Jeffrey Stoffer

Jeffrey Stoffer CFA, CFP®

Jeffrey is a Financial Advisor. He helps clients achieve financial independence, build, manage, and preserve wealth and manage investments.

About Jeffrey

“20 years experience in the investment business, with the last 10 spent serving individuals' financial planning needs.”

Jeff Stoffer CFA, CFP® is the founder of Stoffer Wealth Advisors, a financial planning and investment advisory firm in Marin County. Jeff earned a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from UC Berkeley. He then put his long-standing interest in gourmet cooking on the front burner, becoming chef at the nationally renowned restaurant, Chez Panisse. Pursuing a parallel passion for finance and investments, Jeff received a Masters degree in Finance as well as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) accreditation. Jeff worked for eight years at several large firms in San Francisco doing investment research and portfolio management. Subsequently he became a Certified Financial Planner. With nearly 20 years in the investment business, Jeff now focuses all of his skills on helping individuals and families to achieve greater peace of mind about the future through financial planning.


BA, Anthropology, UC Berkeley
MBA, Finance, California State University




Firm CRD #146538

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a designation issued by the CFA Institute

Educational/Exam Requirements:

  • Completion of self-study program, generally requiring 250 hours of study for each of the three levels, focused on various investment management concepts
  • Three 6-hour course exams testing competency, integrity and extensive knowledge

Prerequisites/Experience Requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree (or higher) from an accredited college or university, and
  • Four years of qualified work experience

Public Disciplinary Process? Yes

Continuing Education Requirements: None

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a designation issued by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards

Educational/Exam Requirements:

  • Completion of CFP-board registered study program, or alternative degree or certification, demonstrating mastery of over 100 topics surrounding financial planning
  • Pass 10 hour exam testing knowledge in financial planning situations

Prerequisites/Experience Requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree (or higher) from an accredited college or university, and
  • Three years of full-time personal financial planning experience

Public Disciplinary Process? Yes

Continuing Education Requirements: 30 hours every two years

Typical Clients

Divorcing couples People near retirement Widows/widowers

How I Can Help

Personal Finance Retirement Investing

Fee Structure

Fee-only Commission and Fee Commission Hourly Other Contingency
Learn more about how advisors are paid in our Guide to Advisor Compensation.

Jeffrey In The News


Phone: (510) 447-1627 Address: 4040 Civic Center Drive, Ste. 200
San Rafael, CA 94903

Jeffrey has answered 14 questions

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Jeffrey Stoffer
Answer added by Jeffrey Stoffer | 8533 views
22 out of 26 found this helpful

Great question! Problem is one could practically write a book on the topic. I will distill my answer

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Great question! Problem is one could practically write a book on the topic. I will distill my answer down to two ideas for you. First is to decide upon your asset allocation, or the percentages you will invest in each major category of investments, e.g., stocks, bonds, cash (and in some cases real estate and alternatives.) Second, consider index (or "passive" management, as opposed to "actively" managed funds.) 

The asset allocation decision is the most important one you make because it reflects the risk you are taking (more stocks means greater risk) and how much your 401k is likely to grow over time. If you are younger, say less than 45 you can probably afford to hold more stock funds in the mix, say 80% or more. Next, and this is a big consideration, if you are uncomfortable seeing the value of your portfolio bounce all over the place and feel queasy when your account loses value, then you may wish to have a smaller percentage in stock funds. Keeping in mind you still need growth and therefore some stocks in your allocation.

Second, and more directly related to your question, picking funds can be a complex and bewildering process. I still have yet to understand why 401k participants are forced to select from 10 different large cap US stock funds. Why even offer that many? Plus, it takes a certain level of knowledge and interest to be able to select funds. You're being forced into making decisions regarding something you may have little knowledge of or interest in learning. Sorry, I can get a little peeved at some plans that offer you a lot of choice...but not offer enough of the right choices. But, I digress...

Yes, you should look at the expense ratios (fees charged by the managers of the funds) and pick those with lower expenses. This is a good practice as it generally means you are paying less to be invested. 

You are correct in not giving a great deal of credence to performance numbers. In fact I would take that a step further and suggest that passive or index funds are a better bet than actively managed funds (most of the "choices" you have are likely of the actively managed variety.) It is a "dirty little secret" of the mutual fund industry that most managers of active funds fail to meet or beat their benchmark. In the case of the large company or (large cap) US funds the benchmark is usually the S&P 500. So, why not own the index? If your plan offers index funds, I would recommend going with them. Much lower expense ratios, and you don't take a chance picking a manager that fails to beat the index (which will be most of them!) There are services out there that try to select good managers and funds, but it takes a lot of analysis and at the end of the day, it is difficult to distinguish skillful managers from those who are merely lucky. 

In sum, select the asset allocation that is best for you (the percentages in each major category of investments, stocks, bonds, etc.) Then stick with index funds (passive vs. actively managed) and go with low expense ratios when comparing two similar funds. If you want to take your process a step further I would suggest doing some research on 

Final thought: target date funds have become an "easy" choice, but they shouldn't be relied upon exclusively. They are a "one size fits all" sort of solution and do have their shortcomings. You might do some research on them on this site or on Morningstar. 

Jeffrey Stoffer
Answer added by Jeffrey Stoffer | 4308 views
18 out of 21 found this helpful

Two excellent questions. First of all, fees require some digging to find. If you are being charged a

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Two excellent questions. First of all, fees require some digging to find. If you are being charged a management fee to it should be apparent on your statement under the heading "Fees (and/or) Expenses." This is likely charged on a quarterly basis (and based on the value of your account times a certain percentage.) You would have signed an agreement for this arrangement. 

An alternative arrangement is that you may be charged for transactions that occur in your account, such as purchase and sale of investments, i.e., commissions. Commission charges should also be stated clearly on your statement where the buys and sells are located. There you will find the investment bought or sold, the number of shares, the date and commission. 

A "hidden" source of expense can be found if your holdings are mutual funds, annuities or life insurance investments. Some funds have a "load" which is a commission. This is money that goes to the broker/financial advisor that sold the investment to you, but is not paid directly by you. Say you bought $100 of Mutual Fund X with a 5% load. The amount of money you will have invested is $95, with the remaining $5 going to your broker. These are "hidden" because they don't show up on a statement and you have to go find them (or ask the advisor making the purchase for you.)

Another cost that is paid by you indirectly is the mutual funds' "expense ratio." This expense is paid to the mutual fund company as a cost of managing the fund. You never see this expense but it eats into the return you get from the investment. If a fund returned 5% last year but has an expense ratio of 1%, the return you see in your account is 4%. Both the load and expense ratio of a mutual fund can be found at Morningstar or Yahoo and Google Finance. 

Unfortunately if you have annuity or life insurance investments you have even more homework to find the expenses. They are less transparent and usually higher than mutual fund expenses...and thus why financial planners tend to be somewhat wary of the products. The info is in the fine print and you have to dig. Start by asking the person who sold you the investment, but the best way to get the full story is to look in the documentation.

I would ask your financial advisor to help you understand these fees and expenses because they can significantly lower your returns over a long period of time. I often see people paying meaningful fees and expenses yet receiving no advice...which rubs me the wrong way if you know what I mean.

The asset allocation question is difficult to answer succinctly because the "correct" one for you requires knowledge of your goals, when you want to retire, your income needs in retirement and your stomach and financial ability to assume risk. If you are paying a management fee (one based upon the value of your assets) your advisor should be helping you with this decision and be able to explain why you have the allocation that you do. 

To wrap up, you hit upon some key issues people have with their investment accounts and the advisors serving them. How is your advisor paid? What services are they providing? Are they providing the services you need? People who think they aren't paying anything are often mistaken. And if they are paying, are they getting the help they need? Sometimes the answer is to pay for good advice and help making decisions that are crucial to your future financial well being. Thanks for the good questions!

Jeffrey Stoffer
Answer added by Jeffrey Stoffer | 1185 views
6 out of 6 found this helpful

The FutureAdvisor site does a number of things reasonably well. It seems to make a complicated problem,

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The FutureAdvisor site does a number of things reasonably well. It seems to make a complicated problem, determining the "proper" asset allocation for you, simple to answer. It does assume that people know what their "risk tolerance" is. The shortcoming of the software is that it only handles one piece of your retirement plan. For those without much knowledge in the area of investments it may lead to a false sense of security. I'll elaborate on that later.

What the software appears to do well is make it easy to pick a risk profile, though it doesn't help you decide where you are along that continuum; too cold (conservative), too hot (aggressive) or just right (moderate.) Their algorithm creates a respectable asset allocation based upon the risk level selected. There is research to support the recommended allocation and investments. The portfolios look reasonable and could conceivably achieve their objectives...income, growth or something in between. 

I like that it provides a sense of how well the portfolio might perform under average and poor market conditions. Particularly cool is the analysis of fees you currently pay vs. the fees you would pay implementing their recommendations!  

In your instance, where the software recommends a higher equity allocation, it also requires you to assume more risk than you currently are. Is that appropriate? How do you know? The software doesn't help answer those types of questions. Looking at the graph comparing their recommended portfolio to your current one it is easy to be deceived. It appears their recommendation will "make you a bigger pile" of money. While that may be possible, taking more risk means that you may not hit your goal in the year you want to retire. Do you need to take that extra risk? Can you afford to? 

What the software provides is just one piece of a bigger, more complex puzzle. When can I afford to retire? What is my income goal? Will I run out of money? The software doesn't address these. The software financial planners use is so much more robust in allowing us to take life's complexities into account. You want to retire in 5 years, your wife in 7. You need a strategy to optimize Social Security. You may have other big ticket wants and needs to fund. What will your tax rates be? What will inflation be? The list goes on and on.

I conclude that these tools are good as educational devices. They may enable the "do-it-yourselfer" to do a reasonable job of asset allocation. But this simple tool may lead one to think they've got the investment thing "covered." In reality the retirement puzzle is complex and when you're within 5-10 years of retirement I hope you'll see fit to seek expert help. The questions you need to answer most cannot be answered using this software. The primary reason FutureAdvisor provides this tool is to get you to sign up for their manage your retirement contributions and rebalance your portfolio. And of course, to charge you a half of one percent to do that.

Bottom line: don't rely too much on free tools. The solution you get may be worth the price.  

Jeffrey Stoffer
Answer added by Jeffrey Stoffer | 255 views
5 out of 5 found this helpful

Whether your investments are in a retirement account or with an investment manager, it is extremely important

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Whether your investments are in a retirement account or with an investment manager, it is extremely important that you check up on them, both quarterly and annually.

Consistent reviews will help you answer key questions:

What is the value of your investments?

Do the investments still meet your objectives?

Is the fund or manager doing a satisfactory job?

Monitoring the total value of your investments quarterly alerts you to trends. No surprises! If you are caught off guard opening an envelope to discover that your accounts have lost 25% of their value, you may panic and sell at the worst possible time.

Investing is risky. Quarterly assessments let you ask yourself how you are feeling about the swings in value of your investments. If the ups and downs are giving you vertigo, maybe the mix of investments you have is too aggressive and needs adjusting.

The annual evaluation helps you look at your long-term goals in the context of performance – how are your investments doing, overall? Are they meeting your objectives?

Are you on track to reach retirement goals, such as accumulating a desired amount of assets? In an off year you may need to make adjustments, either by saving a little more or changing the investment mix. Does the current mix balance your need for growth with your tolerance for risk?

Although the annual performance evaluation of your funds or investment manager only provides a report card for a single year, it is a good idea to do it. It will help you stay in touch with the bigger picture. If an investment or investment manager is not delivering as expected over a number of years, you need to be aware of this and “keep score.” A “growth” mutual fund may do poorly in a strong stock market year. If it continues to perform differently from similar funds in the same category, this is cause for concern. If this fund continued to lag for three years, I would look for a replacement.

When evaluating an investment manager, you need to establish benchmarks of performance. The manager can provide guidelines for measuring his or her services to you, such as outperforming the S&P 500 or some other index. Other questions may be more meaningful. Are you making progress toward your investment goals, e.g., retirement savings? Are your investments growing faster than the rate of inflation? Is the market going up while your account is going down? An investment manager’s job is to provide answers to these questions. Establishing agreed upon benchmarks is key. Comparing these targets to the performance of your investments gives you a good sense of how the investment manager is doing.

If the ins and outs of tracking your investments seem too complex or beyond your interest level, hiring professional help may benefit you. But there is no substitute for paying attention!

Jeffrey Stoffer
Answer added by Jeffrey Stoffer | 1018 views
6 out of 7 found this helpful

Planning, prioritizing and persistence Planning Planning for the future can seem abstract, almost like fantasizing.

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Planning, prioritizing and persistence


Planning for the future can seem abstract, almost like fantasizing. Visualizing what retirement looks like for you is an important but often overlooked step. In addition to answering the questions, “When can I retire?” and, “Will I have enough money?” planning includes defining specific goals – what do you need and want in retirement? Make it real.

Tracking expenses is a must, both to understand your basic needs and to make sure your money is spent where it matters most. Balancing wants with available resources inevitably requires tradeoffs.


This is where prioritizing comes in. When you have established the importance of savings and understand the need for additional income (beyond Social Security) it becomes easier to make tradeoffs because you know what is most valuable and necessary for a more secure future. By prioritizing, you get in touch with your values. These are really your beacons when it comes to decisions about how to spend your money and allocate resources for retirement.

You could simply forego dining out a few times a month in order to save more for retirement. Or the tradeoff may involve a larger purchase – longterm care insurance – in lieu of that ski boat. It really depends on your values and clarifying the difference between wants and needs.


Persistence is where the rubber meets the road. Retirement is not a destination, but a process that depends on a commitment to living a financially sustainable life. That means spending less than you earn. The sooner you start, the better. But no matter when you start, it is vital that you do. People who haven’t started tend to ask, “What’s the use? I’ll have to work until I die.” Beginning with the basic steps will help to define your needs and allow you to direct your money in the ways that matter. Remember that even small changes can make a world of difference. Persistence pays off.

Planning identifies your needs and values. You create a compelling vision of what retirement might be like, one that motivates you to bring it to fruition. By tracking spending, you prioritize putting your money where it matters most. Aligning your spending with your values is as close as you get to money “buying happiness.”

Persistence keeps you on task. You periodically monitor your progress and make adjustments while continuing to live within your means. Small adjustments can have a profound impact on your future. Take these actions and keep at it. Result: retirement success!


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