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A Physician For Your Finances: Celebrating 20 Years Thumbnail

A Physician For Your Finances: Celebrating 20 Years

20 years ago today, Joe Hollen, MD, CFP®, founded Open Window as a fee-only fiduciary. 

His mission that day was clear (and one that we still hold dear). He dreamed of providing comprehensive financial planning and investment solutions tailored to each person's unique needs. But he wanted to do it "right." He wanted to serve families free of the conflicts of interest that were (and still are) so endemic and harmful in the financial industry. 

Just as Joe was a trusted partner in physical health as a physician, he wanted to serve as a trustworthy partner in financial health

Led by his son, Eric Hollen, CFP®, Joe's mission has thrived and flourished. 

As we mark Open Window's 20th anniversary as a trusted financial partner, we reflect on a journey defined by innovation, transparency, and a commitment to treating each other with kindness, respect, and integrity.

A Personal Commitment

A physician might seem like an unlikely person to create a stronghold for your family's financial journey. But Joe's transition from medicine to personal finance was more natural than it might initially appear. 

Joe had been interested in financial matters from an early age. He witnessed his parents struggle with financial decisions. His dad, Don, was the first in his family to graduate from college. Don's job selling property insurance required the family to relocate several times. They hopscotched across the U.S., uprooting the family each time. They were thankful for each other and what they had, but Joe knew there was something missing that could help them. 

He also witnessed his mom, Dorothy, struggle with health issues. Her experiences led him to consider a career in medicine. Joe attended the University of Nevada School of Medicine for its full two-year medical program before finishing his training and graduating from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Like many physicians, Joe realized well into his career that medical school wasn't designed to train him in financial matters. Amidst the chaos of the emergency department, Joe forged ahead with his finances as a passion project as best as he could. Compared to the rest of the world, he did pretty well. He was even known as someone to talk to regarding financial matters in the "doctor's lounge". 

Still, a high income can hide many financial mistakes. And Joe wasn't alone.

In his medical practice, he served as a trustee of the group's 401(k). He was required to be aware of the investments other physicians were making in their personal 401(k) accounts. While many physicians did well, he witnessed too many common, avoidable mistakes. Joe wondered how these intelligent, hard-working individuals, some with professional advisors of their own, could have such trouble with their finances. This wasn't just a bad outcome limited to Joe's group. The annual Medscape Physician Net Worth and Debt Survey, has shown: "The process of becoming wealthy is not automatic, even for high earners."

Joe knew there must be a better way.

First, Do No Harm

When Joe finally sought professional financial advice for his own finances, he was disheartened. He found that those who offered "to help" were part of a sales culture. 

While physicians uphold a fundamental ethical commitment of "first, do no harm," the financial world offers no similar commitments. Not surprisingly, most financial advisors wouldn't commit to putting Joe's interests first.

Advisors of the day were product and commission-driven. Their methods weren't evidence-based. The value of tax planning was a foreign concept.

After a career using his expertise to serve others, with the roles reversed, Joe didn’t feel these "advisors" had his best interest in mind. He wasn’t comfortable relying on their advice.

"Individual Objective Advice"

Joe was not alone in his poor experience, nor in his beliefs that a better way was needed. But he seemed to be among the first in his hometown of Reno, Nevada, to act on them. When he couldn't find the advice he needed, Joe decided to become a client-centered financial resource for himself and others. 

In 2001, after 23 years of practicing Emergency Medicine, he left his medical practice behind. He rented a single-room office and "hung out a shingle", as he likes to say. Joe went on to pass the Certified Financial Planner professional examination in 2003 and registered as a professional investment advisory firm (initially named “Hollen Financial Planning”) on May 21, 2004.

True to his word, Joe focused on providing clients with "Individual Objective Advice" and "Serving as Fiduciaries"... "on a Fee-Only Basis." 

Advertisement in the Washoe Country Medical Society Directory, June 2010.

"Serving as Fiduciaries" was Rare

From the outset, Joe prioritized integrity, transparency, and a client-centered approach.

By now joined by his son Eric Hollen, they were fiduciaries when much of the industry avoided the role. 

Advertisement in the Washoe Country Medical Society Directory, June 2013, featuring Joe and Eric Hollen.

Joe and Eric wholeheartedly embraced the idea of fiduciary advice. Fiduciary advice is prudent, loyal to the client, and avoids misleading statements about conflicts of interest, fees, and investments. It was exactly the advice Joe was seeking but couldn't find.

Joe and Eric didn't just claim to act as fiduciaries, they enthusiastically sought out fiduciary best practices early on. They agreed to abide by professional fiduciary practice standards and voluntarily submitted to an annual review of their work by independent fiduciary experts from the Center for Fiduciary Excellence (CEFEX).

In 2015, Open Window became the first advisory firm in Nevada to earn CEFEX fiduciary certification.

Open Window is a CEFEX-certified Firm 

Why work with a CEFEX advisor

Serving "On a Fee-Only Basis" was Rare

Joe also called foul on the financial industry’s inherently flawed compensation model. He’d seen the sausage-making and adopted a new, more meaningful way to deliver advice to families that were otherwise too often being thrown to the wolves. 

In lieu of commissions, Joe charged a transparent fee, which clients paid directly to him for his independent advice. He refused to accept any forms of third-party compensation that might influence his recommendations. Thus, the independent, fee-only model Open Window still uses today, was born. 

Open Window is a fee-only advisor.

Here’s an explanation of the different ways advisors charge for their services.

If you're not working with a fee-only firm like Open Window, then your "advisor" is likely beholden to their company's sales quotas and other profit-generating priorities.

If your advisor or their parent employer is receiving commissions or other incentives from third-party sources (i.e., not from you), it’s easy to imagine how rife this compensation model could be with conflicts of interest to trade, and to recommend investment and insurance products that would enhance a firm’s bottom line, whether or not they made the best sense for you. After all, earning commissions and chasing sales incentives might be the only way to earn their keep, or sometimes, even keep their jobs. Even if these arrangements are disclosed in the fine print, your relationship can become tainted by incentives that have little to do with you and your best interest.

As Joe realized 20 years ago, a transparent fee-only relationship ensures your advisor is on your “team,” and nobody else’s.

"First, Do No Harm" is Still Rare

From its humble beginnings in a one-room office, we're honored to have grown from challenge to challenge over the last 20 years into a comprehensive and trusted financial partner. Still aligned with Joe's original mission and core values, we've expanded our range of services and expertise to meet clients' evolving needs.

Today, thanks to early advocates like Joe and Eric, it’s also much easier for people like you to find an independent, fee-only, fiduciary advisor like us. But all advisors still aren't alike, even if they have the same titles. 

Commissions are still common. Rules requiring fiduciary treatment come and go. 

As we write here, It is not whether your financial professional is your fiduciary or not that matters. It's how their fiduciary status actually works (and when). In fact, in many ways, the public is worse off today now that every advisor can claim to be a fiduciary. Investors must once again sort out what else may be driving recommendations. Fiduciary laws will continue to evolve over time, but ethical advisory behavior will never be fully mandated by law. It can't be. It must come from within the advisory profession. Unfortunately, we seem to be a long way from that. We think it is still all too easy—and profitable—for the public to be swayed by the dog-and-pony show that is the modern financial-industrial complex. 

We’ll continue to work on that. We’ll continue to beat the drum, insisting that you deserve far better than that. 

One thing is clear: Were it not for Joe's early effect on advice done "right", our voice would not reverberate nearly as loudly as it now does. 

Gage Avera, AIF®, Associate Advisor, sharing the "right" way to provide financial advice at the UNR Career Fair (2024).

A Heartfelt Thank You

None of this would be possible without the trust and loyalty of our clients. To you, we extend our deepest gratitude. Your faith in us is the driving force behind our passion and shared success. We are honored to be your financial partner. We look forward to serving you for many more years to come.

To learn more about the work we do with clients and how we can help you navigate your financial journey with more confidence, reach out at (775) 827-0670 or schedule a "Quick Connection" time with us at www.openwindowFS.com/connection

Join us in celebrating 20 years of serving families free of many of the conflicts of interest that were (and still are) so endemic and harmful in the financial industry. 

Here's to the next 20 years of partnership, prosperity, and financial success!

The Advisory Team: Lindsey Briare, Eric Hollen, Joe Hollen, Stacy Barry, Gage Avera (2022)