Financial Planning

A successful financial planning engagement is as much about knowing you and your needs as it is about dollars and cents. Here are some topics for you to think about as it relates to your financial planning.

Are there particular financial topics you consider most urgent for your life right now?


When we capture and write down specific and measurable goals for ourselves and our family, we believe the likelihood of achieving those goals dramatically increases.  Together we’ll work with you and have conversations that go deeper than the dollars and cents to uncover what’s most important to you.  As the famous French writer and poet, Antoine de Saint Exupery famously said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”   Once you’ve identified the goals that are important to you, we’ll collaborate and develop a financial game plan that is built around those goals and your own unique situation.

Case Study:

Ben (age 48) and Jessie (age 51) are married with no children. They are both in the health care profession and have an annual household income of $400,000. They have been saving diligently for the last several years and are now ready to meet with a holistic financial planner to help them develop an actionable financial game plan.

To help Ben and Jessie identify specific goals they’d like to incorporate into their financial game plan, we:

  • Discussed why they decided to engage with a financial planner at this stage in their life – Ben and Jessie want to delegate financial matters to a professional they trust moving forward, making them a great potential fit to work with our team
  • Helped uncover that Ben and Jessie would both like to travel internationally each year – as such, we suggested they establish a “travel” account to begin saving into each pay period to help achieve this goal – we also provided a referral to a travel agent we work closely with who specializes in planning trips overseas
  • Determined that Ben would like to retire at 60 and Jessie is open to working until 65 because of her love of working closely with patients – this reduced the amount they thought they had to save to hit their retirement goal, allowing them more flexibility to travel internationally
  • Reviewed Ben and Jessie’s legacy goals and determined that they would like to leave 50% of their remaining assets to their church and the other 50% to Ben’s nephew – this prompted a recommendation to name their church as the contingent beneficiary on their 401k accounts and Ben as contingent on their Roth IRAs for tax purposes, however, we agreed we would review these beneficiary designations annually to ensure they are still consistent with their wishes

One of the first steps we’ll take in working together is helping you see where you’re currently at by determining your personal financial net worth.  From there, we can identify strengths, weaknesses and areas that may need attention.  Each year, we will update this working document to track progress and make sure you are on the right path to meet the goals you and your family have put in place.

Case Study:

Jeff (age 53) and Sophia (age 54) are currently engaged. This is a second marriage for the both of them and although they each have a good sense of their own finances, they have yet to put everything on paper to see what their financial picture looks like as a couple.

To help Jeff and Sophia start to build their personal net worth statement, we:

  • Created an “inventory” of assets and liabilities, organized by tax treatment and level of liquidity (cash accounts, non-retirement investment accounts, retirement accounts, real estate, personal property and liabilities)
  • Realized that several of their non-retirement accounts were held individually and decided that re-titling them to joint accounts would make the most sense given their financial goals and desire to manage their finances as one
  • Identified two 401k accounts of Sophia’s from ex-employers that could be rolled over to her IRA for consolidation and to provide more flexibility in regards to her investment options
  • Determined that the $750,000 in investable assets Jeff and Sophia have accumulated thus far has placed them right on track to achieve their goal of retiring at age 62, assuming they each continue to save 15% of their income

A major concern for most clients nearing or entering retirement is identifying how much income they are actually living on each year.  What we earn, compared to what we spend are typically two very different figures.  When the time is right, we’ll work with you to dial in on your retirement spending goal, determine if it’s realistic and formulate a detailed game plan on how to efficiently re-create a paycheck for you and your family upon retirement.

Case Study:

Mark (age 63) and Ellen (age 62) are only one year out from retirement and are struggling with determining their annual spending goal. Their portfolio has just reached $1.5M and they want to make sure their withdrawal rate is conservative given a 30 year time horizon.  

To help Mark and Ellen prepare their cash flow leading up to retirement, we:

  • Worked with them to back out expenses that would be eliminated upon retirement (401k savings, payroll taxes, mortgage payment, etc.) and determined that although they are currently earning nearly $200,000/yr, their true income replacement need was actually closer to $100,000/yr
  • Suggested that Mark delay Social Security until age 70 to fully maximize his benefit and recommended that Ellen begin her smaller benefit at age 63 upon retirement – this translates into nearly $60,000 of fixed income when both income streams are turned on
  • Determined that it made more sense for Mark to elect a monthly income stream for his pension instead of taking the lump-sum offer based on family history of longevity for both him and Ellen
  • Ran a detailed retirement analysis and determined that their spending goal of $100,000/yr upon retirement was very conservative – this put their mind at ease and made them feel comfortable with spend on travel for the first 10 years of retirement

Proactive tax planning not only means helping to reduce your current tax liability; it also involves striving to pay the least amount of tax over your lifetime, as well as for future generations inheriting wealth. Although we do not prepare tax returns, part of our comprehensive approach with clients includes analyzing their tax situation each year and coordinating with other experts and professionals to ensure the best long-term decisions are being made for you and your family.

Case Study:

George (age 61) is an automotive account manager and earns $500,000 annually. His wife, Ellen (age 58) volunteers approximately 20 hours per week at their church after recently retiring as a teacher. Now that George is less than three years out from retirement, they want to ensure they are doing everything in their power to reduce current and future taxes, not only for themselves, but also for their two daughters who will be inheriting the majority of their wealth someday.  

To help George and Ellen reduce their current and future tax liability, we:

  • Advised George to continue maximizing his 401k ($24,000) at work and encouraged him to begin contributing $25,000/yr into a Deferred Compensation plan that he now has access to in order to reduce his overall taxable income for the year
  • Recommended that George and Ellen both make non-deductible IRA contributions and immediately convert them to a Roth IRA – these accounts will be earmarked as an inheritance for their daughters to allow the funds to grow completely tax-free for decades to come
  • Suggested we incorporate municipal bond funds for tax-free income as well as several exchange traded equity funds to reduce capital gain distribution exposure within their joint investment account
  • Assisted George and Ellen in donating appreciated stock within their joint investment account to their church – this allowed them to receive a tax deduction for the gift as well as avoid any capital gains tax associated with the stock

The options you have to fund college expenses are far more robust than years past and it’s important to have someone help you with everything that goes into college planning.  Some of the areas we provide guidance on for clients when planning for college include:

  • Determining which savings vehicle makes the most sense to utilize
  • How much to contribute
  • Gifting strategies
  • Investment options
  • Distribution planning
  • Tax advantages and disadvantages
  • Financial aid impact and completing the FAFSA

Case Study:

Mike (age 40) and Nicole (age 39) are married and have a combined annual income of $300,000.  Their current goal is to cover the full cost for their three year old twin daughter’s undergraduate degrees at Mike and Nicole's alma mater, Michigan State University. 

To help Mike and Nicole build college funding into their comprehensive financial plan, we:

  • Discussed the various types of college funding vehicles and the pros and cons of each (529 plans, UGMA/UTMA accounts, pre-paid tuition plans, taxable brokerage accounts and Roth IRAs)
  • Ran a detailed educational analysis and determined Mike and Nicole must save approximately $1,500/mo into a Michigan 529 plan to achieve their goal (the 529 plan was selected because of the tax benefits the account offers)
  • Decided that based on the girls’ ages, a more aggressive asset allocation of 90% stock, 10% bond made the most sense, however, we agreed that we would review this annually
  • Looked at how fully funding the cost of education for their twins impacted their own retirement goals and discussed the possibility of funding two years and helping their kids pay down student loans in the future

Over the course of three decades of working with individuals and families, we’ve found that a disciplined, long-term investment strategy typically yields the best results.  At The Center, we firmly believe in creating diversified portfolios for clients that are tailored to their own unique situation.  We’ll work together in determining what your investment mix will look and feel like, monitor your portfolio daily and make any necessary changes along the way.

Case Study:

Mike (age 58) and Heather (58) have been diligent savers throughout their careers and have accumulated investable assets of roughly $1.2M. They have done fairly well managing their portfolio over the years but have reached a point in their lives where they wish to delegate the management of their investments to a professional. Being that they are so close to retirement, they are especially concerned about the overall level of risk within their investments.

To help Mike and Heather with the comprehensive investment management of their portfolio, we:

  • Worked together to build out an Investment Policy Statement (IPS) to clearly outline the long-term goals and objectives of their portfolio and began proactively managing their investment accounts
  • Decided together that it made sense to change their target allocation from 80% stock, 20% bond to 60% stock, 40% bond – we came to this conclusion given their overall comfort level with market volatility and time horizon from retirement
  • Utilized mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) within Mike and Heather’s investment accounts to build a cost effective, diversified portfolio
  • Identified several positons within their taxable investment account that were good candidates for tax loss harvesting – we also provided recommendations on how to improve the asset location strategy in their overall portfolio to better manage the impact taxes can have on investment returns

Estate planning will mean something different for each individual and family; however, working with you to help clearly define not only your legacy goals but your values surrounding philanthropy is part of our holistic approach to financial planning.  Although we do not prepare legal documents for clients, we work as a team and collaborate with other experts and professionals (link to “coordinating with other experts and professionals” case) to ensure you have a solid plan in place and track it annually with you to determine if changes are warranted as life events occur.

Case Study:

Jack (age 73) and Lynn (age 71) are married and have a total net worth of roughly $3M. While working through their comprehensive financial plan, they’ve realized they need to make their estate plan a key focus this year to make sure their legacy goals, including charitable giving, are both clearly defined and in order. 

To help Jack and Lynn work towards developing their estate and charitable giving plan, we:

  • Connected them with a quality estate planning attorney in their area to review their 10 year old documents to ensure the proper trustees, personal representatives and powers of attorneys have been named
  • Had a conversation with their attorney and both agreed it made sense to re-title their joint investment account into the name of their trust for proper asset distribution
  • Discussed their philanthropy goals and determined they could gift roughly $30,000/yr to charity without jeopardizing the safety of their retirement plan – once this was determined, we coordinated with their tax professional and decided to utilize the Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from Jack’s Traditional IRA.
  • Discussed naming their favorite charity as the primary beneficiary on one of their smaller IRAs given their goal of leaving $50,000 to the organization upon their passing – this would allow the charity to receive the funds tax-free and preserve other assets for family to inherit in a more tax-efficient manner

A vital component of a well-rounded financial plan is maintaining the proper insurance coverages to protect against a potential devastating financial loss.  As life changes, so should the various forms of insurance you own – something we’ll review with you throughout your journey towards financial independence and beyond.

Case Study:

Gary (age 56) and Natalie (age 55) are married, have two children in their early twenties and have a total household income of nearly $600,000. Now that they are less than 10 years out from retirement, Gary and Natalie want to ensure their overall financial plan is on track and that their overall level of insurance still makes sense given the stage of life they are now in. 

To help Gary and Natalie complete a risk management review within their financial plan, we:

  • Reviewed Gary’s disability policy and recommended that he decrease his overall coverage to free-up additional cash flow to save for retirement
  • Started the discussion surrounding long-term care insurance and determined that based on family history, it would make sense to purchase a policy that would cover approximately half the cost of a typical long-term care event to keep premiums reasonably priced
  • Suggested they coordinate with their insurance agent on using the cash value within their respective permanent life insurance policies to fund a lower cost policy that would be earmarked as an inheritance for their children – this would achieve their goal of leaving a $500,000 legacy to each child regardless of how their portfolio performed and what they spent in retirement
  • Provided a referral to a property and casualty insurance agent to review their auto and homeowner’s polices to ensure proper liability protection was in place – we also recommended they explore an Umbrella policy as an added layer of personal liability protection at a low cost

We want our clients to have the option to retire, not feel as if they have to continue working for financial reasons.  Turning this goal into a reality is what we refer to as financial independence.  Helping you achieve a state of financial independence is an ongoing process – it doesn’t occur overnight.  We work together with you along the way to help you make smart choices surrounding money that can ultimately lead you down the path to becoming financially independent.

Case Study:

Alan (age 55) and Stephanie (age 55) are married; both work and have a combined annual income of $250,000. They have a goal of retiring between age 62 and 65 and want to make sure they are doing everything they should be, both now and moving forward so they can achieve financial independence prior to retirement. 

To help Alan and Stephanie work towards financial independence, we:

  • Put together a net worth statement to capture all of their assets and liabilities and determined their current net worth is $1.2M
  • Ran a detailed retirement analysis based on the age they want to retire, the amount they want to spend annually and their life expectancy to determine if their goals were realistic and whether or not any changes were necessary to achieve those goals
  • Ultimately determined that in order for them to both retire at 62, they would have to begin saving $12,000/yr more toward retirement – given their spending goal this is something very realistic now that their son will be finishing college by year-end
  • Helped consolidate several IRA and brokerage accounts for us to professionally manage to ensure their new investment allocation of 60% stock, 40% bond was being properly monitored and managed

In our opinion, financial planning done right requires a team.  When working with you, we’ll want to have a quality working relationship with the other professionals you have hired to help you with all aspects of your financial life.  In our opinion, when each team member is working together to serve you and your family, the best long-term results typically occur.

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Case Study:

Rick (age 64) and Tina (age 62) are recent retirees with a nest egg just north of $2M. Throughout their working careers, they were too busy to create a formal financial plan and to make sure their other professional advisors were all working together as a team. 

To help Rick and Tina develop a formal financial game plan and coordinate with their other advisors, we:

  • Coordinated with Rick and Tina’s insurance agent on cancelling their permanent life insurance and using the cash value of $200,000 to fund a long-term care policy for them
  • Discussed our recommendation of converting $50,000/yr from Rick and Tina’s IRAs to Roth IRAs, until age 70 with their CPA before implementing the strategy
  • Recommended that Rick and Tina have their estate planning documents updated now that their children are in their mid-30s and working full-time – we also attended the final signing meeting with their attorney to ensure proper beneficiaries were listed on their investment and retirement accounts
  • Provided a referral to a property and casualty insurance agent for Rick and Tina being that their long-time agent had recently retired and because they were concerned about their current rates and overall liability coverage

Raymond James Financial Advisors do not offer tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor for questions regarding your tax situation. Income from municipal bonds is not subject to federal income taxation; however, it may be subject to state and local taxes and, for certain investors, to the alternative minimum tax. Income from taxable municipal bonds is subject to federal income taxation, and it may be subject to state and local taxes.

Investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses associated with 529 college savings plans before investing. More information about 529 college savings plans is available in the issuer’s official statement, and should be read carefully before investing. Investors should consider before investing, whether their home states offer state tax or other benefits only available for investments in their home state's 529 plans. 529 plans offered outside their resident state may not provide the same tax benefits as those offered within their state.

Diversification and asset allocation do not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Raymond James financial advisors do not render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

Raymond James financial advisors do not render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.