Conversations with Innovators — Q&A with Brian Bollinger of Simply Safe Dividends
THE CONVERSATIONS WITH INNOVATORS BLOG DISCUSSES NEW INNOVATIONS, BIG IDEAS, DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES, AND THE THOUGHT LEADERS, INNOVATORS, REBELS, ENTREPRENEURS AND TRAILBLAZERS THAT MAKE ALL OF THIS POSSIBLE.
This week we are talking with Brian Bollinger, President of Simply Safe Dividends, a set of online tools designed to help generate retirement income from dividend stocks, while saving you the high fees associated with other financial products and advisors. Brian triple-majored in Finance, Accounting and Entrepreneurship at Indiana University. As a CPA who is a self-proclaimed “straight shooter,” Brian takes pride in offering balanced stock analysis without the gimmicks.
What led you to create Simply Safe Dividends? How is it different than the standard dividend investing newsletters on the market?
I voluntarily left my job as an equity research analyst at a multibillion-dollar investment firm to start Simply Safe Dividends because I am passionate about helping individual investors make better informed decisions, and my investment philosophy is very aligned with conservative dividend growth investing.
I wanted to create a service that is rooted in integrity and filled with balanced, objective information – none of the gimmicks and sensationalism that unfortunately characterize many of the online financial services in the market.
We are different because we genuinely care about empowering dividend investors to make their own decisions with their portfolios and reach their financial goals in a responsible manner. We have helped countless investors learn the ropes of investing and build durable retirement portfolios from scratch.
To make these outcomes possible, our service is much more focused on the tools and data available on our website rather than a monthly newsletter (which we also provide). Our website’s information helps dividend investors stay on top of their portfolio’s income generation, identify dividends that are most at risk of being cut, learn how to invest rather than be told exactly what to do, and more.
Can you tell us more about the “online tools” provided when you register with Simply Safe Dividends?
Simply Safe Dividends is a true one-stop shop for dividend investors, providing a suite of tools, research, and data. Our lineup of easy-to-use online tools includes a portfolio income tracker, dividend stock screener, dividend stock analyzer, and watch list.
We offer several proprietary metrics as well, including our Dividend Safety Scores, which help investors identify companies with the relatively safest or riskiest dividends in the market. Dividend Safety Scores help folks make better informed decisions to improve their chances of generating safe income from dividend stocks, especially for retirement.
We also provide a steady stream of research on dividend stocks, as well as a monthly newsletter with three model dividend portfolios that I actively manage.
I am a big believer in transparency, so all of our dividend portfolios and Dividend Safety Scores have real-time performance track records that investors can review.
Dividend investors appreciate that all of the website’s tools, data, and research were developed by a real equity research analyst and CPA – not a career journalist or financial writer.
How did you come up with your Dividend Safety Scores, which are “time-tested and found nowhere else”?
Prior to starting Simply Safe Dividends I worked as an equity research analyst, and I am also a Certified Public Accountant. I have analyzed more financial statements and companies than I would like to admit!
However, these experiences have helped me really understand the factors that make some companies’ cash flow and dividend payments riskier than others. Since generating a safe, growing stream of income is an investment goal shared by dividend investors, it made sense to use my financial knowledge to create an indicator that helps investors assess risk.
Investors can learn more about how Dividend Safety Scores are calculated and view their real-time track record here.
What would you tell potential customers and clients who are skeptical about your service?
Charlie Munger once commented about investing, "It’s not supposed to be easy. Anyone who finds it easy is stupid.”
The reality is there are no shortcuts in investing, and we help people sleep well at night and live a comfortable retirement the hard way – by educating them about what really matters to invest responsibly and helping them use our online tools, data, and research to give them the best shot at hitting their retirement goals.
Unlike many services, we depend completely on our members to stay in business. Our website contains no advertising, so we can only exist as long as our members think our service is worth paying for. No advertisements also mean we have no conflicts of interest to generate clicks and page views with fluffy research or sensationalistic headlines. Our focus is completely on delighting our customers.
We also offer a free trial with no credit card required and a 60-day money-back guarantee. There is literally no risk to trying Simply Safe Dividends, and I am a firm believer that folks should only pay for a service if it delivers meaningful, ongoing value. You can learn more about Simply Safe Dividends here.
You say most of your customers are not financial gurus. So, in layman’s terms, what is the financial philosophy behind generating retirement income?
Most folks looking to generate retirement income are conservative in nature. They want to preserve capital and responsibly generate safe income from dividend stocks to fund part or all of their retirement.
However, most of our clients are not former investment analysts or CPAs. They don’t have the time, knowledge, or desire to pick through a company’s 130-page annual report to understand how much debt it has or how its earnings have trended in recent years. But they only get one shot at managing their nest egg, so proceeding slowly and with caution is essential.
The best an investor can do is stick within his or her circle of competence (i.e. only purchase companies you understand very well), stay diversified (i.e. own between 20 and 60 stocks spread across different sectors), maintain realistic expectations (i.e. the market is very volatile with unpredictable short-term performance), and invest in line with one’s income needs and risk tolerance.
Resources such as Seeking Alpha, Dividend Safety Scores, and our dividend portfolio tracker can help retired investors make informed decisions and stay the course.
Does Simply Safe Dividends have any new innovations on the horizon?
We are working on several major initiatives. Our general focus is on better harnessing financial data to help investors enjoy a more personalized and comprehensive experience using our tools to safely manage their retirement portfolios. We hope to have some exciting news to share later this year.
What piece of advice would you give to an entrepreneur starting their own business?
Play the long game and don’t expect overnight success. Make sure you can fully commit to seeing your idea through with full-time effort for at least 18 to 24 months. Sustainable traction takes time, and I have not found any shortcuts.
Going into business for yourself can be very fulfilling, but is not all glamour and glory most days. Be prepared for plenty of rejection, periods of weak growth, self-doubt, and many trivial tasks that someone (you) has to do to keep the lights on.
What’s your “one thing” that most drives your professional success?
It sounds cliché because it is, but treating others the way you would like to be treated makes all the difference to me and is how we conduct ourselves at Simply Safe Dividends. Putting people first and actively seeking out ways to help them without expecting anything in return makes all the difference.
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