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.

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