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Our Process

Our process begins with getting to know one another to see if there is a solid basis for working together. Financial planning is intimate work, so our clients need to feel comfortable talking with us on a very personal basis about their current situation, their history with money, how they typically make decisions, and what keeps them up at night. Because our clients need to feel comfortable discussing their hopes, dreams and fears with us, we take very seriously our job of creating a judgement-free zone in which to facilitate these conversations.

Prospective clients need to feel that we have the abilities, tools, and style they are looking for to address the issues most important to them and to serve in the role as their trusted advisor and coach. And, we need to be secure in trusting that prospective clients have the time and inclination to participate fully in the planning process so that we can address their needs in a timely, efficient way. We cannot do this work alone — it takes teamwork to make it work. Therefore, the fit has to be both ways.

Based on the nature and complexity of the work ahead, we quote a fee and create a Client Services Agreement that spells out all of the rights and obligations of each party. Whatever the fee, we will gladly refund all of it should at any time the client feel that this process is not right for them, or that we have failed to meet their expectations in any way. It works for us only if it works for our clients.

Once we decide to work together, we gather clients’ financial and legal data at a very granular level. For this step, we provide checklists, expense worksheets and other aids to help clients give us what we need to get to work. We then create a decision support model based on our clients’ base facts, the “what is”, and then consider the “what ifs” our clients may encounter down the road.

We create this model using the state of the art, dynamic financial planning program, eMoney, which allows us to provide real values for each of our clients’ assets and liabilities which are updated daily and incorporates the most current federal and state tax information. The program also allows us to navigate through inevitably changing circumstances, such as unexpected illness or disability, changes in employment, or severe market fluctuations.

After the model is built, we work with clients to ensure all the information collected was entered correctly, and that the model accurately reflects their current reality. We then work to understand clients’ objectives and goals fully, analyze the data we have gathered, and identify any gaps in “base facts” as areas where the “DNA” of what clients already have in place will not get them where they want to or need to be. We also test the model to assess its ability to survive many of the unknowns of life, and identify both risks to clients’ reaching their goals, and opportunities not currently being taken advantage of that may help them do so more effectively.

We then develop a plan. We are descriptive rather than prescriptive—we always provide alternate routes and options for getting clients where they want to go. Our advice is generic and objective, never “product” specific. We build alternatives for our clients by adding “layers” onto their base facts, solution by solution, all meant to improve upon their current situation.

We illustrate these improvements side by side with the current and alternate realities. For example, “here’s what your situation would look like if you retired at 60 instead of 65”, or “here’s what gets transferred to your heirs without a particular kind of trust (your “base facts”), and here’s the improved scenario by adding said trust”. Not everything works—there’s certainly some trial and error—and a large part of our effort involves research and brainstorming (a team effort) that usually results in alternatives yielding critical improvements.

Once we have found beneficial interventions, we write out our recommendations in narrative as well as tabular form, and “deliver” the plan to our client. The finished plan, in hard copy and/or available on a personalized web site that we create specifically for clients, includes a summary of all assumptions and the base facts we used to arrive at our analysis and our set of recommendations for action.

Once the plan is delivered, at our clients’ discretion, we will work closely with them and their other professional advisers—attorneys and accountants and, occasionally, other investment professionals—to implement the financial plan and its recommendations.

We have access to a full range of financial products and services, though it is important to note that clients are under no obligation to work with us and are free to implement the plan with anyone they choose to work with. We believe that because of our intimate knowledge of our clients and the requirements of the plan, we are uniquely qualified to find the right product or set of services required to implement the plan properly, but clients are under no obligation to continue to work with us.

Financial planning can be enormously enlightening and empowering, and almost everyone can benefit from it. First and foremost, it “turns on the lights” that allow us to view the moving parts of our financial lives in a new and inter-related way. There is no magic in the numbers on the screen, but when they are connected to taking action to fill the gaps and implement new strategies, they can lead to a new level of confidence, and freedom from the anxiety of not knowing, of wandering in the wilderness without a guide. The decision support model we build is invaluable as we approach new decision points throughout our lives. As realities change, the ability to update the model provides enduing value for many years to come — it is truly an investment in good decisions throughout our clients’ lives!

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