“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” (Buckminster Fuller).
One of our goals as personal financial advisors has been to "build a better mousetrap". That means avoiding shortcuts that have been increasingly routine in our industry and instead, doing the digging and sometimes lengthy investigative work that assures our guidance takes into consideration all the pieces of their unique picture. It also means being fiduciaries and avoiding potential conflicts of interests at all costs; assuring our advisors have the in-depth experience and education our clients rely on; providing both proactive wealth and integrated tax planning; and expanding the notion of what financial planning includes.
Are you looking at only part of the picture?
Some advisors (real and “robo”) focus solely on a client’s investment portfolio rather than the myriad interdependent components that can determine the difference between sound and less than sound financial decisions--and possibly the difference between a delightful and a financially troubled retirement. This “tunnel vision” is reinforced by gauging the success of an advisor solely by comparing a portfolio’s short-term, quarterly performance against a basic stock index. We reject that notion. While it’s important to understand one’s relative investment performance, “returns” are just one component of a longer term financial life strategy which includes other core elements such as goal setting, tax minimization, downside portfolio protection, education or retirement planning, inflation hedging, liquidity requirements, a predefined level of income generation, insurance needs, employer benefit assessments, risk management, and estate planning. Each of these items can interact with and can significantly impact the others.
There are very few wealth management firms that offer proactive and congruent financial and tax planning, which is essential for maximizing after tax returns, cash flows and wealth. At Opus, rather than having to work separately with a financial advisor and a tax advisor and hoping the stars align, we can handle your tax planning and preparation needs in a proactive, forward-looking, strategic manner.
We don’t believe in a one-size-fits all model, and therefore, want our clients to have a choice of which services they really want from us and charge them a reasonable fee accordingly. There is a significant difference between investment management versus comprehensive financial planning, as the former is just one component of the latter, which is focused on helping people achieve their life goals and minimizing the risks of unanticipated shocks. Two recent studies (links to which are included below) estimate an additional 3% of annual “advisor alpha” return and more than 20% in retirement-certainty retirement income from the value added associated with best practices in wealth management. (See: Quantifying Advisor's Alpha (Vanguard) and Alpha, Beta and now Gamma (Morningstar) for details of these two studies)
These items include factors such as
- Optimal asset allocation with a “total return” investment framework
- Asset location (taxable vs non-taxable accounts)
- Expense ratio minimization
- Behavioral coaching
- Dynamic retirement withdrawal strategy