When I established my holistic financial planning firm in 2000, I was advised by colleagues to avoid using the word “holistic” to describe Entrust Financial’s services. “It sounds too new age,” they said, “Like you are reading taro cards or something. It just doesn’t sound like you are offering rigorous financial and investment advice.”
I admit I was puzzled by the strong negative reaction to the word holistic because to me, offering financial advice using a holistic process was the natural outcome of observing what clients needed to be successful. For example, early in my career I was referred a couple, Emily and Dan, who reported they wanted to meet because they were “hemorrhaging money.” To them, this meant that although they inherited a substantial portfolio a couple of years before, they had already dissipated about $2 million dollars of it.
How could this be? Two things stood out when we completed our discovery meeting. First, the allocation of their inherited portfolio was not structured to generate the income they were taking or to minimize taxes. Second, Emily and Dan had inadvertently overlooked the need to plan for their family’s financial concerns that went beyond investing. These concerns proved not only expensive but extensive as well, including things such as: promised payment of expensive college tuitions for four children, long-term care expenses for a parent, and private, unreimbursed therapist expenses for their children, to name a few. Not surprisingly, the money hemorrhaging continued until we were able to reallocate their portfolio with a tax-sensitive income objective and to address their family’s other financial concerns.
Let us return to the term holistic for a moment. It is an adjective that means to comprehend the parts of something as intimately interconnected and understandable only by reference to the whole¹. Emily and Dan were faced with a dissipated portfolio because they had failed to look at the interconnection between the asset allocation of their inherited portfolio, their family’s financial concerns that went beyond investing, the inevitable tax consequences, and their current need for income. Fortunately, Entrust’s commitment to using a holistic process provided the structure they needed to turn things around and re-position their personal finances for long-term success.
Today, unlike in 2000, Entrust can use the word holistic with confidence, knowing the term is a positive indicator of the extra layer of care we provide to clients. In fact, when Mckenzie and I made the decision to reorganize Entrust Financial as an independent fee-based firm in 2015, we chose the descriptor: Partners in Holistic Wealth Management.
Our years of experience have continued to teach us that ensuring financial security and independence for clients is a holistic endeavor requiring more than astute investment planning. We have positioned ourselves as the financial quarterback, meaning we see the big picture, coordinate related professionals, deploy resources and respond with appropriate strategies within the context of life transitions and unexpected events. The job of our Entrust team is to be each client’s financial partner, the fundamental multi-faceted resource they can count on, no matter what.
Surprisingly, despite the benefit to clients of the extra layer of care offered when a holistic process is utilized, fewer than seven percent of financial advisors have adopted this service-delivery model. Rather, the financial services landscape has remained virtually unchanged over the past twenty years, with the vast majority of advisors trying hard to sell investment products, instead of addressing investors’ complex financial needs.
Whether you are preserving your affluence or are in the process of building your wealth, Gloria Steinem’s wry observation sums up the need for using a holistic approach: “Rich people plan for three generations; poor people plan for Saturday night.” Planning your personal finances for long-term success is not about a product sale. It is about achieving a holistic balance as you address your complex financial needs.
You can instill a sense of gratitude and generosity in even the youngest children by teaching them to share with others, beyond the immediate family. For instance, a great place to start is to encourage your kids to volunteer their time or share a portion of their allowance with the causes they love.
Strategies for transforming your children into young philanthropists include:
Discover what sparks their interest
Create a family tradition
Establish a donor-advised fund
Discover what sparks their interest
You can easily discover children’s interests by having a conversation, or better yet, by holding a family meeting. Facilitate the participation of each family member regarding their special interests. Identify what captures the heart of each child; then select charities that fulfill his or her passion.
For example, if your child likes pets, that might generate interest in a local animal rescue group. Once the organization is selected, look for opportunities to support them by donating time or money. As an added incentive you might agree to match the donations your child gives.
Create a family tradition
Celebrate a holiday, anniversary, or other event as a family by giving back to those in need. Not only will your children learn the importance of volunteering and generosity, they will also look forward to this traditional family endeavor every year. For example, participate in a family-friendly one-mile or 5K walk that benefits a cause important to your family. Or enjoy beautiful spring or summer days by volunteering for a park cleanup project or a local community building project. These shared experiences provide valuable lessons about the impact of giving back to the community.
Establish a donor-advised fund
A great charitable tool you should consider is a donor-advised fund. Many families establish a donor-advised fund because it’s flexible and a great tool to teach their children about giving, saving, and investing. When you and your family donate to your fund, you may be eligible for an immediate tax deduction.
Family members meet regularly to review their contributions, their investment strategy, and the value of their donor-advised fund. They make decisions about when to grant money and to what organizations. Some families set savings goals; they wait for the fund to reach a certain value prior to dividing funds among their favorite charities. Because grants are made only to qualified charities, an added benefit is that investment appreciation has the potential to grow tax-free.
Givers for life
By teaching lessons in gratitude and generosity early on, you can set your kids up for a lifetime of giving back to those in need, to their local communities, and to cherished causes. If you would like to discuss specific strategies for incorporating charitable giving into your family planning, contact us today or take a look at the BalancingActBook.com Charitable Planning Map.
Entrust’s November video, intended to help you make good financial choices, focuses on: How can you get your children excited about giving back? It all starts with family meetings about the family finances, followed by conversations with children about sharing some of their money, and for many families expands into funding a donor-advised fund as a component of the family’s charitable giving road-map.
NewsWorthy, Entrust’s monthly video intended to help you make good financial choices, focuses today on: What do you need to consider when hiring a financial advisor?
To get your thinking started, consider whether you want to work with an advisor who focuses on investment products and pretty much stops there, or whether you prefer to work with an advisor who partners with you to help you make good financial decisions in all aspects of your life. You can usually tell the advisor’s focus before the first meeting, based upon the documents you are asked to bring with you.
You may be asked to bring only investment statements. On the other hand, if you are asked to bring all documents relating to your financial life (investment statements, tax returns, legal docs, insurance policies, and so forth), that is a sign that the advisor’s approach is to get a good understanding of your financial concerns that go beyond investing, too.
Another key consideration is communication. For instance, when you first meet with the advisor, how do you feel? Does it seem that the meeting is primarily designed to tell you about their firm and their products? Or do you feel like the first meeting is structured for the advisor to listen to you, to better understand you–your style of living, values, goals and needs? You should walk away from the meeting feeling like the advisor truly understands you, and is genuinely concerned about all aspects of your financial well being. In other words, the advisor has a strong commitment to partnering with you using a holistic approach.
Sherri contacted us because she was concerned that she was not getting the best financial advice. She was retired and using her nest egg for income; she wanted to make sure that her investments were doing okay because she was always worried about running out of money.
Our meeting began with my gaining a good understanding of where she was today and what she was trying to accomplish. I then asked what questions she had brought with her to our meeting. She responded, “I’m sure I should already know all this, but,” and then asked me a couple of questions. I could tell that she felt tense and uncertain what questions to ask.
Asking the right questions can make all the difference in an investor’s comfort and confidence regarding the choices they make about their money, especially because there are many different types of financial advisors out there–often claiming to provide identical services. Following are key questions to ask, when you evaluate a financial advisor. I shared them with Sherri:
1. Are you a fiduciary?
Working with an advisor who is a fiduciary is an important first step to ensuring that the advice you receive will be in your best interests. As a fiduciary, an advisor has an ethical commitment to put the client’s interests before his or her own. In other words, the advisor is client-centric, not product-focused. The advisor must also disclose how he or she is compensated, as well as any conflicts of interest that might arise in the working relationship. Financial advisors who have earned their CFP® certification are held to this highest standard in the financial services industry.
2. Do you work with a team?
Many advisors practice on their own, perhaps with support staff. However, some firms choose a team structure, because they value having team members representing a variety of expertise, ensuring rich collaboration for providing clients with a holistic experience. Just as important, a team also serves as a succession plan, so you can be confident that your needs will be met even if the unexpected occurs.
3. What services do you offer?
All financial advisors offer slightly (and sometimes significantly) different services to their clients. It is important to know exactly what services an advisor will provide and to make sure they are aligned with your values and needs. For example, for most advisors managing investments is the end-game. At Entrust Financial, we start with astute investment management. But that is only the beginning because we know that to help clients make good financial choices in all aspects of their lives, we also need to address their financial concerns that go beyond investing.
4. What will our relationship look like after I become a client?
You want to understand that the investment philosophy and asset allocation approach of the firm is disciplined, deliberate and articulated in advance so emotional decisions may be avoided during times of heightened market volatility. You also want to know how the firm will communicate with you. For instance, at Entrust Financial, we schedule regular progress meetings to fit each client’s needs and preferences, as well as communicating current events perspective by email to inform clients about the economic and capital markets climate.
With these questions in hand, Sherri finally began to relax and enjoy our conversation. The answers I was able to provide gave her a new level of comfort because she had a framework for making her decision about how to hire a financial advisor, to help her move past her fear of running out of money.
What do you want in a financial advisor? Asking these questions provides a first step in evaluating your financial advisory relationship. Reach out to us today with other questions that come to mind. We welcome the opportunity to start a conversation.
An unprecedented news flash of earlier this year read: Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation¹. No wonder parents routinely ask us what advice we have for their millennial offspring–especially their daughters. Well, we have some suggestions and discovered in writing them down that they apply to a larger audience than just Millennial women. So read on!
Affluent Millennial women and those in the process of growing their wealth are known for being highly ambitious, educated, and dedicated. They have redefined what success is and they work hard for their assets. As women of increasing wealth, what do they need to know about taking care of their money?
First and foremost, affluent millennial women need to take charge of their money. Whether they earned it, inherited it, or received a substantial divorce settlement, the decision to take responsibility is paramount. Sound a bit intense? There is a good reason for the passion behind this statement.
As a woman Certified Financial Planner™ professional for the past fifteen years, the number one mistake I have seen women make is to deflect financial decision-making responsibility to a man in their life–whether their father, another male family member, or–often the most damaging of all–to their love interest. No matter how gorgeous, sexy, charming, or authoritative, I can pretty much guarantee that the spouse or life partner in your life will not do a better job managing your money than you will.
Time and again I have witnessed that special person in her life dissipate, spend in ways not aligned with her values, and often just plain take her wealth while she stands on the sidelines wanting affection and rationalizing she doesn’t know enough to make her own choices. Remember, such rationalizations are past thinking. Happily, we are in the twenty-first century and you, as a powerful force to be reckoned with, do know what to do. Or you can avail yourself of the resources you need to figure out what to do with your affluence–so you can fulfill your values, needs, and interests as well as avoid losing your wealth.
So tip number one to all affluent millennial women is to take charge of your wealth planning. Tip number two is to avoid the “Just sign here, honey!” syndrome, as described above when that special someone is given authority over your personal finances. Tip number three is to consider the benefits of finding a competent wealth advisor to help you achieve all that is important to you with respect to your money.
To help with tip number three, here are a couple of guidelines for selecting that all-important advisor:
Work with an advisor who has attained the Certified Financial Planner™ credential. This professional is seasoned in the aspects that can help you maintain your financial well-being as well as achieve all that is important to you. Search for professionals in your area: http://www.cfp.net/ When you visit the websites of the CFP® professionals you have identified, make sure they are comfortable working with your team of advisors, such as your CPA and attorney.
Then, during the initial consultation with the advisors under consideration, take note of whether they listen to you, educate you as the conversation unfolds, and have a long-term perspective focused on you. If all they want to discuss is their great investment products, watch out! Your long-term financial success is built upon what you need and what is important to you, not on a product.
Tip number four for wealthy millennial women is to make a spending plan. Yes, even with the best advisor, if you are not quite sure where your money is going (your expenses), you may be in for unpleasant surprises down the road. Never assume you know; be precise about what comes in and goes out; I believe your sense of command over your personal finances will grow accordingly.
Tip number five is to “get started.” No matter what your former experience, muster your courage and begin taking charge of your personal finances now. Even baby steps right now will likely result in better than ever tomorrows. If you are not sure where to begin, I created a how-to guide, complete with exercises, to get you going on your journey– Balancing Act: Wealth Management Straight Talk for Women. All proceeds from the sale of this book benefit a scholarship fund at Temple University.
I predict a couple of phenomenal outcomes when affluent millennial women choose to take charge of their money. The first is they will be better able to take care of themselves and their families no matter what curve balls life throws their way. The second is that women are charitably minded, more so than men, and often serve as a catalyst for social change, change that benefits not only their families but all of us.
So whether you earned your wealth, inherited it, or received it in a settlement award, I challenge you to take responsibility for your money. Learn what you need to know, make choices, and enjoy the experience of growing financial confidence that results.
¹FACTANK: News in the Numbers, Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation, Richard Fry, April 15, 2
For most of us, making the right choices is a balancing act. Not only are we faced with balancing our values, needs, and interests, but our choices are complicated by the need to balance all of this within the context of our whole style of living. Balancing Act: Wealth Management Straight Talk for Women tells the story of many women. It records the choices they faced, the life balance for which they aimed, and the results they experienced. The book is a how-to guide for managing your wealth, protecting your style of living, and building the confidence you need to leave fear behind.
We are thrilled to share that when you purchase a copy of Balancing Act: Wealth Management Straight Talk for Women, you are not only helping yourself with the enlightening and inspiring true stories of many women, but in addition you are also helping students with financial need. We have decided to donate 100% of the proceeds from your purchase to a Temple University full-tuition scholarship fund.
Stock markets have been on a wild ride this year and it is likely that the volatility will continue through the remainder of the year because of the degree of uncertainty around the world. Current events with indeterminate outcomes almost always trigger emotional responses on the part of investors, thereby affecting capital market movements.
When there are large swings in market activity it is often just an overreaction to uncertainty; there may be no fundamental reason for investor worry. A good example of this is when the media aired the news that Britain voted to exit the European Union. Overall the U.S. capital markets suffered for the first two days following the BREXIT vote; suddenly, when investors realized the sky wasn’t falling, the markets quickly recovered.
If markets continue to gyrate don’t be surprised and definitely don’t panic. Panicking (or selling) does not serve you or your portfolio results over the long term. Market fluctuations–even wide, uncomfortable swings–are a normal part of investing that we investors have to accept in order to reach long-term goals.
For instance, a client contacted us the morning after the BREXIT vote and asked, “Does it make sense to move money from my investments into cash?” Because her goals are long-term and there is no way to anticipate the market’s next move, our response was, “No. Making a move would not help your portfolio results.”
In our experience, successful investors look beyond short-term capital market movements and stay focused on their investment plans. This picture says it all:
Motivated to know more? Check in with your financial advisor to confirm that your investment portfolio is properly diversified or Contact Us Today for a second opinion regarding your investment planning.
If you are a parent, you understand the importance of teaching your children good money skills; unfortunately, many of us are not sure where to begin.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Help your children begin to save. Encourage your children to save a little from all the money they receive, such as allowances, birthdays, bar and bat mitzvahs, etc. Open accounts for your children and assist them with tracking their money. A couple of ideas for tracking their money would be www.mint.com or you could go the traditional paper and pencil route (it doesn’t need to be fancy).
When I was a kid my mom taped a piece of paper on our refrigerator door and that was what she and I used to track my money. I loved making that number grow! So every Christmas and birthday I would make additions; then when I got my first job the additions became more frequent. I was always saving for something but my first meaningful purchase was my car (I paid for one third of it). I was proud and protective of that car because I saved for it. Accomplishing that goal felt good.
Next, teach your children the difference between saving money for short-term and long-term goals. After your children understand the difference between short-term (purchasing a toy) and long-term goals (saving for college) help them to understand how money should be treated differently for the two types of goals. You want your children to understand that bank accounts are great for short-term goals. However, money that is geared toward longer-term goals should be invested appropriately, so that it may grow and outpace inflation.
Summer is almost here and everyone seems to have vacation on their minds. We often get questions about paying for travel; a typical one is: “How much can I afford to spend?” So today we’ll provide you with some helpful tips on how to create a vacation fund that fits easily into your budget. That way you can enjoy vacation without feeling guilty about the expense.
A good first step for creating a vacation fund is to determine how much you feel comfortable spending. Start by recording all of your monthly income sources; some examples are salaries, child support, pensions, investment income, and annual gifts. Be sure to add everything up so that you know how much money is coming in every month.
After you know how much is coming in, you should review and record all of your household expenses. The goal is to gain a firm understanding of where your money is spent. Start by tracking your expenses for at least one full month. It is usually easiest to start by recording your fixed expenses such as mortgage, car, and retirement savings. After you have recorded these fixed costs–for your needs–then identify the costs for things you want, your discretionary items such as clothing, walking around money (WAM), and travel. Write down all of your discretionary expenses. Now you are ready to give careful thought to how much money you are comfortable allocating toward vacation.
Recording your income and spending is a key to success because simply assuming you know the financial details leaves a lot of room for miscalculation. And miscalculation leads to budgets that do not work. Another benefit of tracking your income and expenses is the sense of control you feel when you know where your money is going.
We encourage you give it a try for a month or two. Here is a great spreadsheet to use or you may prefer an online budget system like www.mint.com.
Now you are ready for the second step: Set money aside and earmark it for your vacation. This step is important because it provides you with peace of mind, knowing that your money is there and available before you head out of town.
Everyone has a slightly different approach to this. Here are four examples:
Inheritors often set aside a portion of the income produced by their investment portfolio as their vacation fund.
Business owners tend to earmark a portion of their business profit or bonus to fund their vacation plans.
Executives may decide to set aside a portion of their annual bonus or utilize a portion of their exercisable stock options to create a fund for travel.
Retirees commonly establish a separate account for their social security income and earmark a portion or 100% toward travel.
To recap, start by recording the details of your income and expenses. Then select the way you prefer to earmark money for travel. The sooner you begin the sooner you may feel peace of mind, knowing the money you need is already saved.