If you've got it, flaunt it, right? Not so in Cincinnati, not if you're flashing off wealth. In that case, it's more like if you've got it, manage it. Quietly.

"There's a whole layer of wealth in this town that a lot of people aren't aware of," says Dave Carson, vice president and chief compliance officer for Huntington Funds, located near Rookwood Commons. "Many of the families that have done very well in Greater Cincinnati are extremely low-key."

But while most people in this category realize the need to seek such expertise, and already have established contacts, some rank this responsibility as a necessary evil. "Financial planning ranks just below going to the dentist for many people," Carson comments.

What are some of the most common mistakes or oversights committed by well-off individuals, according to local financial advisors?

> Procrastination.
> Going it alone.
> Focusing too much attention on investments"”especially high-speculation returns.
> Not devoting enough attention to protecting investments"”and those who stand to inherit the wealth generated.
> Thinking you have the time and talent to play markets with a large chunk of your assets.
Another risk is lack of diversification. "Ninety-eight percent put all of their eggs in one basket," says Terry Monahan, managing director of Huntington's Exclusive Capital Management Group.

It's obvious that Cincinnati has a growing number of expert wealth management teams that can take care of business for successful clients, lessening the pain and anxiety of tending to details, assuring them their assets and estates are in good hands, leaving them more time to enjoy the fruits of their success. Yet, many still put off putting those pieces in place.

"Procrastination can be very costly," says Jason Kiss, CFA and senior portfolio manager with Bartlett & Co., a leading investment advisor firm in downtown Cincinnati. Some clients fail to exercise stock options before they expire, for example. Bartlett advisors construct timely strategies for taking best advantage of stock options.

ASSEMBLE A TEAM

At the higher wealth levels, it's not uncommon to have a family financial adviser who is paid a salary to invest and manage the family's money. For others with substantial assets, including potential or newly minted millionaires, it's prudent to hire help to cover all the bases for managing wealth.

Talk to Cincinnati professionals who specialize in assisting high net-worth clients, and they agree that too many well-off individuals in this community are like football team owners without a full squad, or else they lack a dependable quarterback to lead their team successfully through a complex field.

The total team should include competent and comprehensive guidance in legal, accounting, banking and insurance matters. Just like special teams in football, wealth management teams need specialists to handle aspects such as tax strategies, retirement and estate planning, revocable or irrevocable trusts, college funds, inheritance details, and philanthropic donations and other gifts.
Tax issues alone can require several specialists, covering everything from prenuptial contracts to real estate investments. People can easily overlook other considerations, such as setting aside resources for long-term care"”for themselves or family members.

"We like to be the quarterback, only because we see the assets every day and are in touch, and we're the first to see problems or issues arise," says M. Jay Wertz, part owner, portfolio manager and certified financial planner at Johnson Investment Counsel Inc. in Monfort Heights.

Constant oversight is emphasized by other wealth managers, such as Terry Monahan at Huntington. With sophisticated computer tracking systems on site, Huntington measures client cash flow and market returns daily. "We're psychotic about it. People love our tracking," he remarks.

Fort Washington Investment Advisors is part of the Western & Southern Financial Group. Founded in 1990, it manages more than $25 billion in assets and provides comprehensive investment-management services to companies, institutions and individuals.

Maribeth Rahe, President and CEO, says Fort Washington took a strong foundation of fixed income and insurance options, then added a sophisticated, aggressive products for income growth, including four "funds of funds." The new company headquarters at 303 Broadway includes an expansive trading room.

"What drives wealth management first is the investment portfolio, and that's the niche I want to be in," says Rahe. But her company is enhancing comprehensive services offered to high net-worth individuals. She, too, uses the term "quarterback" to describe the role. "Most people don't take the time to be a wealth manager," Rahe observes. "Many don't even open their statements."
Successful people, including entrepreneurs, often seek financial guidance from their bankers. That's one reason why Fifth Third Bank created comprehensive wealth management services.

"At Fifth Third, we have invested heavily in personnel and resources that are accessible to high net-worth clients," says Jordan Miller, Senior Vice President of Investment Advisors. "We have built a very talented and deep team in the areas of trust and estate planning services, retirement planning services, business succession planning, risk management, investments, and brokerage services. In addition, we are aligned with other banking services that can assist high net-worth clients."

The quarterback at Fifth Third, a Private Client Advisor, works with both internal and external experts to field the right team for each client. "The advisors, working with the specialists, can proactively anticipate the future needs of the clients to help them prepare for life-changing events, such as retirement, the loss of a spouse, or the sale of a business," Jordan notes.

LET'S MAKE MONEY

It sounds self-serving, but experts say trust the experts when it comes to investment decisions.
Some of the simplest mistakes can be most costly. For instance, some individuals have too much money concentrated in their employers' stock, notes Jason Kiss. "If you construct a simple balance sheet, you might see three-fourths of your worth is tied up in one company," he says.
Trying to do too much yourself is another risky practice, the experts say. Delegate wisely.

"Most people who have made a lot of money have done so by being focused on something they're very good at," says Huntington's Carson. " They don't have time to develop the expertise (for managing wealth)."

For people who insist on having a hand in investment decisions, especially those who enjoy playing the market, advisors may recommend setting aside a portion of the portfolio for that purpose"”an amount that won't cause financial distress if it disappears overnight.

Even individuals who make good investment choices can make mistakes that depress or wipe out gains with bad timing for asset withdrawals, or misaligning assets according to their purpose. Some people in the late 1990s, for example, were left holding tech stocks they had intended for their kids' college expenses.

Another consideration is long-term, more secure asset growth, versus trying to make a big hit fast. Huntington's "wealth managers" focus on absolute, not relative, investment returns, meaning strategies to produce positive returns on investments even during market downturns.

END GAME

What happens if you die tomorrow?

Many people"”the wealthy included"”duck that inescapable question. The reluctance of clients or their children to engage in estate planning, or to discuss the end of life, is another reason people get into trouble, says Kelley Downing, a managing director and senior portfolio manager at Bartlett & Co.

"We have to have very direct conversations sometimes," Downing observes. "People don't really want to talk about death."

Tend to the legal details, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, Downing advises. Bartlett & Co. also recommends getting the family involved. Since it may administer to third and fourth generations of clients, Bartlett offers a Bartlett Kids' Day, a seminar aimed at clients' children, to help educate them about finances and the responsibilities that may come with their families' legacies, Downing says.

Just like a gaping hole in a zone defense, many high-achieving people"”especially younger ones"”leave a critical gap in their financial management: insurance.

Jay Wertz at Johnson Investment had one client, a doctor in his 40s, who came in just to talk about investments. After looking things over, "We were just cringing," Wertz recalls. The doctor had income exceeding $400,000 annually, and just $100,000 in life insurance.

"If you die tomorrow, my job is to develop a sustainable cash flow to meet your family's needs," Wertz explains to his clients.

Another common oversight is failing to tie up loose ends, Wertz notes. "People work out a nice estate plan with their attorney and walk out with the nice professional binder, but they don't implement it properly, such as re-titling assets or re-naming beneficiaries," he explains. "The result is the plan doesn't work at all, or not nearly as well as it should.

WHAT ABOUT COSTS?

Even savvy people have been burned by consultants who favored certain stocks, mutual funds and other investments because they benefited the consultants more than their clients.

Fee options vary among top-level advisors, but "objective" financial advising is a growing trend. Advisors earn a set amount, usually based on the overall value of the portfolio, not on sales commissions from particular investments. This helps clients gain trust. In some cases, specialized services are included in the package; in others, the "quarterback" advisor may pass along charges from lawyers, accountants or other  experts.

Johnson Investment Counsel, for example, has its own in-house trust company, headed by attorney Michael Barnes. Otherwise, Wertz says, the firm collects a market-value based fee, and works with the clients' own specialist advisors, or finds the best outsiders at clients' request. "Johnson has never been licensed to sell commission-based products and never will," Wertz notes.

At Fifth Third, fees are "neutral" whether they are invested in the bank's products or in outside investments, according to Jordan Miller. "Our asset management fees are based on the total assets under management."