By BECKY GILLETTE
Jim Rasberry, 34, owner and president of Rasberry Financial Services in Laurel, got an early start in the industry.
“I got a life insurance license when I was 19 and started selling life insurance when I was a sophomore in college,” Rasberry said.
“When I was a junior in college, I got an investment license and started selling mutual funds and annuities. I thought I needed to get a head start.
“I played golf in college, and in between studies and golf team matches and practices, I needed a job that could be flexible and was in my field of interest. By the time I finished college, I had a pretty good little book of business to where I started Rasberry Financial Services going into business in 2006.”
Rasberry grew up on First Avenue in Laurel and is a fifth generation resident of Jones County. His grandfather was president of the Jones County Board of Supervisors. He attended West Jones High School and then went on to the University of Southern Mississippi to earn a B.S. degree in business. He never considered moving on somewhere else, and instead made his business home in Laurel.
He chose to open his business downtown at a time when there were many vacancies and little hope about the future of downtown. He and several others established the Laurel Downtown Network in 2006. After he renovated his office, the historic First National Bank Building, in 2007, he donated space downstairs for a Laurel Welcome Center that is staffed by volunteers with the Laurel Downtown Network.
Rasberry said the Main Street program provided a game plan.
“We went to Washington, D.C., for conferences there,” he said. “We got immersed in what the Main Street program was all about. I don’t think we would have had the successes we have had if not for the Main Street program. So many towns haven’t really caught fire yet. It is one thing to have a plan, but you also need to have people passionate enough to implement the plan.”
One thing that helped was that a lot of people in Laurel have fond memories of what the downtown used to be.
“People had a vision of what it used to be and wanted that again for our downtown area,” said Rasberry said, who serves on the Laurel School District Board and is chairman of the Jones County Economic Development Authority. “It has been successful because a large portion of the community believed in it. Success comes from when people work together. You have got to have people from all walks of life and every age group. And that is what we have had downtown.”
The work to revitalize downtown has now been seen by millions of people. Rasberry’s cousin, Erin Napier, and her husband, Ben, are hosts of the HGTV program Home Town. (hgtv.com/shows/home-town). The pilot for that had 2.2 million viewers. Rasberry and his wife, Mallorie, are involved as cast members and support. The four have also joined their friends, Emily and Josh Nowell, to open the Laurel Mercantile (laurelmercantile.com) at 414 Front Street this past December. That unique “store of curiosity,” as it is dubbed by its owners, is another brick in the rebuilding of downtown Laurel.
From his years of investment advising, Rasberry has found that there can an emotional gap between investments and investors.
“We as investors oftentimes will defy logic because our heart takes over,” Rasberry said. “We sell when we get scared, and we buy when everyone is confident. Every great investor from Warren Buffett and beyond will talk about managing emotions and overriding that temptation to sell from fear and buy when everyone is confident. You make money the other way around; buy low and sell high. You have to master the emotional game. Therefore, it is not so much about what is the next great investment, it is about managing expectations and managing your own risk. To manage it, you have to first acknowledge it. You have to understand your risk tolerance.”
Some investors like the idea of being aggressive. But when their portfolio shrinks 15 percent with a market correction, they may not have the risk tolerance they imagined.
“As investment advisers, we have to put more importance on identifying our client’s risk tolerance, how much they are willing to take on, and then do the best job that we can helping them make decisions,” Rasberry said.
Rasberry also tells investors to think of their goals in the perspective of being a mountain climber. What is the goal? To reach the top? Or to get back down?
“Getting to retirement is only half the battle,” Rasberry said. “Just because you are retired doesn’t mean you have made it to the finish line. A lot of times because of medical technology, you are only halfway there. I have one grandmother who is 93 and one in her late 80s. One has been retired for more than 30 years. Centenarians are fastest growing demographic in America. People are living longer, but we haven’t changed the mentality that retirement is the finish line. Wealth management is even more important going down the mountain than it is going up the mountain. While you are working, you have a check coming in. When you are retired, now you are depending on investments more than you were on the way to retirement.”
Donald Trump has pledged to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act put into place after the subprime mortgage lending crisis led to the Great Recession. Rasberry said it is hard to answer whether deregulation is needed.
“There are always consequences to over regulation or deregulation,” Rasberry said “Congress has a balancing act providing the most efficient business environment for the American economy to thrive. So I think if you look at the financial sector and how it has performed lately, is it right or wrong for a Trump Administration to create a less regulated banking environment than what currently exists? If you make it easier for a bank to lend money, and you provide higher interest rates that equal higher profit margins for those bank, the outlook should be pretty positive for that bank.”
Rasberry said it is easier for Congress to deregulate banking than healthcare.
“That is why healthcare hasn’t seen the same positive rebound as the financial sector because the markets thrive off of certainty,” Rasberry said. “What will it take to repeal groundbreaking healthcare legislation? If it is repealed, what will it take to replace it? It is all such an uncertainty. Deregulation of banking policy has been done before. We have a track record and know, for example, certain things will happen if we change interest rates. Healthcare doesn’t have as much a history of government regulation. It is harder to pinpoint. And volatility is created with uncertainty.”