Relating to his clients comes easy for Gil Parks, CFP®, an Ameriprise financial advisor in Stephenville, Texas. The similarities don’t end with his Stetson hat or the fact that he prefers cowboy boots to dress shoes. Previously a fifth-generation cattle rancher, Parks and his family have faced many of the same issues his clients encounter: dealing with the uncertainties of agribusiness, contemplating their own definition of retirement and eventually transitioning a business to the next generation.
Parks started his career on a different track, pursuing a degree in animal husbandry. However, when his father suffered a heart attack prior to Park’s senior year at Texas Tech, he returned home to help with the physical tasks his father could no longer perform. It was during this time that his father earned his commodity and securities registrations, which allowed him to begin Parks and Associates, and open an office providing commodity and hedging services for producers, cattle buyers and cattle feeders.
“While I’d always been interested in the economy, it was through my father that I got a first glimpse at working within the financial services industry. I was also coming to the realization that agriculture can be a very risky way to make a living, and was seeking a bit more predictability,” Parks said.
After earning his degree and completing his own securities exams, Parks registered as a financial advisor with a small broker-dealer in the Dallas area. He moved his practice, Parks and Associates, to Ameriprise Financial in 1993.
When Parks’ father passed away in 1990, his family faced a common yet difficult decision – what to do with the family business, in this case, a 6,000-acre ranch.
“As a family, you have to consider if someone is interested in taking the business over, and if so, how you make things equitable for the other kids. Estate tax tends to be another significant issue, especially if there isn’t liquidity to pay the taxes without selling off land or part of the business,” he said. “We try to get our clients to think through a variety of scenarios and vocalize what they’d like to see happen.”
Retirement itself presents interesting questions, especially for small business owners, as well as farmers and ranchers. Parks meets many people who have worked hard their entire lives and don’t see quitting as an option. Despite this, he advises them to avoid common mistakes like not having a proper will or waiting too long to start saving. He also cautions them to prepare for the unexpected, including potential health issues.
“We encourage people to start planning early enough that we can have a conversation about how much income they want in retirement, not just how much they can have,” he said.
A business owner himself, Parks isn’t planning to retire anytime soon. However, he has already started thinking about how he’ll scale back and transition his business when the time comes. The picture started becoming a bit clearer four years ago when his son Cole joined his practice as an associate financial advisor.
“I never pushed him to pursue this career,” commented Parks, “but I’m really proud that he’s taken an interest in this business.”
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