Published June 16, 2009
Volume 17, Number 6

Cents & Sensibility Helps to Make Sense of the Market

Sharon Almeida wants her clients to feel at home in her firm’s 
Hacienda offices.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

This may not be an easy time for financial advisors, but it is certainly a busy one. “We’ve had tremendous economic volatility since last fall, and people are confused,” observes Sharon Almeida, the CEO of Cents & Sensibility Inc., a financial planning firm she co-founded to help clients “make sensible financial decisions.”

“Right now our focus is helping clients think realistically, in order to weather this downturn,” Almeida continues. “As an independent adviser, we have a large number of professional resources and investment choices to offer. Most of our clients are not inclined to watch the markets daily, so it is up to us to help develop strategies to meet their needs. We take “a comprehensive approach to everything financial.”

Women have been “a huge focus” of her practice, Almeida says, noting that while women share the same goal of achieving financial security as men, women have unique wants, needs, and concerns that shape the way they approach financial decisions. She would like clients to see her office as a place where they can share those concerns, goals, and dreams. “Then we strategize to make it happen.” To boost the comfort level, Almeida is careful to avoid jargon and statistics to “focus on what matters. We need to know all the numbers, but we don’t forget that the person on other side of the desk is most interested in accomplishing her goals.”

Even though she was ahead of the power curve, Almeida notes that things have changed “dramatically” since she earned a B.S. in financial services from San Diego State in 1987. It was an unusual specialty at the time, with perhaps a dozen universities in the country then offering undergraduate degrees in the field. “The industry has become so much more complex, and there are so many different investment choices,” available to the general public, she points out. Technology—and the ability to manage information--has had a lot to do with this proliferation, and the threshold for an investment portfolio these days is more in the range of $50,000 than the millions of dollars in preceding decades. The lower barrier to entry has spawned a parallel increase in products, which circles back to the original premise of her services: “At the end of the day, people still need someone to trust and rely on, so they can make the right financial decisions to fit their own circumstances.”

A strong believer in financial literacy, Almeida regularly hosts educational seminars on subjects like retirement strategies, long-term care, and estate planning, often with guest speakers. On the schedule for this summer is a Money Cents for Women workshop, on Saturday, July 11, at 10:30 a.m., repeated Tuesday, August 4, at 6:30 p.m. at 5976 W. Las Positas Blvd. For more information, visit www.centsandsensibility.com. The web site includes a Learning Center, with financial articles and tools, a Market Watch for stock quotes and portfolio details, and, reflecting a favorite office pastime, an engaging book review section. 


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