JF2021: Working Three Jobs With Alex Talcott

Alex Talcott is a Managing Partner at Seacoast Financial Planning, a Partner with Lexdan Real Estate and he also teaches finances and business law at the university of new Hampshire business school. 

Alex Talcott Real Estate Background:

  • Managing Partner Seacoast Financial Planning
  • Partner with Lexdan Real Estate
  • Teaches finance and business law at the University of New Hampshire business school
  • Previously shared his Best Ever Advice in episode 1923
  • Based in Durham, NH
  • Say hi to him at alex.talcott@ampf.com

Best Ever Tweet:

“Buy Real Estate Two Weeks Ago. ” – Alex Talcott


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I am  your host today, Theo Hicks, and today we will be speaking with Alex Talcott. Alex, how are you doing today?

Alex Talcott: I’m doing extremely well, because I’ve been listening to music by Taylor Hicks of Alabama, because Alabama real estate is so hot… And the last thing I did before I got on the call with you today was take a look at a Jacksonville project of Ashcroft Capital.

Theo Hicks: That’s awesome. And Taylor Hicks – that’s the American Idol winner, right?

Alex Talcott: I don’t think he was the winner. I think he lost to Carrie Underwood.

Theo Hicks: You’re right, he got second place. Sorry. He was a participant on American Idol.

Alex Talcott: Right, right. But he does a mean version of Living for the City, Stevie Wonder. Check it out, listeners

Theo Hicks: Alrighty. Well, I’m looking forward to our conversation today, and I appreciate you bringing up that Jacksonville deal. Maybe we can talk a little bit about what your process is for analyzing a deal that you’re interested in passively investing in… But before we get into that, a little bit about Alex – he is the managing partner at Seacoast Financial Planning, as well as a partner with Lexdan Real Estate.

He teaches finance and business law at the University of New Hampshire’s Business School. Based in Durham, New Hampshire. You can say hi to him at alex.talcott@ampf.com. Of course, that will be in the show notes of this show.

Alex, before we dive into the meat of the conversation, can you tell us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on now?

Alex Talcott: You bet. That email address is a good point of contact for my financial planning practice. I manage one of the largest Ameriprise franchises North of Boston. We do also have a Boston office, and a new office on the Maine seacoast. That occupies a good bit of my time. We’ve been able to scale up that business. We now have 14 financial advisors, accountants and support staff there, that take good care of people; upwards of  half a billion dollars there… What I’m really fortunate about is I think about myself as an educator first. I teach a full course load at the University of New Hampshire, and also Great Bay Community College, which is the number one transfer school into the flagship state university here in New Hampshire. My partners are very supportive of my passion for teaching.

I love  helping young professionals with personal finance, and I’m able to play a bit of a thought leadership role on our in-house investment team at Seacoast Financial Planning. We also have a tax service, an estate planning service… And passive real estate, which I’m probably an active-passive or passive-aggressive real estate investor at this point, is an emerging passion of mine.

Theo Hicks: So it sounds like your main focus is financial planning, and then teaching… Do you consider one of those your full-time job, and the other ones part-time? Or are you just kind of all over the place?

Alex Talcott: Yeah, I think it’s three legs of the stool… Maybe on my tombstone it will say “Teacher, entrepreneur, lawyer”, and I’m not sure in what order exactly… In some ways, a lot of the work that I do makes up for the fact that I am not very handy. I live in an 1863 country house on a river, yet I don’t know how to swing a hammer, I don’t know how to change a tire… So I need to finance other people to take good care of my residence. So I do avoid chores. I have a lot of jobs.

Theo Hicks: [laughs] There you go. So let’s talk about what you call passive-aggressive real estate  investing. What types of deals are you currently doing right now? I know you mentioned the Jacksonville deal, but is there anything else you’re currently looking at?

Alex Talcott: Yeah, kind of following the chain of connections by way of podcast, and entrepreneurial coaching programs, and friends… I was put in touch with the top – in my judgment – New Jersey real estate lawyer and investor Dan Barley. He’s somebody who I really appreciate working with; he laughed the first time I told him I love doing business with lawyers. People don’t get that very often… But in my financial planning practice I’ve always enjoyed working with lawyers. They ask a lot of questions, which is a bit of a nuisance to other folks… The kind of ideal client for a lot of people in financial planning, a dentist – they tend to make great incomes, and just know what they don’t know, and just really outsource all the stocks and bonds stuff… Lawyers tend to be a little bit more persnickety, sometimes think that they know it all, but really once you circle the wagons with them and you answer their questions, and if you don’t know the answer say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”, then actually do just that. It can be very rewarding to work with lawyers, for me.

So for me, working in real estate  with a lawyer is very attractive. It’s also very helpful based on my other business interests, because I’m very mindful. As somebody who’s started out in law as a financial services litigator in a compliance practice, I’m not in a position to be soliciting any funds towards real estate investments, or even investments, for that matter. I’m more of a relationship manager for my financial planning practice, and when I work with lawyers in real estate, we have really informed partners, and that’s very comfortable… I enjoy – whether it’s my students, my clients, my partners – there’s nothing better for me than an informed client. You’ll do more and better business with them than any kind of power differential or informational differential that you might have if you’re the know-it-all. That’s not inspiring to me. I wanna teach.

Theo Hicks: I have two follow-up questions. You mentioned that you were put in touch with (in your opinion) the top lawyer-investor in the market. So if I’m listening to this podcast and I’m living in Florida, and I want to work with the top investor in the market for whatever niche I’m focused on – let’s say multifamily – what are some tips you have on how I can work towards getting that person’s attention and convincing them that I’m the real deal and convince them to take me under their wing?

Alex Talcott: That’s such a good question. I find that question so exciting, because I’ve always been interested in the idea of what it is to be a professional. And historically, there were really only three professions, based on an early definition of that term. It was clergy, doctors and lawyers. The idea was that the clergy heals soul, and doctors heal bodies, and lawyers heal societies. That might be a joke within itself, but that generally was the notion. So the idea of finding professionals in different industries outside of those three and in different geographies could be very challenging.

It’s all the more difficult because there are certain types of professions that are unable to be of service in an official capacity or in an appropriate capacity in different places. So one of the things that I like about investments in finance as opposed to my formal training as a lawyer is the ability to cast a wider net and to be of service in different places.

As a lawyer, I was originally licensed in Illinois. I’m now actively licensed in New Hampshire… But anywhere else – like if I wanna go to Florida, to your example, I have to file what’s called pro hac vice (Latin), to be able to appear as an unlicensed attorney doing business in the state of Florida in a legal capacity. In my financial planning practice we have those three offices in three states, but we have clients in over 40 states, and we’re able to be of service to them, so that’s really exciting.

In terms of finding the  experts on the ground, it’s just how many degrees of separation you want to be from the people doing the work for you. And different people have different levels of trust there. I tend to be a thin-slicer myself, Malcolm Gladwell style. I form fast trust relationships. I have little things that I hear, whether it’s advanced terminology being used correctly, or a mistake not being made, that gives me a sense that the person knows what they are talking about… But I’m also a Malcolm Gladwell maven. I enjoy being a connector…

So I would say to any of  your listeners who want to know, “Hey, I wanna go to a good Spanish restaurant in Toledo, Ohio, on a Thursday.” I’m the kind of person if I get an email like that, I will respond to it because it is rewarding to me, even if not in a pecuniary sense, to be of service to people… So I would say ask me, frankly. AlexTalcott [at] ampf.com

Theo Hicks: There you go. And then the other question that I had was about your financial planning business. I’m pretty sure – and correct me if I’m wrong – the people that are your clients are basically passive investors, in a sense… So if I am someone who wants to attract passive investors to invest in my deals, what are some strategies that you have for attracting these passive investor clients? And you can talk about that in the context of your financial planning business, and I’m sure by doing so people will be able to pull out the tactics so they can apply it to their real estate investing business.

Alex Talcott: I appreciate the question, because we take our perspective on the markets and so many things  so seriously… But some of the tips — I hate to quote Ron Popeil from infomercials when we were kids, “Set it and forget it…” Well, at least the first part, setting it, is a very important thing for investors to do. If you think about most people’s 401K and how passive that withholding is, and the fact that it’s percentage based, so automatically you’re having more withheld as you make more money at work – that’s a very beautiful thing; it’s been amazing for the affluence and retirement security of Americans… But unfortunately, most people’s IRAs are not so set up. If you do not have an automatic money movement set up January 1st of each year, on a monthly basis, to chop up what you may be entitled to do on an annual basis, you might not be taking full advantage of that. If you are not being professionally pushed by a financial advisor to increase your savings in your non-retirement accounts, you’re not doing as much there than  you are in your 401K at work.

So the more that you can automate your savings – wonderful. Just make sure that you’re not going into an automated expensive model with that financial planning practice.

So one of the things that makes us very strange is, as large as we are in our region at least, we’re a big fish in a little pond of New Hampshire, but very well-regarded in the greater Boston market, as well as most practices that would get as large as ours, and we’re newly featured in Forbes Magazine as best next-generation financial advisory that just came out this past month.

Most places of our size would have outgrown certain clients and fired off or sloughed off those smaller clients. For us, we’ve found some of those small clients have grown to big clients, they’ve referred wonderful people… So we’re among the largest financial advisory practices that don’t have account minimums. So everyone can get in, can get started, somewhat passively saving, having certain things automated, but also knowing that their small to mid-sized accounts are being well looked after.

Theo Hicks: Alright, Alex, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Alex Talcott: Buy real estate two weeks ago. That’s a little bit fresh, and maybe not altogether helpful. It’s a little bit related to what we’re talking about the financial planning hat that I wear as well… So I’ve never been much of a market timer, nor has our team. We’re in it for the long haul for most of our clients… And we don’t overly trade, we don’t wanna mess around with capital gains in non-retirement accounts of course needlessly… But really, with the stock market being down 2.9% on Monday of this week, and down all of last week, have we hit that high finally, after a ten-year bull market? I don’t know… But I’m comfortable sharing that in terms of my own personal finances I’ve made a judgment call 5,5 weeks ago through two weeks ago to repurpose some of those capital gains that I’ve enjoyed towards alternative investments.

Some of that has meant venture capital, some of that has meant real estate. And that real estate for me is less of an appreciation play. I’m looking for cashflow; cashflow not only to repurpose towards more real estate, as I build up that aspect of my personal portfolio, but also to pay for a hockey camp, and knitting camp, and backgammon camp, and all the stuff that my five-year-old twins and two-year-old daughter seem to be enjoying day in, day out. A glorious childhood; they’re not allowed to complain about their childhood, because I have thousands of pictures to prove that they were happy.

But really, if you’re not in a position to get into real estate or to diversify your portfolio with some amount of alternative investments – and there are others, certainly, other than real estate… I’ve been involved in film projects, and a variety of different things. There are long-short funds… There are different alternatives that are out there available to you, but it’s really important also that you consider your alternatives; what is your benchmark? For a lot of real estate investors it’s the S&P, and 9.5% on average is a pretty good point of comparison.

But frankly, even in terms of more passive real estate investments, Fidelity has real estate funds. So some of our clients in financial planning who haven’t had successful experiences with rental income properties that they manage themselves, they don’t like dealing with the three T’s (tenants, toilets and taxes), if they don’t wanna feel like failures altogether, sometimes we talk with them about having an overweight of real estate in there, like IRAs. Fidelity funds don’t cost much. There are other real estate mutual funds that are out there… Unfortunately, if you go to some of those companies to help you choose the best funds and you’ve only got $50,000 or something, they’re charging you like 1.5% on top of that. We like to compete on service, expertise and price at Seacoast Financial Planning…

But yeah, if you can afford to get into real estate, if you consult with a financial advisor who’s a fiduciary who you  trust, ideally with a team that includes a CFA, a CFP, a JV like myself, CTAs… I play a financial planning specialist role where I’m support staff at times.

You should look at diversifying your portfolio in cooperation with professionals who know what they’re talking about… And it may very well be that real estate in terms of owning it outright isn’t for you, but maybe you can find some real estate appreciation, or just overall appreciation in your investment accounts, such that you can finance owning and operating different things in the future.

Theo Hicks: Alright, Alex, are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Alex Talcott: You bet.

Theo Hicks: Alright. First, a quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [00:14:58].21] to [00:15:46].15]

Theo Hicks: Alright, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Alex Talcott: I read a lot, so one of my blessings is speed reading. I learned how to do it from an infomercial, not from one [unintelligible [00:15:52].00] So I actually read thousands of pages (no exaggeration) every week. I would say the most rewarding book that I’ve read in the past week is a principles of economics book by Gregory Mankiw, which is just really widely assigned at the secondary and college level. Introduction to Microeconomics and Macroeconomics.

I think that we’re at a time when there’s a lot of [unintelligible [00:16:16].18] and trade and such, and I just think a good, solid economics textbook is really reassuring. And I really enjoyed regrounding myself in some of the basics. Mankiw was a parent actually at a prep school in Massachusetts that I taught at, so I have some affection for him as well.

Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Alex Talcott: I would probably see if I could move down to Washington DC and be of service in the policy realm. When I go down to the district, one of the things that I do that’s a little bit different that I enjoy doing is sitting in on Committee hearings… And there’s very rarely anyone in attendance.

I remember sitting in on an economic committee and there were members of the House and the Senates, so [unintelligible [00:17:00].02] not just bi-partisan, but members of both Houses of our legislature, talking about the economic policy… And I remember on the day it was Congressman John Delaney of Maryland, who was the youngest CEO in the history of the New York Stock Exchange, sitting next to fellow current presidential candidate, senator Amy Klobuchar… And they were listening, and they were asking questions, and they were opining, and there weren’t a whole lot of cameras or people in the audience, but… Talk about having your ear to the ground… It’s not that hard to show up and to listen and to learn, and to process and repackage information, and to weigh in on how to improve our tax structure and other economic policies. I’d probably find a way to be a bit of a think tank wonk.

Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?

Alex Talcott: I care a lot about early childhood education. Economic education and financial literacy have been passions… And I do actually have money math games that my kids love to play even at their young age… But I find that my  community service – a big chunk of it is being involved in the [unintelligible [00:18:00].03] that we have here in New Hampshire, and showing that good Northern hospitality to the myriad of candidates who come to the Granite State. But really, I’m growing up with my kids. I’m the only dad on the parent committee at the nursery school, which is kind of terrible that that’s a distinction in 2019… But I’m a really involved parent in terms of education.

It would feel wrong, disingenuous, not quite right if I spent all this time teaching college students and didn’t have the bandwidth to kind of share in the joy of learning that is so natural in children. Neil deGrasse Tyson says that children are born scientists… They are born curious. So just being around to — that curiosity doesn’t need to be instilled, it just needs to be harnessed, channeled, enriched, and I really enjoy doing that with my children and their friends in the community.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what’s the best ever place to reach you?

Alex Talcott: The best ever place to reach me, believe it or not, is my personal cell phone. 978-918-3132. It’s my personal cell. I have a business line, but I’m more than comfortable giving out my personal cell phone. My business partner and senior strategy built a 200-million asset financial planning practice as a solo, and he had that cell phone on his business cards, and found that clients appreciated it, and didn’t over-abuse it…

So if you need me or you wanna be connected to a member of my team, or – like I said, that restaurant recommendation in wherever place, I’m more than happy to be available via phone or email.

Theo Hicks: Alright, Alex, I really enjoyed this conversation. I can tell that you have a lot of information on your mind, and we just scratched the surface… So I think it probably makes sense to get you back on for a Skillset Sunday episode, maybe even to just talk about how I can read 1,000 pages a week. That’d be fun to learn.

Alex Talcott: [laughs]

Theo Hicks: Just to summarize what we’ve talked about – we discussed how someone can find the person at the top of a certain profession in their market, and you basically said to email you, but for me, I kind of take that as “Find the person who is the connector in that market.” So instead of going straight to that top professional, find someone who knows them that you know, or there’s a few degrees of separation away from you, and then kind of work your way to that person through that person…

You also talked about a  few ways to attract clients, whether it be a financial planning business, you’re an apartment syndicator looking to raise money… And things that I took away were having it be automated for them; make it simple and not too difficult, not too expensive to invest with you… Then you also mentioned how you have a lot of clients who started off as small, that turned into bigger clients, so not necessarily focusing on the big fish, but focusing on people who are smaller, and then growing with them, as well as getting referrals from them. You also mentioned how you have no minimums as well; this goes along with the small clients.

Then we talked about your best ever advice, which is to buy real estate two weeks ago, and you mentioned how you focus on cashflow. We talked about diversification, we talked about knowing your benchmark returns… And I really enjoyed your Lightning Round answers as well. Very interesting and insightful.

I appreciate you coming on the show, Alex, and I appreciate everyone who stopped by to listen.  Have a best ever day, and we will talk to you tomorrow.

Alex Talcott: Thank you, Theo.

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