Financial advisor brings a personal approach to working with clients

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

Rick Salus takes a personalized approach to what he does. It’s something that comes naturally to him. 

“My goal is to basically be somebody’s CFO,” said Salus, “to take a person, find out where they are in their lives, find out where they want to get to and then give them a plan to get there. Involved in that is making sure that they are invested correctly.”

As part of Berg-Salus Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, the Olivette native and father of three gets a chance to do that every day working with high net worth clients to manage their portfolio and secure their financial future.

Yet that doesn’t simply mean acquiring stock or finding the right mix of bonds. It’s a job that also looks after every part of a client’s fiscal situation from their desire to create a philanthropic legacy to planning for life insurance needs.

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“It’s not just taking a person’s money and buying IBM,” he said. “To me, it is way more than that. My first meeting with people is to find out where they are and where they are going and then put together a plan for them. If I don’t know what your goals are, how can I invest your money correctly?”

Salus has been finding the correct way to invest money since 1987, entering the field just before that year’s big stock market crash. Today, living and working in Chesterfield, he helps as many as 150 to 200 clients, including a number of businesses. However, most of his customers are families.

“I love my clients. I’ve been to their weddings, bar mitzvahs, even to their funerals unfortunately,” he said. “My clients are my friends. They become family to you so it’s not a lot different than losing an aunt or an uncle.”

But, mostly, he sees the happy times. He recalled one client who had been with him for some time. 

“I helped plan his retirement party with his wife,” he laughed. “We had planned for three or four years for his retirement and what it was going to look like.”

St. Louis means a lot to Salus as well. He grew up in the area’s Jewish community and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He remains involved in the local community including as head coach of the Marquette High School Varsity Inline Hockey Team.

“I’m a huge Cardinal baseball fan. I like the Rams. I like the Blues but I’m a Cardinals season ticket holder,” he said. “My roots are here. My aunts and uncles are here and a fair amount of my cousins are here. Some of them moved but this is where we all come back to.”

During turbulent times, a trusted advisor is all the more valuable. The post-recession world is a fluid environment full of challenges and opportunities. Salus said the plan that’s right for you depends on your stage in life. Early on, you may look to take on more risk as you accumulate capital. But later in life, priorities change.

“When you are ready to retire at 63 or 65, you can no longer look at total return to pay your expenses anymore,” he said. “If you are eating into your principal to live off of when the market is not doing well, you have lost principal to produce income off of the next year.”

Salus compares it to sawing branches off an apple tree without knowing if it can still produce enough apples to feed you later.

In tough times like these, Salus sometimes directs clients into a strategy of “liability-driven investing” with a shift to less volatile instruments. For those nearing retirement, he makes up a special blueprint that looks at their retirement income coverage ratio.

“Because of inflation you also have to have rising income so we break it down into guaranteed income like Social Security and annuities, dividend income, interest income and then growth,” he said. “We put together a plan for you that’s a bunch of different buckets to show you where you are at and how much it is growing.”

Whatever choices are right for you, 

Salus and his partner Rick Berg are there to help. Partners for more than a decade-and-a-half, the pair provides a full-range of options and viewpoints for clients whether their preferred strategy is staid or assertive.

“Having more than one thought process is not a negative. It’s a positive, I think,” said Salus. “I happen to be more conservative. He likes to be more aggressive so if a client wants to be more aggressive, they gravitate more towards him. If they are more conservative, they gravitate more towards me.”

But they agree on the one thing that matters.

“He has the same outlook as I do,” said Salus, “helping people to accomplish their financial goals.”

It’s something Salus still loves to do after a quarter century in the field.

“I’m proud to have a successful career where I can have great interactions with people, become great friends with them and help them achieve their investment, financial and retirement goals at the same time,” he said.