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Close-up: Jack Dugan

Financial adviser enjoys unique approach to helping clients manage their money

Pure Financial Advisors is not your typical financial services company. It not only maintains a focus on full transparency, but it’s not commission-based — and there’s no minimum net worth required for clients.

“Pure Financial was started by Mike Fenison. He had been in the industry with his own practice quite awhile, then decided he wanted a financial service firm that took away the conflict of interest and took a role as fiduciary,” said Jack Dugan, senior investment advisor representative for Pure Financial Advisors.

“He wanted to make sure the advice and proposals given to clients were truly unbiased and given from an academic perspective. Because we’re all salaried employees, when we meet with clients we can truly do comprehensive financial planning and not worry that we have to sell long-term care so we can make commission. It’s refreshing and extremely well-received.”

Dugan got his own start in the financial services industry when he saw his dad retire at 70-years-old from a financially rewarding career as a cardiac surgeon — without a substantial nest egg.

“When my father said he was going to retire and had $50,000 in savings, I just kind of looked at him and thought, ‘How is this going to work? You are used to living off of $80,000 a year.’ And he had that look of, ‘I never gave this much thought,’” said Dugan. “Here was a highly intelligent individual, but we don’t do a very good job of educating people on how to prepare and develop retirement income. I thought it was a shame.”

Jack Dugan

This led to Dugan’s passion for helping people make smarter financial decisions and making sure he was fully qualified to do so. Dugan went back and got his master’s degree in finance and went through the certified financial planning process.

“I found too many financial planners would get into the field with the idea that all they need to do is get an insurance license and then maybe sell some mutual funds,” Dugan said. “I thought that was kind of the problem: that people aren’t getting qualified advice.”

After obtaining his degree and certification, Dugan maintained his own practice for awhile. Then about three and a half years ago, he met Joe Anderson -- CFP, AIF, host of Your Money, Your Wealth on KFMB and now executive vice president of Pure Financial Advisors. Anderson thought Dugan’s approach to the business was similar to that of Pure and suggested Dugan join the team. It was, and Dugan was happy to get on board as the company began. As it continues to grow, Pure Financial Advisors’ unique business model has led to appreciative clients and industry notice, and it was a finalist for the San Diego Better Business Bureau’s 2010 Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.

“We believe you can’t give good financial advice until you’ve done — to use the medical analogy — a complete physical and history on the patient; you can’t really recommend open heart surgery unless you know the other side effects. Our planning piece identifies those and then can give truly good advice. If you walk into an advisor and they aren’t asking at least to look at your tax return, they can’t give you appropriate advice, because if I don’t know what your tax bracket is and your liability exposure is in taxes I really can’t give you appropriate advice,” Dugan said.

Similar to the scenario with his father that was the catalyst for his financial services career, Dugan finds that today’s retiring generation is no better prepared.

Because of this, Dugan and his colleagues teach classes at local universities on financial planning: cash flow management, retirement and estate planning, and risk management. Dugan believes it’s important to help teach people how, as he says, to not run out of money before they run out of breath.

“Our focus and concern is this baby boomer generation. I think it’s going to be a huge concern and that it’s going to happen sooner rather than later nationally,” said Dugan. “Because when we look at statistics, we see the average balance in a 401(k) is right around $50,000 for age 55 or over. That’s frightening because we’re in an era where the majority of people don’t have pensions, and this whole retirement income situation is all on their backs.”

The majority of Pure Financial Advisors’ clients are in their 50s and are getting ready to retire. For those who do have an appropriate sum of money saved, Dugan finds that most of them have done so by the old-fashioned piggybank approach — by diligent saving versus by getting lucky and hitting the lottery or inheriting a large sum. As Dugan says, it’s not how much money you make, it’s how much money you keep.

“I think overall planning and how we’ve set this up to be client-centered is the most important thing to me, because we all want to make a ton of money and we all want to see our net worth grow,” he says. “But more importantly, and it sounds Pollyannaish, is for me to be client-centered and to take care of clients and to help the firm do everything we can to make sure clients are well served.”

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