The Importance of "Suitability"

Each year the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) Rule 3a-4 requires SEM to request certain financial information from any client accounts we manage. In previous years SEM has mailed a 1 page form for clients to complete, sign, and return. This information is important for the management of your account, and we request clients to contact their financial advisor within 90 days if there are any changes to their financial situation.

This year we are asking clients to complete the information online through our website. Your responses will be shared with your financial advisor and reviewed to ensure the investments match the financial profile. To do this clients can go to or click on the “Take Our Risk Questionnaire” at

If we do not receive a completed questionnaire by 12/10/2020 we will assume your information on file is current.

Creating a Customized Solution

Every investor has a unique set of circumstances that makes it difficult to find a pre-packed solution. SEM offers a wide range of investment models that are designed to be risk efficient for a broad range of investors.  The key to long-term investment success is allocating your assets to the portfolio that best suits YOUR individual needs.

Step 1: Determine Your Time Horizon

Investing involves risk.  Risk is essentially the volatility of returns during the time it is invested.  While over the long-run an investment may have superior returns, over short periods of time the returns may be negative.  The shorter the time horizon, the less risk a portfolio should have.  Keep in mind different portfolios may have different time horizons based on the purpose of the funds.  For investors taking income from their portfolio, separating the income portion into its own portfolio is a popular strategy.

Step 2: Determine Your Risk Tolerance

Risk tolerance is generally thought of how much risk an investor is WILLING to take.  This is certainly an important determinant, but it is typically driven by EMOTIONS.  Often investor feelings toward risk fluctuate with the direction of the market.  The more important determinant is the ABILITY to take risk.   The ability to take risk is determined by data, not emotions.  While time horizon is one portion of a portfolio’s ability to take on risk, other determinants are based on the individual situation.

There are numerous questionnaires, including SEM’s, available to determine the WILLINGNESS to take risk.  Your advisor can look at your overall situation to help you determine your ABILITY.  Like Time Horizon, portfolios can be separated into different portions based on the purpose and objectives for that money.

Step 3: Understand Your Personality

Too often our industry places clients in portfolios using a pre-determined model based on age. Our behavioral approach understands that even if you have time on your side and the ABILITY to take on risk, if you are invested in a portfolio that does not fit your overall investment personality there will be times where you are not comfortable. Typically when we are not comfortable we are more likely to make an emotional decision.

Step 4: Determine Your Customized Portfolio Blend

SEM’s Risk Questionnaire generates a blend that matches your time horizon, risk tolerance, and personality. It is designed to be a starting point with additional adjustments to be made to make the portfolio fit into the overall financial plan. You may already be in an optimized, custom blend of SEM models, but when you submit your questionnaire results SEM will send them to your advisor to review your portfolio and how it compares to your results. Upon review your advisor may work with SEM and possibly recommend a change to your investment allocations.

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New Kent, VA
Jeff joined SEM in October 1998. Outside of SEM, Jeff is part of the worship team at LifePointe Christian Church where he plays the keyboard and bass guitar. He also coaches a club soccer team.