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"My fund to help the elderly gives me tax advantages and comfort.” - Nicole Francis

Nicole Francis, a Certified Financial Planner at the Hudson Advisory Group, lives in Brooklyn. Photo by Ari Mintz for The Trust
A Financial Advisor Story

Following My Own Advice

By Nicole Francis

I’ve come a long way. After all, I’m a recovering “Annie orphan.”

I grew up with no money, no stability. Maybe that’s why I enthusiastically recommend The New York Community Trust to my clients. And why I’m entrusting my own philanthropic money to The Trust. It’s stable, smart, and strategic.

A bit about my past: My two sisters and I spent our first years in California, but show business beckoned. When I was in fifth grade, we joined a touring company of “Annie,” playing orphans and singing and dancing across the country. In one 18-month period, we lived in a dozen cities.

It was an amazing childhood, but when it came to finances, our theme song should have been “It’s the Hard Knock Life.” My Social Security record shows I earned $40,000 when I was 12—but my parents, though incredibly well intentioned, were inexperienced investors, like so many others. With the money my sisters and I earned, they bought two condos in California, but at the wrong time. We lost them a few years later.

I’d always been interested in finance—my dad loved newspapers, and I’d filch the stock pages. At 17, I dropped out of high school in Utah, lured by New York. I got a job in sales at a mutual fund company, and then as a financial advisor at a bank, where I had 900 clients, and no time to give them personal attention.

By the time I started my own company, 10 years ago, I was looking for the right place for my own charity as well as for my clients’ giving. That’s when attorney Judith Turkel, an expert in family law, told me about The Trust.

My clients like to give back to New York now and in their wills. But many don’t think carefully at first. They want to give to nonprofits, unaware that a dynamic director might leave, or the mission might change.

Or worse: One client, a former opera singer, planned to leave her money to a small opera company in the City, but it went belly-up. She then chose a well-known opera company, but it “suspended operations.”

I told her it’s better to work with The Trust and have a responsible steward. So she started a fund to help opera productions and fledgling singers—every year, the Trust finds the best fit. Her passions will live on.

Another client wanted to help gay and lesbian youth, but was wary about management changes in a group he supports. So he’s leaving his estate to The Trust, with instructions that every year, money should go to nonprofits that help these young people.

In my case, I live frugally. When I’m gone, my remaining savings will go to a fund in The Trust to be used to help poor, elderly residents in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where I live. Of course, things change in this City, and Flatbush is gentrifying. That’s why my instructions include a backup plan: Someday, if there are no poor elderly in this neighborhood, The Trust should help them elsewhere in Brooklyn.

The fund I set up gives me tax advantages, as well as comfort. I know my money, which I worked hard to earn, will be administered expertly and efficiently—in perpetuity. I’m lucky to be in a position to have The Trust help me give a boost to those with hard-knock lives. For an Annie orphan, that’s the perfect legacy.

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