To organize and carry out your household financial plan, you need to ensure finances are checked regularly and action is taken as needed.

“It’s easier to do these things in small bites. You don’t want to try and do a year’s worth of financial planning in one sitting. It can be too daunting, and then it never gets implemented,” says Geoffrey M. Zimmerman, CFP®, senior client advisor at Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.

Smart Business spoke with Zimmerman about executing personal financial planning.

What should a year of financial planning include?

January — Prepare a household net worth calculation that looks at all your assets against debts and liabilities. Compare last year’s statement to this year’s to see if you increased your household net worth. Also review your spending plan for the year as year-end reports become available.

Adjust your payroll elections to maximize contributions to employer retirement plans and/or executive top hat plans. For corporate executives, implement any exercise and hold strategies with incentive stock options.

February — Review your property and casualty insurance, such as homeowners and auto, especially if you made a major purchase last year. Your excess liability coverage needs to be adequate relative to both your current net worth and earnings potential.

March — Pull out old statements and clear out the deadwood. You’ll need to keep certain documents for tax purposes, like your cost basis on securities, but your advisers can suggest how long to retain documents.

It’s also time to look at your portfolio, and rebalance it if needed. According to Gobind Daryanani, in a 2008 Journal of Financial Planning article, if you look frequently and rebalance when an asset class has deviated from its target by 20 percent or more, you can pick up some additional returns.

April —Increase your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) contributions for the prior year before the tax-filing deadline. By funding your IRA now with $5,500 annually, $6,500 if you’re older than 50, funds are less prone to leak out of the ATM.

May — Update estate plan documents. Have there been changes affecting the people you have in place to act on your behalf? Were there changes in the tax laws, exemption amounts, your net worth or state of residence?

June — Time for a midyear review. Evaluate your placement of assets for tax efficiency, rebalance your portfolio and consider midyear tax loss harvesting in your after-tax accounts. If your non-IRA account has a security at a loss, you can sell it, take the loss and buy something similar but not identical. The losses can be used throughout the year or carried into the future.

July — Think about the future with your significant other, spouse or partner. Kick back, dream about what you and your family want, and jot down a few notes.

August — Check your Section 529 savings accounts for the kids and grandkids. If they aren’t set up yet, don’t wait; college isn’t getting cheaper. These plans allow contributions to be made to pay for post-high school education at a qualified institution, tax-free.

September — Pull out the notes on your future plans from July. Use it to update the financial plan, looking for necessary changes. Also, rebalance your portfolio.

October — With open enrollment, review employee benefit elections for medical, life, disability, vision, dental, etc. Also look at your outside insurance such as life and long-term care against current needs. Corporate executives with nonqualified deferred compensation plans need to elect salary deferral for the following year.

November — Begin year-end tax reviews to manage tax liability. It’s also a good time to finalize remaining charitable donations, including appreciated stock.

December — Do an end of year wrapup, such as annual gifting, financial portfolio rebalancing or tax-loss harvesting. IRA to Roth conversions must be done before Dec. 31. Also, go back to exercised incentive stock options and decide whether to do a disqualified position and sell that stock, or to hold it into the following year.  

Finally, take a look at this list and see how much you were able to complete this year. Were you able to do it all? Lift a cup of egg nog and celebrate. And, if you didn’t, then consider enlisting the help of a financial planner to help you stay on track.

Geoffrey M. Zimmerman, CFP®, is a senior client advisor at Mosaic Financial Partners Inc. Reach him at (415) 788-1952 or geoff@mosaicfp.com.

Insights Wealth Management & Finance is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.

Published in Northern California

Your business may be the largest asset in your retirement portfolio, but converting it into an income resource for retirement takes planning to ensure it has value, even after you are no longer at the helm.

“It’s important to start with the end in mind. What are you trying to accomplish?” says Sabrina Lowell, CFP®, principal and COO at Mosaic Financial Partners.

Those using their business as a retirement asset need to decide if they want the business to continue independently after they retire, or if they want to sell it, she says. In either case, business owners must come up with the end game before figuring out how to get there.

Smart Business spoke with Lowell about being purposeful with business planning and recognizing how much lead time you need to accomplish your goals.

Why is it important to manage a business as a long-term asset?

If you’re looking to exit, whether through retirement or a sale, and you haven’t purposefully mapped out a plan in advance, your business may end up without as much value as you thought. Some things to consider are:

  • The health of your customer base. Is your client base aging with you? This can be a concern if there’s a sole owner, or even a few owners of a similar age.
  • Human capital. Do you have an aging set of employees? Have you been bringing in the next generation, mentoring employees as future leaders?
  • Product offerings and innovation. Are your products and/or services evolving and relevant to the current market?

What must a business owner consider when preparing for an exit?

When you’re clear about your objectives, decision-making becomes much easier. As a business owner, think about what your goals are for the business long term. The goals should be simple and concise so that they can be used to test alternative decisions that arise during the years an exit plan often takes to implement. These objectives are often qualitative, such as:

  • Sustain client service standards.
  • Take care of employees.
  • Maintain company culture and values.
  • Further the industry.

How can you keep long-term planning from falling to the bottom of a to-do list?

Be purposeful about setting time aside to say: ‘What is my vision and how am I going to implement that plan?’ on an ongoing basis. Like any transition, it’s not easy. The more you can set up systems to help support that effort, the better.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how much time is needed. There is usually more work on the front end, before the plan just requires maintenance. Important, but not necessarily urgent, strategic planning can often fall to the bottom of the daily ‘to-do’ list. Setting aside 30 minutes or an hour each day to focus on the business can make the process more approachable.

Where can a quality financial adviser help?

A financial adviser can help determine your number — how much you need to get out of the business for retirement. This may give you more flexibility when structuring your exit. Perhaps you get some payment upfront and an ongoing income stream, rather than just payment upfront.

Your adviser will help you discover what the transition is going to look like, and how to begin preparing. It’s always difficult to make decisions around an asset when you have a personal, emotional connection. A financial adviser has an arm’s length perspective that can help with both the numbers and personal side of a succession plan.

Sabrina Lowell, CFP®, is a principal and COO at Mosaic Financial Partners. Reach her at (415) 788-1952 or sabrina@mosaicfp.com.

Insights Wealth Management & Finance is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.

Published in Northern California

If you have three qualified job candidates with equal experience who interviewed well, how do you choose? Ask yourself how the new hire will fit in — will they enhance or disrupt your current team? The culture is critical anytime there is a personnel change, whether hiring, promoting or planning for succession.

“If you put a tiger in a group of lambs, what’s going to happen?” says Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, CPCC, ACC, managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center. “Tigers need to prowl on their own. They aren’t usually good team players.”

Smart Business spoke with Victorio about the importance of “casting” people in the right roles to magnify their strengths.

What’s key to know about personality traits?

There are five basic traits most personality assessment tools use to define how people naturally perform. Each trait has two opposite styles with a midline where people are more flexible or adaptable. They are:

  • Dominance. Is the person more control-oriented, competitive and ambitious; or a team player who prefers collaboration?
  • Communication. Is the person more persuasive and energized by people; or reserved, preferring one-on-one conversation?
  • Procedural. Is the person more process-driven, organized and a good listener who needs time to make decisions; or flexible, creative and enjoys spontaneity?
  • Organization. Is the person more detail-oriented, wanting things done correctly; or strategic, big picture and concept-oriented?
  • Logic. Is the person more analytical, or intuitive when making decisions?

It’s interesting to note that leadership styles are determined by whichever trait is the highest. Many corporations recast CEOs depending on the stage of growth. A start-up could need an innovative, confident leader to make swift decisions and take calculated risks, while a more mature company might need a road builder or process-oriented leader to maintain the business.

How useful are personality assessments?

The surveys measure self-perception — how people see themselves and how they perceive the expectations of others. When hiring, you can’t rely solely on this feedback; it’s just one part of your vetting process. Also, results are dynamic and change as people evolve and their environment changes.

Personality assessments help create a baseline for understanding who we are and what we are experiencing. For example, in a demanding sales environment, you can increase success by looking for high communicators who are energized by personal interaction and adaptable. They need to be go-getters who can think on their feet and close the deal. Most assessments provide questions that offer greater insight during the interview.

What are signs your workforce isn’t gelling?

If you hire a high-dominant, low-extrovert manager to lead a collaborative team that is accustomed to brainstorming, the indirect ‘teller’ style of the new manager will be perceived as unfriendly and bossy. Team members will feel less valued, become disenfranchised and frustrated, leading to increased tension, absences or resignations. It is important to consider the desired behavioral attributes each position requires for optimum results, such as having outgoing, creative problem-solvers in people-oriented positions, and detail and process-orientated caretakers for more analytical roles.

How can you better understand your own behavior and management style?

Self-awareness is the first step in self-management. If you know you tend to make decisions hastily, never make an important decision without sleeping on it.

You also might struggle without knowing why you are feeling drained, stressed or anxious. In one case, an executive was proud of her open-door policy, but was feeling unsatisfied. She learned that it was causing her significant energy drain. She discovered that as a process-oriented, reserved communicator, it was more energizing to limit open-door interruptions to certain times.

Every personality is valuable and dynamic. It’s a matter of finding the right role that suits who you are and being able to adapt successfully to the world around you.

Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, CPCC, ACC, is a managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center. Reach her at (415) 788-1952 or ricci@mosaicfbc.com.

Insights Wealth Management & Finance is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.

Published in Northern California

There’s a popular metaphor referred to as “the boiled frog.” Simply put, it says if you drop a frog in boiling water it will quickly try to escape. But if you place a frog in tepid water that’s slowly heated to a boil, the frog will “unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.”

With the 2013 tax changes, this metaphor may apply to taxpayers, married and filing jointly, with wages of taxable income of $223,000 to $450,000, says Geoffrey M. Zimmerman, CFP®, Senior Client Advisor at Mosaic Financial Partners, Inc. These households could see their federal marginal tax rate go from 28 to 45.5 percent.

“Executives in this income range may soon find that they are in hot water with the heat on as the marginal tax rates ramp up fairly quickly,” Zimmerman says.

Smart Business spoke with Zimmerman about key tax changes as well as possible planning and investment strategies.

Why are $223,000 to $450,000 income earners unaware of the danger?

The increases come from moving up tax brackets, new Medicare taxes of 0.9 percent on payroll and 3.8 percent on unearned income, and the phase-out of itemized deductions. People earning more than $450,000 have a good idea of what’s coming, but others aren’t as prepared for 1 to 2 percent increases that can add up. For example, if each spouse earns less than $200,000, their employers aren’t required to withhold additional taxes from their paychecks for the 0.9 percent increase in Medicare. But, if their combined income pushes them over the $250,000 threshold in household wages, they may be surprised by an unexpected tax bill.

Additionally, if you live in a state like California where state income taxes have gone up, combined federal and state income tax rates can exceed 50 percent, with capital gains rates reaching 33 percent or more.

What should these taxpayers be doing?

First and foremost, don’t let the tax tail wag the dog. Tax strategies that look great in a silo may actually be detrimental to the big picture. If your strategy puts you in a concentrated position or triggers undue risk, then a sudden bad market movement can be worse than paying the taxes.

This is an opportunity for people to update their financial plan and review how the tax changes affect their goals. Make sure your advisers are talking with one another and coordinating their work and advice.

How can some key planning strategies mitigate these increases?

Look for opportunities related to the timing of cash flows. If you have a big income year where up to 80 percent of your itemized deductions might be lost, defer some itemized deductions to the following year where the income might be lower. In a low income year, look at doing IRA to Roth conversions, realizing capital gains and/or accelerating income.

Take the initiative to engage in tax loss harvesting in taxable accounts, which means you sell a security, harvest the loss and then use that loss to offset a gain in either the current year or carry forward for use in future years. This can be attractive, particularly for investing styles that offer similar but not identical alternatives. One example might be to sell an S&P 500-index fund and reinvesting with a Russell 1000-index exchange traded fund to capture the loss while remaining invested.

Review the use of asset location strategies to improve tax efficiency. Strategically place securities that produce ordinary income or that generally don’t receive favorable tax treatment into a tax-deferred account, while putting tax-efficient investments that generate long-term capital gains or qualified dividends in taxable accounts.

Municipal bonds/bond funds in taxable accounts now may be more attractive, and you also can review opportunities to take advantage of ‘above the bar’ deductions, such as contributions to qualified plans like your pension, 401(k), etc. For senior executives, contribution to nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements may be more attractive, particularly if a transition, such as retirement, is on the horizon.

With the help of good advisers who understand these moving parts and how they fit together, executives can use these strategies and others to make better decisions to move toward the things that are really important to them.

Geoffrey M. Zimmerman, CFP®, is a senior client advisor at Mosaic Financial Partners, Inc. Reach him at (415) 788-1952 or Geoff@MosaicFP.com.

Insights Wealth Management & Finance is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.

Published in National

Has your succession planning come to a standstill and you don’t know why or how to fix it? Fear, confusion, uncertainty, an undefined action plan and/or dysfunction within the family or business can all be contributors.

“Not every business struggles with all five of these challenges, but I usually see a number of them in almost every situation when succession efforts have stalled,” says Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, CPCC, managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center.

Smart Business spoke with Victorio about five reasons succession plans stall and ways to overcome them.

What causes succession planning to stall?

Succession is about transforming the entire organization, not just transitioning a business from one person to the next. Shareholders, family members and key managers need to buy-in to the transition plan or they may undermine your efforts.

Business owners dealing with multiple issues stalling a succession plan shouldn’t feel doomed. You are not alone and there are professionals who can help you get unstuck. A succession coach or adviser can help guide your company through the emotional issues of this transition and identify early warning signs to prevent a smoldering fire from becoming a five-alarm blaze.

What are the common hang-ups and how can they be overcome?

Fear appears in many forms. In a family business it can encompass the fear of failing your family’s expectations or uncertainty about sufficient leadership skills. Such fears can transform into overwhelming doubts. Parents may fear sharing financial information with their children because of worries over perceptions of inequality in their estate plan. When talking about money and careers, familial bickering and artificial harmony replace understanding and trust. A coach can provide guidance in discussing emotional topics without confrontation, how to stay open, asking questions and considering differing opinions without blowing up.

Confusion often comes from being afraid to communicate or commit to action. Without clear communication or an execution plan, key personnel and family will become anxious worrying what is going to happen, who is actually in charge and how it will affect their security, which creates the added stress of business productivity going flat. By creating a timetable, sharing it with family, employees, your vendors and clients, and working with them to make sure it is clearly understood, you can sidestep this challenge.

Uncertainty over the economy and the business’ success has hindered many plans. You may be worried about the business value or if your successor can manage a significant bank loan. For family members, consider using a stock redemption program rather than a straight buyout, lock in key managers with a vested retirement plan, make sure you have a successor development plan and hire the best talent possible for the transition.

An undefined action plan can lead to skipped steps or no follow-through. The succession plan should be integrated into your strategic plan with specific and documented expectations, a timeline, ways to measure success and regular checkups.

Dysfunction — infighting, jealousy, sibling rivalry, secrecy and entitlement will stall family business succession. When relationships are out of alignment, people need to be heard, acknowledged and feel like they are making a contribution in dealing with important issues. Afterward, it’s possible the succession plan may look different than parents originally intended, but you will most likely have everyone on board, moving together. Even in a non-family business, not addressing existing dysfunction could lead to a failed succession effort.

There is a plan for every situation, but there is no standard solution. When your plan stalls, don’t be embarrassed to get help. Succession requires a great team, which includes the transactional assistance from your attorney and CPA, advice from your financial planner and a succession coach who focuses on the transformational goal of achieving a successful business transition while preserving family harmony.

Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, CPCC, is managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center. Reach her at (415) 788-1952 or ricci@mosaicfbc.com.

Website: More tips on how to have a successful succession transition.

Insights Wealth Management & Finance is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.

 

 

Published in National

As part of the planning and investment process — and pretty much anything in life — goals are fundamental to thinking about the future. However, very few people take time to set and write down specific goals. And, without a clear plan, you’re more likely to get absorbed in the day-to-day, losing sight of what’s truly important.

“For me, that’s the essence of financial planning. Too often people think about financial planning as just being investments or a calculation to see how much money they need to retire,” says Norman M. Boone, founder and president of Mosaic Financial Partners Inc. “Those are all important, but the greater value of financial planning is making sure you’re on track for the things that are important to you, not just things that you think you should be thinking about.”

Smart Business spoke with Boone about how asking the right questions can help you understand what you want and how to get there.

What is important when setting goals?

When you financially plan, the essence is: Where are you now, where do you want to be and how do you get there? You may have general ideas of your direction, but by writing down and sharing specific goals you are more likely to be successful.

For goals to be effective, they need to be SMART:

• Specific, as opposed to general.

• Measurable. Clear to all as to exactly what is to be accomplished, which usually means you’re able to measure the results or outcomes.

• Achievable, not unrealistic.

• Relevant to your overall role or purpose.

• Time bound. You need to be clear when you are going to finish.

How do you figure out your priorities to start goal setting?

You can use George Kinder’s three questions of life planning to find out what’s important to you.

• If you had enough money, how would you live your life? Would you do anything differently?

• If you go to the doctor and find out you only have five years to live, how would you live your life?

• If the doctor tells you that you have one more day to live, what would you think about? What things do you wish you had done, or said? What are your regrets?

These questions give you the incentive to think about your goals in the context of family, career, education, community involvement, friends, loved ones, personal accomplishments, etc. It’s rarely just about money. You find out what you really want in order to see how you go about making it happen.

How does an outside consultant help with seeing priorities and setting goals?

A consultant can help set up a plan that puts you on track toward accomplishing your priorities. Just like someone on a diet or an athlete in training, it’s hard to push yourself without outside help. You need someone to ask pointed questions, and just as importantly, wait and listen as you contemplate and struggle with the answers.

Almost everyone is too close to his or her own issues, problems and experiences, which blinds him or her to the possibilities. You get locked into what is, and have a hard time imaging what could be. You need that arm's length, 30,000-foot perspective.

Is there a certain time when you should set goals?

At minimum, you need to think about and get help with these kinds of questions at the major turning points in your life — when you finish school, when you get married and start having kids, etc. However, if you do it more frequently, such as once a year, it can be healthy. Maybe you come up with the same thing that you came up with last year and the year before, but maybe you don’t. When you get caught up in the day-to-day, you easily forget the things you’ve said all along were important.

Norman M. Boone, founder and president, Mosaic Financial Partners Inc. Reach him at (415) 788-1952 or norm@mosaicfp.com.

Insights Wealth Management & Finance is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.

 

Published in National

In one way or another, life is always in flux. Transitions sometimes bring opportunity and sometimes pain and sadness. The more thoughtfully we experience them, find the good in them and prepare for the next life phase, the more satisfying life can be. Transitions happen throughout our lives — graduation, a new career, getting married, having children, a sudden increase in wealth, the death of a parent, serious illness or accident, your retirement and the sale of your business, to name a few.

Each transition requires you to adapt to new circumstance, as it can change the way you think, the way you approach taxes and investments, your lifestyle, your advisers, your circle of friends or your lifestyle choices.

“Some people have a real hard time with that,” says Norman M. Boone, founder and president of Mosaic Financial Partners Inc. “When a significant change occurs, some stick close to what they’re used to, while others refuse to acknowledge the change and others simply embrace it.

“Points of transition happen to everybody,” he says. “How you think about, plan and prepare for them and how you adapt your behavior is best done by being intentional, by considering the implications of your decisions, by thinking about your new circumstances and by determining what you need to do to optimize your new situation. Getting good advice can be critical.”

Smart Business spoke with Boone about how to deal with life’s major transitions without compromising your financial future.

Is transition a bad thing? Why or why not?

Transitions themselves aren’t good or bad. The issue, from a financial planning perspective, is how you approach them. Regardless of the type of change, allow yourself time before you make any major decisions.

Having the right professional assist you can help you avoid mistakes and take advantage of opportunities. The best adviser is one who has helped many people with situations similar to yours. People don’t often go through the same major life transitions twice. If you only have one time to experience something, it’s likely you’re going to make mistakes, sometimes minor and other times with important consequences. An experienced adviser can help you avoid those mistakes.

As a caution, be sure to ask yourself, ‘What is this person’s incentive?’ For example, the wrong insurance agent might think more about how much he or she will be paid, rather than what is best for you. You need to ask questions when you’re working with an adviser and understand if he or she has something to gain from the advice being offered.

When you’re going through a transition, you’re typically more vulnerable than at other times in your life. It’s critical to choose your advisers carefully.

Is there reason to be cautious when talking with advisers?

Be open and freely share information with your advisers, once you’ve chosen them. They need the whole picture. However, initially, when you are interviewing advisers or looking for the right one, you can and should be discreet about how much information you share. It’s important to find someone who has the experience, knowledge, capabilities and good chemistry with you, if he or she is going to serve you well.

What is a good way to research potential advisers before meeting them?

Go to your smartest and most objective friend and ask him or her to help you create qualifying questions. Almost every wealth manager, attorney, accountant or insurance agent wants you to pick them, and most are skilled at convincing you that they’re likeable and knowledgeable. You need to be able to get beyond that. It’s important to ask a similar set of questions of each so you can compare their answers — see how they treat your questions, how thoughtful their answers are and who appears to have your best interest in mind.

What are some important characteristics of a wealth management firm helping someone who is in transition?

At minimum, a wealth management firm should be able to clearly explain its investment philosophy and discipline. It also needs to offer proactive advice about taxes, insurance, charitable strategies, debt management and expertise in the full range of personal finance issues.

Perhaps even more critical are the firm’s values and characteristics. Are advisers fiduciaries — do they accept a legal obligation to put your best interests first — and if so, are they willing to put that in writing? Do they disclose all potential conflicts of interest? Do they treat all your questions with seriousness and respect? Are they rushing you to make decisions? Do they offer alternatives and allow you the time to understand, consider and make a choice? Transitions can be unsettling and take adjustment. A good adviser will help you get through that period rather than push you into something prematurely.

It can also be helpful to work with a firm large enough to have a team that offers the skills and resources needed to apply to today’s questions and the needs you’ll have tomorrow. You’ll eventually have more than one kind of transition, and a team is more likely to be able to offer a solution for each, thanks to a greater depth of resources.

What should you keep in mind when entering a life transition that could impact your financial future?

Don’t assume that you understand the situation you’re in, especially when it comes to a major transition, because your choices can have long-term implications. Mistakes can significantly cost you without first getting expert advice. Most times, it’s important to not make a decision until you’ve done research and gotten expert advice. Before acting, ask yourself, ‘How might this impact my life today and in the future?’

Norman M. Boone is founder and president of Mosaic Financial Partners Inc., which is celebrating, this year, its 25th anniversary. Reach him at (415) 788-1952 or norm@mosaicfp.com.

Insights Wealth Management & Family Business Consulting is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners

Published in Northern California

When choosing a wealth advisory services firm to partner with, it can be difficult to identify the one that will best meet your needs.

But there are more than two-dozen characteristics you should look for to make sure the firm is well equipped to address your needs on an individual basis, says Norman M. Boone, founder and president of Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.

“With so many firms out there, it can be difficult to identify the right one,” says Boone. “But you should expect a lot from your wealth advisory services firm, and knowing what to look for can help you make the right choice.”

Smart Business spoke with Boone — as Mosaic celebrates 25 successful years — about the 25 keys to look for when choosing a wealth advisory firm.

What are some key characteristics to look for when seeking a wealth advisory firm?

Professional success is based on a firm caring about its clients, being sensitive to their needs and concerns, providing a high level of expertise and following through by doing what it says it’s going to do. A wealth advisory firm also should empower its clients by providing them with financial education to help them feel more comfortable with their financial environment and allow them to make better-informed financial decisions. In addition, the firm should act ethically and with integrity, putting the needs of its clients first.

How important is transparency between a firm and its clients?

Transparency with clients is critical, and the firm and its members should be willing to answer any and all questions posed by the client. The firm also should have a unique investment policy statement for every client that documents the individual investment agreements and procedures and not simply take a one-size-fits-all approach. In addition, objective, unbiased and personalized advice should be the foundation of every relationship with clients.

What else should a potential client look for in a wealth advisory services firm?

Look for a firm that you can trust and respect, and that trusts and respects you and your needs. A firm also should respect and value the confidentiality of its clients.

You should have a relationship with a team of people at the firm, who can offer a variety of expertise, and not just one person, as you can benefit more from that collective expertise. And that team should endeavor to establish and maintain the highest standards of excellence in everything that its members do.

How should a wealth advisory firm approach financial planning?

Financial planning should serve as the base of the pyramid of financial success and as the foundation for how the firm serves its clients. Financial planning should be a lifelong process that continues to evolve as life circumstances change, not something that is done once, then put on a shelf and never re-addressed.

Sometimes, financial planning is about helping you modify your behavior so that it is better aligned with allowing you to accomplish your goals. A firm that adds life coaching to the process can help you achieve those things that are important to you. Good advice must be given within the context of your total circumstances and not with isolation.

And when expertise beyond that of the firm is required, it is the firm’s responsibility to recommend the involvement of other professionals who are able to meet those needs.

What other things are important?

Your wealth advisory firm should stay in the forefront of technology development so that it is equipped to meet your needs. It also should be as committed to its employees as it is to its clients, providing a good place to work in a stimulating, supportive and enjoyable environment. And it should not only provide that environment, it should continue to build the professional capabilities of each and every staff member through ongoing education and training.

Should a wealth advisory firm’s actions go beyond financial planning?

Yes. The firm should not act in isolation and instead actively contribute to both the community and to the profession. For example, it ought to bring unique capabilities to help families and businesses improve communication, find shared visions and move toward a more harmonious whole, sometimes focusing on issues such as succession and other times simply helping to build a better team. Ideally, its approach will respect the importance and distinctiveness of each of the many pieces of your life, while also embracing how those pieces fit together to build a balanced and beautiful picture.

A firm’s investment process works best when it is disciplined, thoughtful, strategic, tax- and cost-sensitive, and well diversified. The investment world is constantly changing, and it is important for a wealth advisory firm to stay ahead of the curve, choosing an independent course that reflects the best research and thinking of its members.

Look for a firm that is large enough to bring the necessary resources to bear to help it address your issues and your needs, yet is still small enough to remember that its members work for you. They should answer your calls and think about how they can serve you better, not how you can contribute to the business.

If you choose a firm that believes that all things are possible if you have the audacity and courage to determine what you really want in life, you can form a partnership that can help you successfully achieve your financial goals.

Norman M. Boone is founder and president of Mosaic Financial Partners Inc., which is celebrating, this year, its 25th anniversary. Reach him at (415) 788-1951 or norm@mosaicfp.com.

Insights Wealth Management & Family Business Consulting is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners

Published in Northern California