Building the Future with Trust

By Patty Jo Sawvel

When Robert Cooper was 21, he came home from college and walked into his parent’s home. They did not know he was there. What he heard from the other room forever changed his life. His mother angrily asked his father, “How could you have done that? Eight thousand dollars is gone!”

Robert knew what this loss meant to his parents. His father, Clarence Cooper, was a construction worker and his mother, Jenelle, worked in a sewing factory. It had taken them years to save their first $8,000.

In 1981, they had prudently paid off their mortgage and saved $200,000 for retirement. It was at this point that Clarence went to the bank to invest. He was advised to put $160,000 in a stock mutual fund, but had no idea that it had a 5% front-end load.

After reading their first statement, Janelle sent Clarence back to the bank. There, he was shown the tiny print that explained the upfront $8,000 fee. Then, he was told that he would make it back in no time. Sadly, Robert’s father passed away a few years later, never having recouped his losses.

“What made this particularly upsetting,” Robert said earnestly, “is that the bank had another choice. At the time, they could have invested dad’s money in Certificates of Deposit—which are insured and have a guaranteed rate of return—and he would have earned 14%, plus they would have given him a free toaster.”

When Robert returned to Catabwa College to complete his degree in Business and Economics, he learned an important lesson. Many banks, insurance companies, and investment companies are only subject to the “suitability” standard. So, in the case of his dad, an investment in a stock mutual fund may have been suitable because his dad had 10 years until retirement. However, once the bank could justify “suitability” it was then free to recommend the investment that was most profitable to the bank.

Had the bank been operating under the higher standard as a “fiduciary,” it would have had to first prove suitability, then openly disclose all fees, and finally, do what was in the best interest of the client. “Had my dad known that they were going to take $8,000 right off the top, he never would have made that investment,” Robert said.
Today, with 25 years of experience, Robert is as an Investment Advisor Representative, a Chartered Retirement Planning Consultant, a Registered Financial Consultant, and owner of Robert Cooper & Associates. He treasures his role as a fiduciary.

To answer the many questions of newly or nearly retired people, Robert hosts monthly complimentary dinner seminars at Outwest Steakhouse in Kernersville. Like most people, Steve and Pamela Sloat, attended to improve their understanding of retirement investment options. After the program, Robert did a complimentary and comprehensive portfolio review. Then, he helped Steve and Pamela make a plan to get from where they were financially, to where they wanted to be. He also suggested strategies to reduce their fees.

In Robert’s experience, about 85% of investors are unaware of their fees. This can be costly. On a $200,000 investment, an annual fee of 5% costs the retiree $11,000 a year. While fees can be high, sometimes investors find that their communication with their advisors is low. Often times, clients report getting less than one telephone call a year after their investments are put in place.

Robert said, “I get to know my clients on a first name basis and make it a point to see them several times a year. And when they call, our team usually has an answer for them on the same day or within 24 hours.”

Like many traditional companies in Kernersville, Robert Cooper & Associates also hosts annual client appreciation events and has even been known to throw a birthday party or two for clients reaching their 85th or 90th birthday.

Also, to avoid any misunderstandings, after Robert explains an investment option, he has his client explain it back to him—along with any fees—before he lets his client sign the paperwork. This lets both of them sleep well at night! “Trust is of ultimate importance,” Robert said clearly. “It is one of the first things I consider when I make a purchase. So, I work hard to protect and build trust with all of my clients.”

Trust is also important to Willie Black, age 86 and his wife, Shelvy. Before meeting Robert, upon the suggestion of a friend, this couple felt “pressured” when making important decisions. Robert has now been helping this couple for 25 years. He keeps it simple. He explains their choices and then gives them plenty of time to make their own decisions.

Bill Thornton was also referred by a friend. He found himself needing to care for his own retirement funds and that of his 90-year-old mother, Hilda. When it came time for Bill to rollover his 401K into an IRA, he decided to attend one of Robert’s dinner seminars. Bill’s goals—with longevity in his DNA—were to make sure that he did not outlive his income and to defer taxes as long as possible. He also wanted to avoid stock market volatility.

His mother, on the other hand, likes to keep on the go. With her finances in place, she takes group bus trips to Atlantic Beach, Mt. Airy, or even the Appalachian Trail. Sometimes she treats the whole family, which includes three grandsons, and five great-grandchildren.

Robert said, “People are amazed at how many different investment options are available today. Also, there is no need to put all your eggs in one basket or for two retirement plans to look the same. Often by building a financial house with a good foundation and plenty of flexibility, investors can meet all of their objectives.”

Robert Cooper regularly gives back to the community locally and worldwide. Two years ago, he and his wife, Belinda, went on a second mission trip to Guatemala to help build a church and spread the word of Christ. They are also mindful of the needs of Kernersville. Last year, along with the clients of Robert Cooper & Associates, they spearheaded a food drive for Crisis Control Ministry and donated over 350 canned goods. This year, Robert sponsored Kernersville Cares for Kids and will attend the Annual Lunch & Listen on April 28.

“I treat my clients like I wish my dad had been treated. And now, with my wife, Belinda, and daughter, Amanda, working beside me, we feel honored that our family can give to the greater family of Kernersville,” Robert said thankfully.

Award-winning journalist Patty Jo Sawvel can be contacted at

Robert Cooper & Associates

Robert Cooper, Owner, 25 years Financial Services
Lou Blackman, Office Manager
Amanda Smith, Associate Advisor
Belinda Cooper, Administrative Assistant

• IRA, 401K Rollover
• Alternatives to Bank CDs
• Retirement Planning
• Investment Portfolio Management

935 East Mountain Street, Ste. E
Kernersville, NC 27284

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *