By Lauren Mauldin
Above all else, equestrians are good at putting our horses first. How many times have you heard someone at the barn say how they’re eating ramen noodles so that they can afford special shoeing, a horse show, or veterinary care? Many of us are good at managing discretionary spending when it comes to the benefit of our animals.
But what about us? It can be harder to provide that same level of financial support and security for ourselves. While horses teach us to live in the present, we also need to learn how to plan for the distant future. For that we turn to Walt Mancing, Senior Vice President/Investments for Stifel | Mancing Wealth Management Group. With over 15 years of experience providing guidance to equestrians, Walt and his team know the delicate balance of saving and investing in an unpredictable, high-overhead industry.
Educated at the Wharton School of Business with a B.S. in Economics, Walt then went on to the University of Notre Dame to start his professional career as a lawyer. He practiced corporate litigation in Los Angeles, California, and had a three-and-a-half-year stint working at a startup film financing company. In 2003, Walt returned home to Pennsylvania where he went to work as part of his parents’ financial advisory team. He’s been providing guidance to clients about retirement planning ever since and assumed leadership of his team in May 2008. Now Senior Vice President/Investments at Stifel, he has been a Chairman’s Council producer every year since he joined the firm in 2009. “That puts me in the top 5-7% of Stifel advisors, nationwide every year,” Walt explains. When he’s not at the office, Walt enjoys spending time with his wife, Joan, and two daughters.
Equestrian professionals are experts in so many things—developing young horses, training top equitation clients, marketing sales horses. However, we can’t be experts at everything. Which is why we turn to Walt, who is experienced in helping people manage their money. “There’s a full-time profession dedicated to money management and retirement planning, and the key is to engage with that expertise early and often, and with a long-term view,” Walt explains. “The advice for a healthy financial future is the same as the advice for healthy aging. Have a plan. Start doing the right stuff while you’re young. Be disciplined. And your future self will thank you.”
Of course, it can sometimes be difficult for equestrian professionals to look to the future. When business is great, it may seem like each investment horse will pay off better than the last or the client list will keep growing, but this sport isn’t typically something your body can do forever. There’s hard work and hustle, but there should also be some stability to look forward to on the horizon. “The difference that I think needs to be struck in the minds of equestrian professionals is that they should be saving for their futures, in addition to the horses that they want to turn around and sell,” Walt says. By splitting assets between horses, real estate, and financial products, you’ve given yourself multiple avenues for wealth creation. And by engaging a financial advisor, the wealth creation through financial products requires little to no “work” from the equestrian professional. “The goal is to be saving for 30-40 years from now in an investment diversified from the equine industry, so that way you have something else,” he continues. Saving for retirement doesn’t mean you can’t ride sales horses until your seventies, but it allows you to make that choice.
For a group of people accustomed to accounting for every penny (and literally watching it eat hay in the barn), it can be hard to wrap our heads around putting our hard-earned money into something we can’t see. But any horse owner knows the risks associated with using live animals as an investment. “It’s true that you can’t double your money in six months in a diversified stock and bond portfolio, but you’re also not going to lose all your money because of a broken leg,” Walt says. “Investing in the securities markets is a much more objective exercise.”
Though nothing, especially in our current economic environment, is a sure bet, Walt can help you make the educated decisions for your money despite disturbances in the market. “Of course there can be black swan events that shatter market confidence, recessions, and corporate malfeasance that isn’t apparent to investors until too late, but these risks can be mitigated through disciplined portfolio construction techniques such as diversification, rebalancing, and dollar cost averaging,” he explains.
He continues, “While diversification does not ensure a profit and may not protect against loss, it can play a key role in establishing a sound investment strategy and reducing risk.” Through knowledge, research, and educated predictions, Walt guides investments like a trainer schooling a young horse through grid work. They sharpen and grow over time. Adding a financial advisor doesn’t mean the end of investment horses, but instead is a way to diversify income sources. It’s like sending one of your homebreds off to a hunter trainer when you feel stronger in the jumper ring.
The financial guidance we often hear comes with a mandate to stop spending—especially when it comes to Millennials and fancy coffee. That advice can be hard to handle in an industry where a horse needs eight pairs of new shoes for its owner’s every one, but Walt understands the balance it takes to pursue your financial goals. “I have toys, and I probably spend more money than I need to on coffee as well,” he says with a laugh. “That said, I think all of us have to come to terms with which luxuries are the most important to us. There’s a middle ground between no fun, no spending, and I’m going to buy everything I can afford to buy.” To find that middle ground, Walt discusses goals, budgets, and guidelines for his clients. He helps draw the line between funding necessary expenses for yourself and the horses, and setting yourself up for success in the future all the while understanding how personal money is.
“Money is like health. Do you meditate every day? Probably not. Do you get a full 8 hours of sleep? Do you do all of these things that you know you should do for the longest, healthiest life?” he asks. “Most of us don’t. Even the most
disciplined among us sometimes gets tired and lazy and wants the chocolate chip cookie. There’s a balance,” he explains. “The goal of retirement is not to sacrifice for the rest of your life and not enjoy anything. Rather, it’s to enjoy it all with a balance to the point that when we’re in our sixties we only have to work 14-hour days at the horse show if we want to, not because it’s our only option. I would never advocate sacrificing all the fun of youth to save for your sixties and seventies. But you have to take your sixties and seventies seriously. And you have to treat that future as if it were a business enterprise in itself.”
For those ready to get help wrangling their finances, it’s good to know that these services are available for every income bracket. You don’t have to have huge resources sitting around to get on the right track. It’s not the super wealthy that get the most value, but instead the ones who start the process early. “You should start planning in your twenties,” Walt explains. “The compounding effect of each extra decade of saving and discipline is astronomical. It makes a massive amount of difference.” It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out with an introductory salary, only that you learn the discipline of saving. “Always pay yourself first,” Walt says. “And start with a plan.”
Of course, if horse people know anything it’s that plans can go awry. What happens when the horse doesn’t sell, or the shows get cancelled for months? That’s where a financial advisor can help you adjust and tweak as needed. “Plans are never set in stone,” Walt states. “I started off as a single guy working as a lawyer with one financial plan at that point in my life. Now I’m a married guy with two kids who will go to college. My plan’s gone through quite a few mutations during the course of my working history these last twenty years, and it’s no different for a young professional who’s just starting out in the equestrian industry.”
What’s most important is to begin making the plan. Retirement is the exercise of making realistic goals and planning ahead to pursue them. It’s not something you can put off forever. “If you say to me, ‘Hey, I’m 55 years old. I have $50,000 saved, and I want to invest for retirement income,’ I’ll help you to understand what your risk and return expectations should be. But the numbers would look a lot better if you come to me at 35,” Walt explains. His knowledge and years of experience allow him to communicate what realistic goals are, and how he can work with you to look into the future. “This is how wealth management is different from turning around an investment horse,” he adds. “It’s not a twelve-month proposition. It’s a 20-or-more-year proposition.”
Walt helps clients manage over $200 million in assets across the nation, and he visits horse shows and farms throughout the year to visit with his clients who work as vets, trainers, brokers, riders, insurance agents, and shippers. By looking at business revenue, employees, and salary etc., he works closely with clients and their accountants to determine an optimal plan for each particular business. That could be a 401(k), SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, or even a traditional Individual Retirement Account. Regardless of where the money is allocated, each individual knows they can trust their livelihood with his expertise.
If a new rider came into the barn and said she wanted to show in the 3’6” ring at an A circuit, she couldn’t achieve that kind of goal on her own—she’d need the guidance of a skilled trainer. Equestrians need to view their retirement like a big showing goal. Whether you’re evaluating your assets or a talented young horse, the question is much the same: What’s your plan to pursue your vision of the future?
To learn more about Stifel | Mancing Wealth Management Group and Walt Mancing’s financial planner services, please visit www.mancingwm.com.
About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.
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