Your Questions, Answered: Solutions for Common Financial Concerns

Despite the clear benefits of having a well-informed financial planner in your wealth management arsenal, 99% of Americans don’t use our services. There are many misconceptions about financial advisors, ranging from concerns about cost to the idea that wealth management is tied to a certain amount of money or age. There are plenty of questions around the subject of money: specifically, how to protect, invest, and grow monetary assets.

Many of the questions I receive about financial planning are rooted in very similar concerns, so it seems there’s a significant need to meet to help people make the best decisions around their wealth management. This blog shares some of the most common topics that come up in conversations I personally have around business ownership, money growth, and client service.

Q. What are the best vehicles for sole proprietorship and small business owner clients to save for retirement?

A: Pre-COVID, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected approximately 8% annualized growth in the ranks of the self-employed. This pandemic’s impact on our economy will no doubt drive those numbers higher as companies and governments alike reduce their workforce and increase outsourcing.

For the newly independent businessperson retirement saving remains a priority. First, make sure you’ve got sufficient reserve of cash and liquid assets to maintain your household through a downturn. 

Next, utilize IRAs for yourself and your spouse to achieve tax-deferred or tax-free growth over time at low cost and minimal complexity.  You will also have some access to these funds if things really go awry and you have to dig deeper for funds to ride out a storm. 

Depending on your level of sophistication and business or personal financial strength, you may want to consider the Solo or Individual 401K (and Roth 401K).  I consider this the gold standard in retirement saving for sole proprietorships and small business owners.  Key attributes:

  • You can make annual salary deferrals which may reduce your taxable income.
  • You can contribute up to an additional 25% of your net earnings from self-employment to reach the 415 (c) contribution limit.  Talk to your tax advisor or consult the IRS website to get specifics on this one. 
  • You can customize the plan to allow for loans and hardship distributions.

You could also consider SIMPLE IRAs and SEP IRAs but neither allows the flexibility and capacity for savings afforded by the Solo or Individual 401K. 

Q. My clients miss having in-person meetings, so we meet virtually and talk on the phone.  But for some clients I notice this isn’t working as well.  How can I make the most of client communications during this unprecedented time?

A: The COVID pandemic has presented significant challenges for people who value face-to-face interaction. Unfortunately, this is probably most challenging for older clients who are at the greatest health risk. The medical community has provided a few solid guidelines for these interactions:

  • Maintain social distancing.  Unless you are doing seminars or some other ill-advised activity, this should be relatively simple.  I recently met with a prospect who insisted on an in-person meeting.  We sat the recommended six feet apart at the conference room table with face masks on and hand sanitizer readily available.  No handshakes, hugs or air kisses which is difficult in Miami! 
  • Be prepared with adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) supplies in your office.
  • Be cognizant and take proper precautions for the business risk involved in these meetings.  In some cases, a formal disclosure may be required.  Your clients and prospects will understand and likely appreciate that you have done all that you can to protect them and to protect the viability of your business. 

Q. What strategies can I, as an advisor, use to attract multi-generational clients such as the adult children of existing clients?  What estate and legacy planning investments are available?

A: The knowledge about the family gleaned from working with the matriarch and/or patriarch (collectively the principals) is truly valuable. 

  • Engage in conversations around the passions of the principals especially charitable objectives.  I have a client of modest wealth who arrived penniless in the U.S. from the Caribbean sixty years ago. Through hard work and some lucky breaks, they were able to amass a sizeable real estate and investment portfolio.  They invested in great educations for their children who are now established professionals.  The principals believe in the power of education and have decided to pull the family together to commit to an annual giving program for the elementary school the three kids attended.  I’m developing relationships with the kids now as they see my work.
  • Utilize cloud-based tools that allow you to customize access to documents and information by user profile.  As the principals age, it becomes important for the children and others to have select insight into the assets and liabilities of the principals. These tools showcase your customization abilities and expertise as an advisor.
  • Get general information regarding the principal’s children such as their age, marital status, education and professional status.  Using that knowledge, generate key planning tips and milestones relevant to each child and tailored to their situation.  Share them through the principal or, if permitted, directly to the children.

Bonus tip: mutual funds and exchange-traded funds are perfect investments for all generations.  The multitude of options allows an advisor to target the specific needs of a wide range of people.  Let’s say a principal decides that they would like to have enough to buy a $40,000 car for their grandson in 10 years. You could direct them to utilize a target date fund with a 2030 date.  With some estimates regarding expected returns and volatility that client should feel comfortable that they will be able to meet that objective provided they make the appropriate investment today.

Wrap-up

Each of these question-and-answer sets provide valuable data for you to gauge the success of your current financial planning strategy. As you review your wealth management strategy and processes, consider whether you have the time, resources, and expertise on your side to ensure that asset growth becomes a core focus for you now and into the foreseeable future.

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