Marie Stark, CPA has been named a partner for Forum Financial Management, the Wealth Advisor Alliance’s parent company. Marie joined Forum as a financial advisor in 2016. The promotion to equity partner recognizes her contributions and the continued growth of her Cohoes, New York-based wealth management practice.

Marie is the second advisor to move up internally from the Forum advisory team in the past five years, following Karma Forrestal who became a partner in 2016. Female partners now represent 31% of the Forum partner group, twice the average for firm ownership by women in the wealth management industry.

As one of the founders of Stark & Basila Certified Public Accountants, P.C., Marie has assisted accounting clients for more than 30 years from her offices in Cohoes, New York. Redefining the meaning of family office, she works with her husband and daughter at Forum, where both serve as financial advisors, and in the accounting practice.

In the following Q&A, Marie looks back on her professional journey and discusses the next phase of her career.

Q&A With Marie Stark

Why did you become a financial advisor?

I started my career as a CPA with a small firm in Cohoes. For years, we advised our clients on ways to develop and manage financial plans that addressed their goals while maintaining tax efficiency. The problem was that we were not the ones implementing the plans. We made the decision in 1999 to add financial services to our accounting practice. I believe this was the single best decision we have made in the life of the firm.

Why did you make the decision to join the Forum partner group?

When I joined Forum as an advisor in October 2016, I was familiar with some of the original partners and their investment philosophy through my affiliation with Terra Securities. What drew me to Forum, and ultimately fueled my desire to join the partner group, was Forum’s commitment to remain an advisor-owned firm. This business model ensures that each decision is made with clients’ best interests in mind.

How do you approach tax season?

When most people think of tax season, they only see an extremely busy time when countless tax returns are produced, almost as if returns were a commodity. We look forward to the spring because it is another opportunity to catch up with clients and reconfirm what is most important to them. There is also the possibility of discovering something completely unrelated to taxes — to chat about the newest addition to their family, an upcoming job change or the chance to assuage their fears about a difficult decision.

When you meet with prospects who are staunch DIY investors, how do you explain the benefits of working with a financial professional? 

It is common for people to compartmentalize professional services. I find it works well to first address what they want to happen with their wealth and who they want to benefit and then discuss proper tax planning to preserve what they have accumulated. A financial professional is there to help them develop a comprehensive financial plan that includes retirement planning, estate planning, education planning and tax planning. Because the strength of their plan relies on all these components working together (and is difficult to execute and maintain without this synergy), they should not overlook the benefits of working with a financial advisor who can provide a higher level of service.

Is there one question that more investors should be asking their financial advisor?

I think it is important to ask this question: “What does our relationship mean to you?” They should know whether they are more than just a number to their advisor. To be successful, a financial advisor needs to get to know their clients and build rapport and trust. The answer they receive can help them understand if their financial advisor is interested in spending the time to develop rapport and if the relationship is a good fit.

We help advisors establish and grow successful wealth management practices. To learn more about how we can help you amplify your life’s work, contact us at You can follow us on Twitter@theWAAlliance and on LinkedIn.

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