From $0 to $40MM AUM: Jason Hamilton on Improving Client Service with Technology

We sat down with Jason Hamilton to learn about his personal journey to becoming a financial advisor and launching his own practice—and how Betterment's technology has helped him build a $40 million firm.

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Advisor: Jason Hamilton

Jason J. Hamilton, CFP®, CRPC® is a Certified Financial Planner™ and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® who helps high-performance professionals and high-net-worth investors create alignment with their abundance so they can live in flow with their wealth and serve their purpose. After coaching clients on their finances for over a decade and over six years as a registered investment advisor, he knows what helps clients go from chaos to serenity with their finances. 

As a Certified Financial Planner™, he also brings the technical expertise, education, experience, and ethics requirements investors are looking for to help them achieve their goals, lower their taxes, and optimize their income and investment returns.

Jason is the founder of Keep It Simple Financial Planning, a fee-only registered investment advisor, managing over $40 million in assets for his clients. He is also the Head of Family Financial Coaching at his family's nonprofit IDEAL, a community development corporation, located in East Los Angeles.

Firm: Keep It Simple Financial Planning

Keep It Simple Financial Planning (KISFP) was founded in 2016 to help underserved investors receive technical financial advice in a simple and understandable way.

Read more about why we believe “Keep It Simple” is the best philosophy.

Why did you decide to become a financial advisor?

My story originates just before the 2008 financial crisis. Before this, my family owned a small business: An Italian restaurant in a suburb of San Jose. The restaurant's name was Mio Vicino which means "my neighbor." 

Prior to the financial crisis, my family hired an advisor to help them with their financial and retirement planning. Unfortunately, instead of comprehensive fiduciary financial advice, my family was sold a myriad of insurance products. I believe with better planning, we would have had a much better response and outcome to the economic situation. Before the end of the crisis, we were forced to close the restaurant due to insufficient financial resources.

On the bright side of this journey, I saw what my family went through and became determined to not have the same fate for myself. This led me on my journey of financial self-discovery to learn everything I could about financial planning and wealth management. What started as a Google search for "how do people become wealthy?" became an obsession and now a career. Helping clients get into alignment with their wealth has been rewarding in many ways.

For years prior to becoming an advisor, I would read online forums, where I found out about advanced financial planning education to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. At the time, I had no knowledge of the financial planning industry. Since my company offered education reimbursement, I decided to sign up for a course at UCLA extensions. This was the beginning of my journey to become a CFP®. 

I enjoyed the courses. They filled in the gaps from my prior reading and gave me structure to the process of proper financial planning. It was actually fun! In my search to change careers, I found a group called XY Planning Network that was providing the tools and education to help advisors launch their firms, and the rest is history. I hired coaches and consultants to help me start up and learn the business and the compliance aspects of running a registered investment advisor and, in 2016, I launched Keep It Simple Financial Planning. 

Over time, I have obtained the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designations. More recently, with the popularity of investing in cryptocurrencies and other digital assets, I completed my Certificate in Blockchain and Digital Assets and became a member of the Digital Assets Council of Financial Professionals. Today, we help clients with flat-fee financial planning advice in nearly 40 states and manage over $40 million in assets under management for our clients. 

Coming from a lower-middle-class family, we knew how to work but I was never taught HOW to build wealth outside of one day buying a home. Investing was not part of the culture of my family. We all knew how to work hard and sacrifice. But, one thing that I teach now that I didn’t get growing up is how to turn my labor into capital that will work for me. 

Books also had a significant impact on my journey. Dave Ramsey, Warren Buffet, Suze Orman, and Jack Bogle are a few of the authors from whom I absorbed great insight and knowledge. But the most impactful for me were two books by Thomas J. Stanley: The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind. The Millionaire Next Door showed me the path for how to become a first generation millionaire (and that over 80% of millionaires are first generation!). And The Millionaire Mind showed me what it takes to achieve multimillionaire status. Reading these books changed my perspective significantly about what it takes to be successful financially.  

What is the least understood aspect of your job?

The least understood aspect of my job is that many times there is more psychology than technical financial planning in what we do. We are dealing with humans and not machines. Within a number of hours I can tell a client exactly how to optimize their financial situation. The challenge is, what may be optimal financially may not be optimal emotionally. As advisors, the better we are at understanding humans, the more likely our advice is likely to be implemented. 

What does your firm's current tech stack look like?

I am a self-admitted technology addict. While we don't use all of our tools with all clients, there are some great applications for advisors to use when appropriate. We use: Asset Map, RightCapital, Income Conductor, Income Laboratory, Holistiplan, Cash Flow Mapping, Kwanti, AdvicePay, and, of course, Betterment for Advisors.

Why did you choose Betterment for Advisors? And how has our technology impacted your business?

I have tried multiple custodians since starting my firm but the efficiency, beautiful client portal and app, and the support team I get with Betterment for Advisors is second to none. Because of the digital onboarding and easy digital account transfer process I have been able to scale much faster and serve a more financially diverse client base than I could with a traditional custodian. 

What is one critical lesson you have learned from your clients?

One critical lesson I have learned from my clients is that if you help people get into alignment with their wealth, other parts of their lives will flourish as well. Finances are such an important aspect of living in the United States and, if you can get into flow with your financial wealth interactions, you will experience harmony in other areas of your life typically.

How has a remote or hybrid work environment changed how your team works? 

Our firm has been primarily virtual since our founding over 6 years ago and, since the pandemic, it has tripled in size as many more investors have become comfortable with virtual meetings. In our case, the remote work environment has improved our ability to grow and serve clients.
We were ready as more and more clients become comfortable with using virtual communication tools to stay connected to friends and family. Now, it has become the overwhelmingly preferred meeting method and has allowed us to help clients solve the specific challenges they face from nearly anywhere in the nation.

What do you think is the biggest opportunity for advisors today?

To put themselves out there on social media to discuss and share their expertise. I see so many advisors wasting time and money on paid lead gen services, which if you knew how they worked, are typically a huge waste of money. Maybe not waste but for sure not fully optimized. People in general are desperate for a great advisor that aligns with their personality type. I think if advisors would just put out one educational video per week in their niche, or even general good financial advice, they would never have to struggle for business. 

If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

Pay off mom's house and travel a lot. 

If you could only give one piece of financial advice, what would it be?

That if your financial situation is not ideal, DO NOT blame or put any responsibility on anyone outside yourself. If you do not take 100% ownership of your situation you will never be successful. Literally anything you need to know about finances, you can find online in a blog or on YouTube. The challenge is people are typically their own worst enemy when it comes to finances. For this reason, hiring a trusted fiduciary advisor may be the best decision individuals make for themselves. 

Jason Hamilton, CFP®, is the founder of Keep It Simple Financial Planning. Discover more Advisor Spotlights from Betterment for Advisors here.