Founder of Lamont Financial Services
James Lamont is the founder of Lamont Financial Services, a wealth management firm in Novato, CA. James has been involved in financial planning for over 30 years and along the way he has obtained his Chartered Financial Consultant and Certified Life Underwriter certifications. Winner of numerous industry awards for professional excellence, James is often asked to speak at industry conferences throughout the country. James currently resides in Novato with his three children.
What early influences brought you to financial planning?
I was brought up in the 1960’s in a very poor neighborhood in Flushing Queens. My mother was a single mom, and money was always scarce. Even though my mother often held two jobs, sometimes that simply wasn’t enough. There were many times when we simply did without what were luxuries to us then but considered basics by most standards. I think it was that experience more than anything else that made me want to help individuals and families plan for and enjoy a secure financial future.
How is your financial practice different from other firms?
The challenges of my childhood taught me to be fiercely independent; I had to be to survive. I often reflect on my having been a feral child due to the lack of supervision that my mother or the public school system were able to provide. In order to survive, I had to understand the world around me. I learned to ask questions, to dig deeper and to find solutions. I pursue what I believe to be right for my clients regardless of whether or not it aligns with the common wisdom of the day. All too often the financial services industry hides behind a cloak of misdirection and impenetrable jargon. I feel it’s my job to get to the truth for my clients.
How long has retirement planning been a focus for you?
My whole career actually. The first 15 years I helped younger professionals and families grow their pre-retirement savings. Since then I’ve been mostly working with post-retirement clients; those people who are either already retired or within a few years of retiring. When I saw how the three-year market rout that began in 2000 wreaked havoc for people ready to retire, I realized that the system was broken. I felt that I needed to take action and so I embarked on a year-long sabbatical to seek a better alternative for my clients.
Did that lead you to a different way of creating portfolios for people after retirement?
Very much so. It wasn’t long before I had an epiphany. The investing conventional wisdom of when and how to use the stock market is fine when you’re young or planning to pass on an asset without regard to its value. However, once you’re near or at retirement, the investment choices you make can have a huge impact on how long your money will last. I found that sequence of returns was key and that volatility, your friend when saving monthly, is now your enemy when making withdrawals. That’s why one aspect of what we do is employing the endowment or institutional style of portfolio management, making good use of alternative investments. It’s essential to employ investment stabilizers and shock absorbers in your retirement portfolio. Over the last 15 years, I’ve developed a system for investing that seeks to minimize volatility, mitigate downside risk and lower taxation.
When not at work, what are we likely to find you doing?
When not working, my very first priority is to spend time with my three children. I’m extremely fortunate to have teenage and young adult children that want to spend as much time with me as they do. The activities that we partake in the most, center around food. We make a point of being conscious of what we buy, cook and eat. We really enjoy cooking and baking together and of course getting to eat our creations. You’ll often find us going on a walk or hike, watching a movie or TV show, reading together in the living room or my favorite; talking until the early hours of the morning about everything.
What are we likely to find on your coffee table?
Other than tea, wine, and laptops? Lots of magazines. I’ve found over the years that if you leave a mess of easy to read good literature (and a dictionary) lying around your children are likely to get a good infusion of it by osmosis.
What’s on your DVR?
Fareed Zakaria’s GPS and 60 minutes for news. For entertainment, it could be anything from Star Wars to documentaries and cooking shows.
What was the last book that you read?
I read so much nonfiction for work, I like to read a lot of light fiction at home. Currently, I’m reading The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett. He is one of our favorite authors. I recently read Going Postal to my kids and we had a great time; it’s hilarious. Before that, I read a book called Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. A very humorous and entertaining debut novel, but if you’re like me you may well need a dictionary handy to get the most out of it.
Do you have a favorite movie?
I would have to say the Matrix. Even though it’s known for its special effects, it was the first big movie of its kind to speak to the nature of reality. The nature of reality is one of my favorite subjects. Other than that, my tastes are pretty eclectic. I often go out to see the big blockbusters in the theater, but I also like smaller quieter movies at home. A couple of my favorites are Enchanted April and Big Night. But I also really like movies like Charlie Wilson’s War and Thank you for Smoking.
What’s next for you?
On the personal side, I imagine that my life will evolve as the kids get older and start to make their way in the world. Professionally, though, I will continue my crusade to shine a light on what I believe is the best way to prepare for a successful retirement. For the time being that means speaking at as many seminars, workshops and industry conferences as I can. Hopefully, it also means that I will finish by the book on the endowment theory of portfolio management and how it can help the average investor create a more stable retirement.