Off the Desk and Into Print!

We are pleased to announce the publication of the textbook: Essentials of Personal Financial Planning co-authored by Susan M. Tillery and Thomas N. Tillery.

Personal financial planning is a process, a series of purposeful and deliberate steps taken in order to achieve a personal financial plan for an individual or family. In all, there are seven steps in the PFP process: engage, discover, analyze, recommend, implement, monitor, update. This book shows the financial planner how to help their client take a more holistic approach to their finances and together develop a game plan for their future.

The textbook initially provides broad foundational concepts for the financial planner to build upon before the specific components of the financial planning process are discussed . Subsequent chapters cover the Personal Financial Planning body of knowledge and other PFP topics. Each subject area has learning tools for the financial planner which include review questions and a case study to practically apply the principles, as well as research assignments to further enhance the learning process. An exhaustive Index allows the student to easily look up specific areas that are covered within the textbook.

For more information or to purchase the book click here to link to the AICPA Store.

Client Advocacy: Susan Tillery Takes a Unique Approach

Susan Tillary 2x2.5What does an ancient biblical word meaning “Holy Spirit” have to do with financial planning in the 21st Century? Plenty, according to Susan Tillery, CPA/PFS.

Susan is president and co-founder of Paraklete® Financial, Inc., a fully-integrated personal financial planning (PFP) firm with offices in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. With more than 30 years’ experience in financial services, Susan sticks to one, basic tenet: placing her clients and their financial well-being first.

We recently sat down with Susan to learn about her unique service model, business mentality and outlook on the profession.

AICPA: Paraklete operates on a fee-for-service model and your catchphrase is “An Advocate in Financial Services.” What is this model all about, and how does the advocacy tagline ladder up to your firm’s operations?

Susan Tillery: Your Advocate in Financial Services” comes directly from the meaning of the name of our firm; Paraklete is the Greek word for advocate, counselor and one who walks alongside you, which best describes what our business model is all about and what we offer our clients.

We don’t manage assets and we don’t sell products; rather, we create a personal financial plan for our clients and then act as their advocate in educating them and implementing their plan. Because we don’t sell anything, manage assets, or receive or pay referral fees, we are able to be completely independent and objective when creating and implementing the client’s plan.

We also arrange and attend the client’s meetings with their investment adviser, estate attorney, CPA, insurance adviser, retirement plan designer, private banker and business attorney, among others, to implement their plan. If the client does not have an adviser in a needed discipline, we will make introductions to at least two advisers and attend these meetings. If the client is already working with certain professionals, we also work with them and integrate everyone into the client’s team.

AICPA: That’s different from the traditional model other CPA financial planners offer. How is this a competitive advantage?

ST: I think consumers are looking for something different from the traditional financial planning model; they want independent, professional advisers to assist them in their financial journey because the process is too complicated and time-consuming to manage on their own.

As a result, they need a fiduciary/advocate they can trust. Who better to fill this role than a CPA/PFS who offers only advice and advocacy? Rather than thinking of this model as giving us a competitive advantage, we look at it as the only way to offer PFP. When we began offering this service model, we did so without the intent of giving us a competitive advantage, but rather, with the assurance that it is the right way to provide these services.

AICPA: So, you refer clients to professionals who can work with them on asset management and products; how do you develop your referral network?

ST: Tom, my husband and business partner, and I have been in Atlanta and in the financial services arena for more than 30 years each. We have met many professionals offering many different financial services, and meet new people every day.

Before we refer our client to professionals, we run a background check within their specific discipline. Then, we meet with them and share our vision for servicing our clients, as well as our approach. If they are in agreement with our service model, we introduce them to one client.

We observe and make sure their actual service and fees are what they promised. If they display integrity and the client has a good experience with them, we begin to introduce them to other clients who need their services. This professional has also had a chance to observe our integrity, service model, and to meet and network with the other professionals on the team. In turn, they begin to refer clients to us.

AICPA: What do your clients say to you about your role as a PFP?

ST: They are thankful they were introduced to us. Many of them are excited to finally understand the complexities of their financial life and the many financial decisions they have to make. Some even say it’s as though they received an MBA in personal finance. This is very rewarding to us.

AICPA: How do you think having taken care of your clients’ financial planning needs has altered your relationship with them, if at all?

ST: Most of our clients are high net worth and busy people with many responsibilities. They enjoy the fact that we are CPAs and treat the engagement with professionalism, from an educational perspective. Great respect is generated on both sides.

AICPA: What advice would you give another CPA or firm who may be wrestling today with the decision of offering financial planning services?

ST: My advice is to begin offering financial planning services to your clients; if you don’t, someone else will. Your clients are looking for a trusted adviser to assist them in their financial journey. You, as the CPA are the trusted adviser. We have had several CPA firms establish PFP services through Paraklete; they are profitable and their clients are thankful their CPA provided this service.

Dan Snyder, CPA, Senior Technical Manager-Personal Financial Planning, American Institute of CPAs. This article recently appeared on the website AICPA Insights and is used with permission. 

Making a difference

This past week I was visiting Ashley Thiem, CPA / PFS in our new Paraklete® Financial, Inc. office in Charleston, SC. As we were making the rounds, I continued to be amazed by the number of individuals, and advisers, who want to retain the services of our firm. There is a definite desire on the part of consumers to engage a financial planning firm that does not manage assets or sell products.

One of the venues we visited was a large manufacturing operation. The business had been in the family for several generations and the next generation was about to “step up to the plate.” Their concerns were business continuity planning, income tax savings and better cash flow for the company—not that there wasn’t enough cash flow; but rather there was too much, which resulted in higher income taxes. [Read more…]

Boot Camp

Well it’s that time of year again. Presently at the firm we are transitioning from the Income Tax Review season into the CPA / PFS Live Review season. This tax season was particularly difficult for our clients and their advisers. The reality of the reinstatement of the Personal Exemption Phaseout and the limitation on Itemized Deductions became quite apparent to many of our clients. Also, the Net Investment Income tax, created to support the Affordable Care Act, gave shocking results to our clients, to say the least! Long story short, taxes are higher for almost everyone. [Read more…]

Family-focused advisors offer personal touch

Editor’s note: President and co-founder of Paraklete ® Financial, Inc., Susan Tillery CPA, PFS, CFP, was recently interviewed by Reuters concerning the rising demand for financial services.

(Reuters) – Baltimore financial adviser Lyle Benson describes his work as that of “Personal CFO” or chief financial officer.

His boutique financial planning firm manages money, but it also does everything from bill paying to estate planning, even assisting clients’ adult children negotiate terms for their first automobile purchase or mortgage.

“We coordinate and work with all of our clients’ advisers” including attorneys, accountants and insurance agents, says Benson. “We make sure everyone is on the same page and working together.”

The services necessary to quarterback a client’s complete financial life, often referred to as family office services, are not just for the ultra-rich. Benson says anyone with investable assets of more than $2 million can benefit from such comprehensive oversight. At his firm, those services are used by more than 30 percent of clients. Please click here to continue reading

Risk Transfer in the Financial Planning Process

No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life, in a great cause. —Teddy Roosevelt

I have been looking for an opportunity to use this wonderful quote by Teddy Roosevelt. It is from an article in the New York Times (12/08/1915). The article is a summary of his remarks for the Harvard Advocate in which he promotes the need for military curriculum at schools of higher learning.

The purpose of today’s posting is not to advocate for military curriculum, which I do support, but to discuss risk management in the personal financial planning process. It is human nature to seek security. Security may be defined as the absence of risk. Once the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter are met, the next need on the list for most of us is a sense of safety/security. [Read more…]

Financial Planning: An Orphan Looking for a Home – Part 5 in an 6 part series

Editor’s note: Portions of the following posting by Susan Tillery, CPS/PFS, CFP, appeared in the January 2011 edition of AICPA Wealth Management Insider Newsletter.

Financial planning needs to be a “stand alone” discipline devoid of conflicts of interest and the moral dilemmas which accompany them.

Financial Planning, without national certification, without universally recognized standards, and without recognition as a profession, has found itself in the midst of a storm of regulatory inquiry. Everyone from consumer groups to Congress wants to regulate this orphan of professional disciplines.

The sky is not falling; the world is not coming to an end even though the media and some financial advisers continue to create a state of fear to facilitate their own agendas. The reality of what is actually happening is that the financial services sector is in the midst of a great moral dilemma. The exact meaning of a dilemma is a situation in which you have to choose between two equally unpleasant alternatives. [Read more…]

Continuing the theme of Praxis – Part 4 in an 6 part series

Aristotle said: “Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it (Praxis); men come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts we come to be just; by doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled; and by doing brave acts, we become brave.”

Personal financial planners, must not only have knowledge and experience, they most also possess ethics. And if we follow along Aristotle’s line of reasoning, ethics or “just acts” are acquired by ‘doing just acts/being ethical.’ And in financial services, ‘doing just acts/being ethical’ is a challenge. [Read more…]

Nothing ever becomes real till it’s experienced – Part 3 in an 6 part series

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced – Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it . . .”

This quote by John Keats has been a part of my life for the last four decades. And I have been waiting for a venue to apply it. My series of blog postings on the personal financial planning profession has provided just such an opportunity. The quote is from a letter by Keats to his brother and sister, George and Georgiana. The letter is long, but the sum of the matter is that knowledge acquired from books has little merit until actually applied in life.

And in point of fact, his observations have been supported by several studies and decades of research. The “sum and substance” of the studies is that “experts” in their various fields are experts as a result of the time they have put into their profession. This correlation between “time in grade” and superior performance is across all disciplines.  Everyone from a chess grand-master to a physician benefits by time practicing their profession. [Read more…]

Why can’t we be friends? Part 2 in an 6 part series

It was in 1975 during my enlistment with the U.S. Air Force that I first heard the song “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” by the American Funk band War. The song was the title track of an album, which bore the same name. This song, like many by the band, was socio-political in nature and addressed the senseless animosity between races in the United States. Also, NASA played this song was played during the linking of U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project.

I would like for all of the various financial planning credentialing entities to hold hands and sing: “Why can’t we be friends?” The needless bickering and infighting is senseless, without purpose, and detracts from the profession. All of this ‘chest thumping’ about ‘my credential is better than your credential’ is a waste of their membership’s valuable resources (dues). [Read more…]