Americans’ biggest retirement fear

The following interview was recently published in the Journal of Accountancy. In it Susan Tillery, Susan president and co-founder of Paraklete® Financial, Inc., a fully-integrated personal financial planning (PFP) firm, uncovers one of the greatest fears Americans have as they grow older.

As the 4 million people retiring this year think about the future, they fear outliving their money more than anything else.

Forty-one percent of CPA financial planners say running out of money is their clients’ top concern about retirement—including those clients who have a high net worth, according to a survey conducted recently by the AICPA.

Susan Tillary 1x1.25“The elderly are living longer than their projected longevity and, as a result, are running out of money,” said Susan Tillery, CPA/PFS, chair of the AICPA’s PFS Credential Committee. “The fear of running out of money in retirement has always been present. However, we are at a demographic crossroads where the Baby Boomers, who hold the largest amount of retirement assets, are supporting both their parents and their children. This has amplified the fear.” Please continue reading here.

 

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. 

Pennies from Heaven & Inherited IRAs

Recently an adviser sent me the following email. The email had an attachment that indicated that a named beneficiary was to receive a taxable distribution as a result of the death of an IRA owner. The amount was small – relatively speaking – $38,000. The adviser’s question was:

“Tom, it looks like this company is going to give this guy a 1099-R on the death benefit.  Can that be avoided if he transfers the funds to another institution as an inherited IRA (option C) before year end?”

And the short answer, which I studiously avoid, is “Yes.” However, there is much more going on in the facts and circumstances which I do want to visit. The beneficiary has a singular opportunity which is now being offered to him, the waiver of the 10% early withdrawal penalty. A distribution made to a designated beneficiary of an IRA, after the death of the IRA owner, is not subject to the 10% premature withdrawal penalty, regardless of the age of your beneficiary: in this instance, a savings of $3,800. [Read more…]

Been to any good “events” lately?

Oh my, there must be something in the water – nationwide, or perhaps just the Piedmont region. Recently while visiting our offices in Washington, DC and Raleigh, NC, I had the opportunity to opine on Event Liability Insurance (ELI) with several of our clients. In each case the fact patterns were very similar.

One client had invested heavily in income producing real estate. There were a variety of properties in different locations; all geographically diversified (diversification is an excellent risk management technique). Additionally, limited liability companies (LLCs) were created for each of the properties, and there was even a master LLC as a member for each of the LLCs holding the real estate. Finally, each of the properties had General Liability Insurance coverage as did the Master LLC, and the client’s trust was named as an additional insured. Our office had done a very good job on managing the risk associated with income producing real estate. [Read more…]

Stock pickers, market timers, and crystal balls

“The worst months to invest money in the stock market are October, January, and May. The others are February, June, November, March, August, April, September, July, and December.

Mark Twain’s sense of humor is reflected in his quote on investing – unfortunately, his investing experience was far from humorous. While his writing was very profitable, he lost a great deal of money as a result of his attempts at market timing and security selection. His initial foray into investing resulted in bankruptcy. [Read more…]

Life Insurance: How Much Do You Really Need?

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.   Mark Twain

There is a great deal to take away from this quote by Mark Twain. I concur with his sentiment. However, dying at any time presents an unacceptable financial risk to survivors unless the deceased is fully insured for life insurance.

The risk of a pre-mature death is a catastrophic failure of one’s dreams and goals. In today’s society, individuals ‘mortgage’ [French word meaning payable unto death] their futures by borrowing against their potential wages. The result of an untimely death is that the bills all come due at a most inopportune time. [Read more…]

Risk Management: Considering Statistics

The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.

This quote by Mark Twain is a wonderful starting point in a discussion about managing risk in a personal financial plan. One of the areas which needs to be addressed is the statistical odds of an event occurring. Fools (which I make it a point to never call anyone) and lightning provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss some math concepts and risk management.

Everyone has heard the statistical odds of being struck by lightning are approximately one in a million. This statistic is based on the average of reported lightning strikes in the U.S. The math works this way: 310,000,000 (U.S. Population) / 280 (Average annual lightning deaths and injuries) = 1 in 1,107,143. Which is approximately, give or take, one in a million (U.S. National Weather Service).

Now here is where an individual can play and have some fun with statistics. The state within which you live has a tremendous impact on one’s odds of being struck by lightning, which many mean that ‘fools’ are smarter than for which Mr. Twain gives them credit. Those who live in Montana (the Big Sky State!) have a greater statistical chance of being struck by lightning – roughly 1 in 249,550. On the other end of the continuum is California. Residents of that state have the lowest statistical odds of being struck by lightning. So the lesson for each of us is that risk can be managed. Fools do not live in Montana in order to increase their chances of ‘not’ being struck by lightning. [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

Financial Planning: An Orphan Looking for a Home – Part 6 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.

Clearly, financial planning has not yet arrived as a profession. Its structure (asset management and/or product placement, or fee for advice) has not been decided. Perhaps another platform is available. I would propose it is a platform that only CPA’s can build. It can be built by CPA’s who will seize this moment in time; who will “adopt” financial planning and  take it to the professional level by offering “true fee-only” independent, objective financial planning.

The CPA is the clients’ trusted advisor and no one is more qualified and suited to offer comprehensive, independent, objective financial planning to your clients than they are. A CPA can attain the AICPA’s PFS designation and help present financial planning as a true profession by taking it to this next level. The CPA/PFS can help keep financial planning from being given over to the regulators. The AICPA has been working very hard to keep this from happening.  They even submitted a comment letter to the SEC strongly opposing the creation of a possible FINRA or other self-regulatory organization oversight for investment advisers. Why? Because this will take financial planning down a level. [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…]