We help our clients make decisions to answer the following financial planning questions...

When can I retire?
We think a better question is “When do you want to be able to retire?” Retirement is very personalized: You have your own unique view of how to live out your life and our focus is to help you find the best way to realize that vision.. When interest rates were higher, many advisors suggested that you could draw income for 30 years if you on draw 5% or 6% of your portfolio each year, but with low rates and longer life expectancies, some studies have made the argument that even a 4% withdrawal rate may be too high for some.

Many retirees underestimate their expenses in retirement. Healthcare, travel, charity, family are priorities that have been important to you during your income-earning years, and they are likely even more important as you begin your retirement. We feel it is important to gain complete confidence and clarity over your current and future expenses so that you can dramatically increase your chances of a successful retirement.

Am I maximizing tax strategies?

Most of our clients work with a qualified CPA to help them with their tax planning and filing.  We do not prepare tax returns or file taxes for our clients and we have several relationships with quality CPA firms that we regularly introduce our clients to as needed.  However, we are extensively familiar with the tax code and many tax strategies, and often educate our clients in these areas. For many clients, we arrange a 5-10 minute “huddle” conference call with their CPAs once or twice per year.  Often times more extensive planning is needed and we host meetings with your CPA and attorney. For clients who file taxes themselves, we suggest strategies and help them determine the most effective way to manage IRA contributions and withdrawals, charitable gifts, and other strategies.

Regardless of how simple or complex the tax situation is, we find that many of our clients benefit by taking a proactive approach with their planning, and we walk alongside them to make decisions that will have benefits now and into the future.

Am I saving enough?

The short answer to this question is “Probably not!”  A rule of thumb for many people is to save 15% of income.  This may or may not be realistic for you. However, in our experience we have found that many clients are capable of saving much more than they have in the past.  We help our clients set goals and structure their cash flow in a way that you “pay yourself first” by setting up automatic transfers and deposits. It is important to know if you are on-track to meet your financial goals.  Once you have clarity in this area, you can adjust your planning as needed and set realistic expectations.

How do I organize and simplify my financial life?

Good question!  Years ago life was so much simpler.  Now you have way more “stuff” and so much more responsibility.  For many people, this complexity leads to more anxiety. This does not need to be the case.  We have found that (in many areas of life!) taking time on the front-end to organize, prioritize, and quantify leads to less stress and more confidence.  One question to consider: If your financial life is so complicated that you are stressed out, then imagine how your loved ones will feel if you are not longer here?  The people you love depend on you, and we feel it is important to gain complete clarity for your peace of mind, as well as for the ones you love.

Many tools are available to help you organize and simplify your financial life.  We lay out a clear path and provide encouragement and accountability to help you use these tools effectively.

How do I maximize Social Security benefits?

Much has changed with Social Security over the years.  Long ago, benefits were not subject to taxation. Now, most benefits are subject to taxation at varying levels, based on a formula that many people do not understand.  If you are married, widowed, or divorced then you may be entitled to spousal benefits.

When should you claim benefits?  How will this decision affect your spouse? These are both great questions.  While the “file and suspend” strategy is no longer available, many people are still eligible to file for restricted spousal benefits.

The cash flow that Social Security will provide is a significant retirement asset, and we feel that this asset should be managed with the same level of care as your 401(k), IRA, and other assets.

When and how should I take my pension?

Lucky you!  If you have a pension available to you, then you are in the fortunate minority.  Your decisions when and how to take your pension can have a dramatic effect on your retirement outlook, so this great care should be taken to choose wisely.  If you are married then you may take a reduced option for survivor benefits. Many pensions do not require that you take the income when you retire, which allows you to defer this income stream until later and receive a higher amount.  Deferring this income can open up a tax-planning window that will allow you to draw down some of your other assets at a minimal tax rate.

Each situation is unique and you have worked too hard to earn the pension to take the decision lightly.  

Am I taking too much risk?

Historically, financial markets have rewarded investors who stay diversified, buy and hold a broad basket of stocks, and stay focused on long-term results.  The risk in your portfolio should be directly tied with your time horizon, or when you need the money. If you will need the entire principal in the next 6-12 months, do not put any of it in the stock market!  However, if this is money that you will not need for 5 years or longer, than you should probably invest some of it in stocks. Also, with interest rates at historically low levels, many fixed income investors have “reached” for yield and have too much exposure to high-yield junk bonds.  Many junk bonds carry the same amount of risk as stocks, but have a lower expected return.

We have seen that many younger investors are not taking enough risk in their portfolios given their time frame until retirement.

Am I not taking enough risk?

This question comes up a lot, as investors need to balance the need to grow their assets with the need to generate income from them.  We have seen low inflation for many years now, and many think that we will see higher inflation down the road. The right portfolio for you is one that will provide you with the income you need in retirement, and be structured in a way that will likely increase the amount of income you receive over time. The key is to find the right balance in an allocation that will allow you to sleep at night.

How much am I paying for my current investments?

We find that very few investors know how much they are paying to own their current portfolio, and how much their advisor is compensated.  This needs to change, and it is changing slowly. Often, investment fees are not transparent and not clearly understood by investors.

Advisory fees, which are fees paid to advisors for portfolio management and planning, are the most transparent.  Most commonly, they are deducted from your account balance and they very clearly labeled in the transaction history and in quarterly statements.

Fund fees are typically deducted at the fund level and are deducted to construct, administer, and sometimes market mutual funds or ETFs.  These fees are “priced-in,” meaning you do not see them deducted from your account balance. The best way to determine your fund fees are to search for the ticker symbol in sites such as Morningstar or Google Finance.  Often times, the funds with higher fees also have poor performance.

If you have a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan, then plan administrative fees may also be deducted from your account automatically. These fees may or may not be transparent, depending on the plan. Typically larger plans have lower plan administrative fees, due to economies of scale.

If you own an annuity, you may also be paying more layers of fees.  Mortality and Expense (M&E fees) are fees investors pay to the issuing insurance company to administer the contract.  These fees are usually not clear and you need to review a prospectus to determine them. Many annuities have “rider” fees, which are fees investors pay for a certain benefits, such as lifetime income.

Investors deserve to know how much they are paying for advice so that they can determine if they are receiving value. For a quick fee analysis, please click here.

Do I have enough life insurance?

The people you love depend on you to answer this question.  While there are several rules of thumb out there, such as 12 times income, this can be determined after a proper needs analysis.  If your spouse has a career, then you may need less life insurance than someone whose spouse is a homemaker. Some people feel that they should have enough life insurance to cover all of their debt.  This amount of coverage may be a good starting point, but we feel that for many this amount of coverage may not be enough. We encourage our clients to estimate income needs for survivors to determine the amount needed. Projected future expenses, such as college education, should also be addressed.

For the overwhelming majority of our clients, an inexpensive term life policy is the ideal solutions.  However in some cases, such as for estate or charitable planning, some form of permanent life insurance may be appropriate.

What about long-term care?

The answer to this question has changed over the years.  Long-term care insurance is not for everyone, and a great deal of uncertainty still surrounds these policies.  In recent years, insurance companies have introduced combination life/LTC policies, which can fill a need for some of our clients.  Regardless of whether or not you purchase LTC insurance, we feel that everyone needs to dicsuss how best to plan for their future care.

When and how should I help my children/grandchildren?

This question may be one of the most difficult to answer, because family relationships are complex and can come with a lot of expectations or emotions.  Your family depends on you, and you want to support their needs without enabling them. You may also want them to explore opportunities that were not available to you.  

In the end, the right answer will only come once you have frank and honest discussions with your advisor, and your loved ones.  We will ask open-ended questions to help you determine the right way to help.

One of our favorite quotes on this topic is by Warren Buffet who said he wanted to leave his children “enough money so they would feel they can do anything but not so much that they could do nothing.”

Does my current financial advisor care?

The people you love depend on you to get these answers right, and you deserve an advisor who cares enough to make decisions with you, not for you.  

If you have ever experienced a time of uncertainty with your physical health, you may have come to realize that even the most qualified and competent medical professionals don’t have all of the answers you need.  The best physicians take the time to get to know you, run tests, interpret the results for you, and give you a plan to increase your chances of improving your health.

The best wealth advisors respect you enough to listen, take the time to get to know you, and have thoughtful conversations to determine the very best decisions for you and your family.

Money is complicated, and for many people this makes them uncertain. We listen to them and have a process for helping them to make wise decisions.

As a result, our clients become more confident, knowing that they are doing everything possible to live the kind of life they want.

If you own a business, you face opportunities and challenges that are unique and require careful planning. We can help, and we understand because we own a business too. You may be asking...

How am I going to sell my business when I am ready, or pass it to the next generation?

When you first started your business, you were solely focused on serving your customers and building up your employees. This care and attention has rewarded you with a thriving business, great customers, and loyal co-workers. Now that you have achieved success, you need to focus on the next leg or your journey.

All too many business owners spend so much time “in” the business that they do not focus “on” the business. This is a critical mistake and directly affects the value of your business when you look to transition to retirement. Whether you are 40 or 60, your family and employees depend on you to make the best financial decisions for your company. We will help you make the important decisions to increase your chances of success.

Is our company retirement plan good? Is it in compliance?

The 401(k) landscape has changed greatly over the years. We have found that many older 401(k) plans are not efficient, have limited investment options, and higher fees. Still others are out of compliance and expose the business owner to regulatory risk.

Are you investing as much as you would like into you plan?  Do your employees appreciate and take advantage of this benefit? How much are you and your employees paying for the plan. You should know the answers to these questions. We know you are busy with your business, so we help you find the answers without taking up a lot of your time.

How do I ensure my key employees stick around?

You have dedicated so much time and energy to build up your best people. The best companies are able to keep their best people. As the owner, you need to provide them with an environment that will fulfill them and give them purpose. You also need to provide them with the right benefits package that will encourage them to stick around when times get rough. Only an honest discussion with an advisor who puts your interest first will lead to the best outcome.

To have the type of discussion where we make these decisions with you, not for you, please contact us to schedule a meeting.

Most people do not understand how challenging it is to run a business. We help you keep your promises to your employees, customers, and your family. We are business owners also, and we always have time to meet another business owner.

We believe financial planning does not have to be complicated. Financial plans should make sense to you, and the fees you pay should be clear and appropriate. That’s why we have a comprehensive process to identify both opportunities and challenges to create a financial plan with you.

Schedule a 15-minute call or web meeting today so you can stop worrying about what you are missing, and take the first step to a confident retirement.