Sheldon “Shelly” Altman, BSME, MBA, CIMA®, is Chairman and Co-Founder of Altman Advisors. Raised on the west side of Chicago, he is the son of immigrants who married an immigrant, all of whom came to America because it is the land of opportunity. In a telling lesson from their past, his parents insisted he get an education because “they can’t take that away from you.” He remembers asking his future father-in-law why he emigrated from Cuba to the USA and getting an answer in a combination of Spanish and Yiddish: “Esta loco? Ich bin frei.” (Are you crazy? I am free.)
Inspired by that ethos, Shelly became enamored with the economic theory of Milton Friedman, author of Capitalism and Freedom, who argued that economic freedom was fundamental to political freedom. He followed his hero to the University of Chicago, where he listened to lectures by Friedman and earned his MBA in Finance in 1966. Shelly sums up his life’s work by saying he helps people put their kids through college and retire. In that way, he continues his parents’ commitments to education, freedom, and the pursuit of the American Dream.
Shelly began his career in finance working during 1971 with AG Becker in the “Funds Evaluation Department,” a predecessor to investment research services like Morningstar. In that capacity, he introduced institutions to the measurement of risk and performance, a method that largely emerged from work at his alma mater, the University of Chicago, and is still in practice today. That led to work on the trading floor of the Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE), where he prepared to introduce options to clients of the firm. He was part of a team that programmed the early “Black-Scholes” option pricing program onto a 20-pound “portable” computer, which he carried around the country showing portfolio managers how call writing could be used to hedge their returns.
Shelly then joined the multinational Oppenheimer & Co. financial services company, where he was a broker, earning a commission for securities he bought and sold for clients. In 1990 he became one of the earliest adopters of fee-based money management, eliminating the potential conflict of interest between his bottom line as a broker and that of his clients by putting them both on the same side of the table. He left Oppenheimer after achieving a Managing Director position. He then joined UBS in 1992, where he honed his craft as a fiduciary money manager and investment advisor until 2016, when he co-founded the independent registered investment advisory, Altman Advisors, with his son and protégé, Benjamin Altman, CFP®, in 2016.
Over the course of his career, Shelly has taken risks, failed, succeeded, traveled the world, studied languages and history as well as economics, and helped hundreds of families pursue their version of the American Dream—working hard, prospering from it, and bequeathing the benefits to their progeny. He takes the most pride and satisfaction in his 57-year marriage to his wife, Gela, their two sons, Ari and Benjamin, and four grandchildren, Shira, Aviva, Eli, and Emanuel.