Not everyone would say that's a virtue. Some think Starbucks' coffee is too strong and that the company charges too much for it. There are those who would say the same about Edelman. But while he'll always have his detractors, few can deny his success.

"He's an outspoken guy," says Goldberg. "He's on the radio. The sum total of hours he's been on the airwaves making public comments, I don't know if everything he says is right or wrong or boneheaded, but I'm sure if you want to find something wrong, you can."

And people do. On New Year's weekend, a caller into Edelman's radio show blasted him for saying postal workers shouldn't ask for tips. Edelman had taken his mail carrier to task for putting an envelope in his mailbox during the holidays, despite the fact that mailmen earn an average salary of $52,000, Edelman says. "This guy is asking me for a tip for doing his job," he says.

In response, a woman left him two voice mails saying she and her husband, who is an attorney, had been listening to Edelman's show and they thought his annoyance at his mailman was over the top, and that he needs psychiatric help to manage his anger. She then left a second message saying she was a psychologist, that she and three other people had been listening to the show-and that two out of the four of them were lawyers-and they thought it was highly unprofessional that Edelman would spend so much time talking about how annoyed he was with his mailman. She again suggested he get help.

"My favorite line is, 'My husband is an attorney,'" Edelman says.

After listening to the second voice mail, Edelman gave his response. He pressed a button in the studio and on came the Beatles song: "Help. I need somebody. Help. Not just anybody. Help. You know I need someone. H-e-e-e-l-p." And with that, he fended off yet another naysayer trying to rain on his parade.

Sidebar: Leapfrogging Wall Street
Twenty-five years ago Ric Edelman was a struggling young financial advisor and George Ball was CEO of Wall Street giant Prudential-Bache Securities. In what is a sign of the changing balance of power in financial services from Wall Street to the independent space, Edelman will succeed Ball as CEO of The Edelman Financial Group next month. Ball plans to remain chairman for a few years.


If the golden rule in real estate investing is location, location, location, the secret to Ric Edelman's success could probably be summed up in three words: education, education, education. The independent advisor says he was able to build a firm from nothing in 1986 into a virtual empire today, with 73 advisors, 16,200 clients and $7.3 billion in assets under management, by teaching people, in every possible medium, how to manage their finances.

He started off with college planning seminars for elementary school PTAs, but broadened his scope and audience by doing seminars on all kinds of financial planning topics. He began writing a newsletter and soon began appearing on the radio and television. He then wrote a book, and then another six. "By giving our knowledge away for free, we were hopeful that some listeners, viewers, readers or attendees would contact us with interest in hiring us," Edelman says. (In a video interview last month, Edelman discussed how investors have changed over the last two decades. See /ricedelman.)

Many consultants say the advisory business has limited scalability potential. "I proved that wrong with 16,000 clients," Edelman says.

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