Are you financially literate? A chat with Randy Landsman
American-born Randy Landsman was already an established financial advisor to high-level executives in New York when a chat with a lifetime friend led him to start advising NYPD officers on how to maximize their retirement benefits. Helping New York City’s finest secure themselves financially, Randy saw a huge opportunity. Now Beacon Financial Education, a part of Landsman’s Beacon Global Group, aims to provide clear, hands-on financial education and information to expats of all stripes – from CEOs to graduates.
Moving to a new country is an exciting and confusing time. Cultural differences, language barriers, the strange food and unfamiliar streets are difficult enough to wrap your head around. Throw byzantine government bureaucracy, labyrinthine local tax laws and bizarre banking practices into the mix and relocation can be overwhelming.
These financial headaches are what Randy Landsman wants to sort out.
Everybody needs some advice
Currently based in Amsterdam, Randy Landsman wasn’t always an expat. 25 years ago he began a career with American Express, giving financial advice to global corporations like IBM and AT&T. After leaving this position, he began to look around for a new career in financial education.
A chance meeting with a lifelong friend – then a retiring police officer – led to a discussion about how the officer could make smarter investments to guarantee himself the best retirement, which in turn led to Randy providing financial guidance and seminars to officers at all levels within the NYPD.
In Randy’s opinion, it’s not just cops who can benefit from financial guidance. “I think most people don’t know enough about their own finances, even people who are very successful at what they do for a living,” he told us.
“People go to the doctor when they need specific medical advice. I think finance is a little different, because people don’t like to feel stupid, or admit to not knowing stuff – so they don’t seek proper advice”
A gap in the market
“There’s not much [advice] provided from an unbiased standpoint out there,” Randy said. “Most of it comes from newspapers that always report bad stuff, and people who sell products and slant their advice towards their own product line, even though the information may be accurate.”
Randy’s company – Beacon Financial – sought to provide guidance and help to its American clients, but it wasn’t until Randy relocated to the Netherlands in 2012 that he saw an opportunity to provide the same service to expats.
“I was looking to move to Amsterdam as an Individual out of New York for a bit,” he told us. “I wanted to experience Europe.”
There he got in contact with British-born Robert Rigby Hall, a friend and the head of HR at a global technology company, and the two quickly realized that there was nobody providing expats with much-needed financial guidance.
Randy’s own experience – leaving behind a mature business and grown-up family in the US to come the Netherlands with his wife – was not the typical expat experience. “It was almost like a retirement plan for a couple of years and ended up evolving into a business that has a large marketplace,” he said.
Helping American expats with their taxes takes more than a superhero. Photo from WND.com
While his experience may have been a whole lot more stable than that of the typical expat – arriving on a Ryanair flight with a rucksack and a month or two’s rent in their wallet – the problems he sought to solve are ones faced by anyone relocating overseas.
“You’re coming into a new system and you don’t really know how it applies to you. I think that the level of concern and lack of information available to a new person coming in is pretty equal. Each country is complicated when you go from one to another. Every place is different.”
American expats were the first market for Beacon Financial Education. Thanks to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Americans abroad have to file both their foreign and home taxes. A whole extra load of homework on top of the notoriously thick and heavy Dutch tax forms.
“This really put them out of place,” Randy said. “They had a problem that needed to be solved and there was nobody providing [these] services to Americans.”
From there, Beacon Financial Education grew rapidly, and has partnerships with advisors throughout the EU. “Through organizations like Expat Republic and our partners we try to keep people aware and energized,” Randy told us.
“Whether it’s reading, public seminars or workplace events, raising financial awareness is a long term process and doesn’t happen overnight. People need to commit to it.”
And more than anything in recent years, last year’s Brexit referendum highlighted to expats and internationals the importance of staying abreast of global developments. “Nobody really knows the exact ramifications of it,” he said. “But there is still time to get prepared and make decisions versus waiting for something to happen.”
For the next few years, Randy’s life is going to be split between running his business in the Netherlands and visiting his children back in the United States. He’s a successful international businessman, but what’s the best piece of financial advice he has for every reader?
“Prioritize your goals. Same as any kind of business. Make sure that what’s important to you is what you take care of. Be disciplined in doing so.”
“In the US, the cost of education is very high. So if my goal is to educate my daughter and pay for it, I’d need to put in place a plan of action. Same thing for retirement. If I want to retire at age 60 on 50,000 euros per year, what do I need to do? What’s my strategy? How am I gonna get a pension? How much money do I need to save? What does that money have to earn in investments to get me to my desired outcome and goals?”
Whatever your goals are, getting in control of your finances will surely help you meet them. Get organized, get smart, and check out Beacon Financial Education’s website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.