling based on emotions. Our clients are like family. Hardly a week goes by that we don’t get a handwritten thank-you note.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.