repost­ed from the Busi­ness Couri­er
by: Steve Watkins
August 24, 2012

For­ward Thinker: McNeill spent years as a CPA, then final­ly decid­ed to stop look­ing back, the Busi­ness Couri­er

 Mack­ey McNeill can’t be quick­ly summed up. Sure, she’s best known as the founder of Belle­vue-based wealth advi­so­ry firm Mack­ey Advi­sors. But she also owns an organ­ic farm, teach­es Ennea­gram, and heads a con­ser­van­cy group.

The 57-year-old McNeill start­ed her firm in 1982 as an account­ing firm. It was exact­ly what she had­n’t planned.

“I had said I was­n’t ever going to have a CPA firm,” McNeill said. “Final­ly, one day I said, ‘What am I doing?’ ”

Accoun­tants look back at what has hap­pened, she said. She want­ed to look for­ward in an advi­so­ry role. Peers had encour­aged her to start an invest­ment advi­so­ry firm, so she shift­ed the busi­ness. Her firm com­plet­ed the tran­si­tion about three years ago. It now pro­vides finan­cial plan­ning for indi­vid­u­als and advis­es busi­ness­es.

But that’s not the whole Mack­ey McNeill sto­ry. She and her hus­band have lived for the past five years on a 35-acre organ­ic farm called Red Sun­flower Farm in Inde­pen­dence. They fund it. Twen­ty fam­i­lies buy a share and get 22 weeks worth of veg­eta­bles.

“There’s a lot of con­ver­sa­tion about health in our coun­try, and you start with what you put in your mouth,” McNeill said. 

She also chairs Ken­ton Con­ser­van­cy, a vol­un­teer group devot­ed to land preser­va­tion in Ken­ton Coun­ty.

Q: What’s the biggest mis­take peo­ple make in invest­ing?
Either not hav­ing a plan or dis­ci­pline. Instead their method of invest­ing is based and/or heav­i­ly influ­enced by head­line news. This results in emo­tion­al invest­ing vs. dis­ci­plined invest­ing. Emo­tion­al invest­ing usu­al­ly results in peo­ple buy­ing high and sell­ing low.

Q: What’s the out­look for invest­ing in stocks? Is it a good time to buy?
Good as long as one has a diver­si­fied port­fo­lio that is appro­pri­ate for their finan­cial goals and risk tol­er­ance. The main issues fac­ing the stock mar­ket are the polit­i­cal aspects of address­ing the expand­ing U.S. bud­get, U.S. recov­ery trac­tion and Euro­pean finan­cial issues. These are all issues that will evolve and fix them­selves over the next  five to 10 years. There­fore, for long-term investors, the stock mar­ket looks attrac­tive at the cur­rent lev­els. Because of the issues men­tioned, the stock mar­ket will expe­ri­ence volatil­i­ty. As long as investors under­stand this and stick with their finan­cial plan, they should be able to avoid the “biggest mis­take peo­ple make in invest­ing” as men­tioned in ques­tion one.

Q: What should peo­ple do with mon­ey that is earn­ing vir­tu­al­ly noth­ing in CDs, mon­ey mar­kets or bank sav­ings accounts?
Mon­ey in CDs, mon­ey mar­ket and bank sav­ings accounts should be ear­marked for near-term finan­cial require­ments. In gen­er­al, hav­ing three to six months of expens­es sit­ting in cash is a good thing.

If the per­son needs the cash to gen­er­ate an income stream, and depend­ing on their risk pro­file, they could look to gov­ern­ment bonds that are vir­tu­al­ly risk-free but cur­rent­ly have very low yields. Or, invest in bond ETFs that are high­er yield but involve addi­tion­al risk. Or, if they are less risk avers, invest in div­i­dend-pay­ing blue-chip stocks. Or some com­bi­na­tion of any/all three of those options.

Q: What was the biggest adjust­ment in shift­ing your busi­ness from account­ing to invest­ment advi­so­ry ser­vices?
The deeply per­son­al rela­tion­ship. The lev­el of trust need­ed to work on some­one’s busi­ness is dif­fer­ent than to work on their per­son­al assets and plan. I also find my work more reward­ing as I see the impact we have on the lives of our clients.

Q: What advice would you give a new boss?
Be very picky about who you hire. Your team is an exten­sion of you.

Q: When you were in grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
A bal­le­ri­na, because she was beau­ti­ful and grace­ful. Hon­est­ly, there were not many role mod­els for women in the work force at that time.

Q: What is your favorite vaca­tion spot?
Crow’s Nest Pass, Alber­ta, Cana­da. Five blue-rib­bon trout streams with­in 30 min­utes.

Q: Describe your per­fect life.
The one I am liv­ing. The work I do makes a dif­fer­ence for clients. I live my pas­sion for land con­ser­va­tion with my vol­un­teer activ­i­ties with the Ken­ton Con­ser­van­cy. I live my pas­sion for organ­ic food and sus­tain­able liv­ing at my home, Red Sun­flower Farm. My chil­dren are grown, respon­si­ble adults that I enjoy.

Q: What do you do to stay healthy?
It begins with what I eat: local, organ­i­cal­ly raised fruits, veg­eta­bles and meat. I go to the gym, work in my gar­den and hike on my farm. I get a mas­sage every three weeks, and I have a house­keep­er!

Q: You’ve just been giv­en $100,000 to donate to char­i­ty. Which and why?
I would give it to the Ken­ton Coun­ty Con­ser­van­cy. Ken­ton Coun­ty has one-tenth the green space of our Hamil­ton Coun­ty neigh­bors per acre, and I am out to change that.

Q: What is the best book you’ve ever read?
I love to read, so this is hard. If I have to pick one, “Nour­ish­ing Tra­di­tions,” a cook­book by Sal­ly Fal­lon.

Q: How do you like to spend your mon­ey?
On my fam­i­ly.

Q: What scares you?
Peo­ple who don’t think.

Q: What are some of the most impor­tant lead­er­ship lessons you’ve learned?
Be true to your­self in all things.

Q: How has your lead­er­ship style evolved?
I have learned to com­mu­ni­cate more direct­ly, even when it is bad news.

To down­load the e‑print click here