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Best of Orange County 2021: Best wealth adviser

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1. Morgan Stanley

Irvine, Santa Ana, Laguna Niguel; morganstanley.com

Morgan Stanley is Orange County’s top pick for wealth advice and management. Formed on Wall Street in the midst of the Great Depression, this global firm handles investment banking, as well as management, for both individuals and groups. In recent years, the firm has launched programs such as the Institute for Sustainable Investing and an inclusive access and opportunity initiative.

Online, Morgan Stanley offers a bevy of resources that could be useful for either seasoned investors or people who are just curious. Its online content includes insight on personal finance and market trends, as well as technology, sustainability and diversity.

The  “Thoughts on the Market” podcast, available through both Apple and Spotify, looks at subjects such as housing, recent shifts in food and retail and the price of U.S. infrastructure. Morgan Stanley’s experts also share their research in areas that can impact the market. On the podcast “Now, What’s Next?” host Sonari Glinton looks at how the pandemic might change our life and economy.

Locally, Morgan Stanley has branch offices in Irvine, Santa Ana and Laguna Niguel. Here you can find a financial adviser to help you and your family plan for life events like college and retirement. It also offer services to help with long-term health care, home loans and cash management.

2. Charles Schwab

Multiple locations; schwab.com

At Charles Schwab, the focus is on services for individuals and, recently, folks in Orange County have been turning to the venerable firm to ask more questions about wealth management plans that go beyond investments and look at college savings, home ownership and retirement plans.

“We spend a lot of time trying to understand clients’ families an occupational goals, relationships that are important to them, so that we can thoughtfully prepare recommendations, ideas and strategies that might work for them,” says Casey Mervine, senior financial consultant at Charles Schwab’s Torrance office, which serves clients in both Los Angeles and Orange counties.

In 2021, health and well-being have become hot topics for people seeking advice from Charles Schwab, as has estate planning. If you’re planning to make a first appointment with Charles Schwab, Mervine says to be prepared for a longer conversation. “We want to hear what their concerns are, what their goals are,” Mervine says. “We want to help them with the road map, instead of presenting ideas right out of the gate.”

3. Fidelity Investments

Multiple locations; fidelity.com

“We try to determine where a client is right now,” says Jamar Burton, vice president, wealth planner for Fidelity.

“We want to get to know clients on a personal level. I think that the pandemic helped us to deepen relationships because a lot of people were at home and really engaged in the planning conversation.”

In 2020, Fidelity’s financial advisers helped clients navigate a time of uncertainty.  “Last year was pretty much geared around market volatility,” says Burton of the questions they fielded from clients.

This year, he notes that some clients are surprised by a quick recovery, but, still, there are plenty of people asking, “Where do we go from here?” That’s what Fidelity’s experts try to figure out for clients. If you’re planning a first meeting with a Fidelity financial adviser, be prepared to get personal and candid. The adviser will want to know not just how you will be affected by financial decision, but how it will affect your family, as well as where your finances are right now and how that might shape your goals.