Services

I offer expertise, honesty, structure, process, discipline, cooperation, and choice

… on the financial side of planning and managing your life.

(By the way, also 2 ears and 1 mind, … all quite attentive)

In line with my planning philosophy and WaD principles, I

    1, limit my role to your actual needs and wants; and
    2, help you in various ways to keep or gain better control of your life.

In a nutshell

Services can entail

  • comprehensive or modular plans (risk management, retirement planning, estate planning, investment management, etc.), and/or providing

  • health and life insurance advice and products – both for protection and investments (in Ontario and British Columbia only)

  • My work is contract-based, and my compensation alternatives include fee only, fee plus commission, fee offset, or commission only arrangements.

    It is important to distinguish various roles I can play in relationships with clients. My offering, duties, responsibilities, and compensation are not the same in various situations. What is common in any role I can play is that I have to follow the Code of Ethic of financial planning professionals, based on the principles of Integrity, Objectivity, Competence, Fairness, Confidentiality, Professionalism, and Diligence. (For details, please click here.) It is important to speak clearly about the roles and responsibilities of clients as well, and to mutually clarify and discuss expectations regarding both roles and outcomes.

    In the following sections I discuss the basic situations, and elaborate on the main aspects of working together.

    Top of page

    Life planning activity

    Dealing with someone’s total financial situation (as opposed to some segment of it) is the most interesting, challenging, and also the most rewarding for both the client and the professional. In a financial life planner role especially, I have to ask many questions. Some people find that uncomfortable. However, it is important to understand that to the extent the client responds partially or falsely, we are bound to deceive ourselves and each other, and the value of the whole exercise will be commensurate. Simpler plans (let’s say a risk management plan or an investment asset-allocation plan) can perhaps be done for you (although some input from you is needed even there), but trying to create a life plan for you is absolutely pointless. It can be done only with you, in close collaboration. In this relationship, I strive to ‘step into (and figuratively wear!) your shoes’ and make you revisit basic issues and assumptions, because the most benefit can be expected from finding the best (perhaps brand new, perhaps fine-tuned, perhaps first-time-admitted, etc.) questions, not simply from tinkering endlessly with old ones. This kind of work is of long-term, broad horizon type, and explorative.

    When I emphasize the long term nature of planning, I don’t mean to diminish the importance of the present and the immediate future either. The challenge is in finding some long term vision for which we can create a credible / doable / walkable path from the present and through the near future. It’s a balancing act, and some related compromises or sacrifices (or opportunities) that make sense for someone can be quite impossible for the next person. Because the issues discussed are predominantly lifestyle, family, values/attitudes, and career issues, as opposed to technical details, the planning process itself can be exciting, satisfying, and enjoyable as well. The funny thing is that how the future will unfold will actually be more influenced by these ‘non-technical’ issues under our control than by largely out-of-our-control market forces or government policies.

    Because of the need for openness, collaboration and proper attitude, financial life planning is not for everybody. Not everybody sees or willing to consider the benefits of planning in general, to start with.

    People who are (I’m inclined to say: hopelessly) fatalistic, e.g., should realize and acknowledge first that their plans and actions do matter. Without accepting this view, talking about planning is a waste of time. Similarly, I’d rather not do this kind of planning with people of the other extreme: those who believe that with planning (or in any other way) you can exactly foresee or prescribe / determine the(ir) future. I’ve also met people of a third type who are less than ideal candidates for planning. I’m referring to those who do plan but who decline doing it for the long run. They think that since only the near future can be prescribed in details (while actually even that has limits, of course) thinking long-term is rather useless. Their logic dictates that they want, more than anything else, documents (mainly predictions, which they tend to interpret as at least quasi promises, of specific outcomes) that can be checked out in a year or two to see if the planning was successful.

    In contrast, my approach is that the planning process itself (the learning and communication involved, and the creativity and motivation un-leashed) is more important than the document itself at the end. I’m talking especially about the nice outcome-waving, sleep-inducing, ‘Everything will be all right, do not worry’ kind of documents of seduction, or the ones that simply try to scare the client into saving and buying the most financial products they’re able to. It may seem that I’ve just referred to two different kinds of documents here, while actually they have a common deficiency: they do not give realistic, actionable to do lists, because of oversimplified modeling, and the misplaced focus on numeric outcomes and uncontrollable factors.

    There should be verifiable targets, of course, but they should refer predominantly to controllable things (what we plan to do and can influence) and not so much to the outcomes (what we actually get at the end). As for outcomes, it’s more meaningful to create alternative scenarios or projections of them, possibly with probabilities of occurrence attached, with the clear acknowledgment that there are very few guarantees for outcomes, if at all, that we can offer. Regular monitoring and revisiting the plans is vital, … again, something that not everybody is willing to do. If there are no false (even ‘quasi’) promises about things beyond our control, we can focus at these revisiting times on the proper questions: Did we each do what we planned and promised? Is there a need to modify our predictions because reality turned out differently from what we projected? What are the actions we should do according to our current situation (vision, circumstances), … who, what, when, how?

    To give shape to the broad process of financial life planning, I use

  • several financial planning tools (special software and information gathering and thought-provoking / communication facilitating documents and methods); and
  • comprehensive analysis of your financial situation to establish creative, effective, and tax-efficient solutions, using risk management, as well as asset accumulation, utilization and transfer strategies, with your life goals, values, attitudes, risk-taking and volatility-handling ability and willingness in mind.
  • Top of page

    Potential building blocks

    Here is a long, still not quite comprehensive, list of financial areas, products, concepts, strategies and tactics that can be considered as potential building blocks of financial life plans:

    Retirement planning

    Education planning

    Wealth accumulation, protection, utilization, and transfer in tax-effective ways

    Mortgage protection

    Planned giving / charitable donation

    RRSPs, RRIFs, RESPs, Individual Pension Plans,

    Leveraging

    Asset-allocation analysis and recommendations

    Fee-based Tax-efficient Separately Managed Accounts

    Creditor protection

    Estate planning

    Dealing with financial windfalls (inheritance, lottery, etc.)

    Life insurance (term, pure protection and cash value policies)

    Living benefit insurance (disability, critical illness, long term care policies, drug, health and dental plans, travel insurance)

    Annuities

    Segregated funds

    Mutual funds

    Labour sponsored plans

    Consolidated debt and cash management

    Guaranteed investments

    Business applications of some of the above-listed, plus:

    • Succession planning
    • Key person insurance
    • Buy-sell insurance
    • Overhead protection
    • Flexible and portable group health plans
    • Benefit sharing plans
    • Executive health savings plans
    • Individual pension plans

    Top of page

    Dealing with insurance

    On the insurance side, you can get guidance and very good policies from me if you either

    (i) are simply concerned about various risks and the effects of those on your individual situation (that is, the specific kinds of solutions have to be determined first); or if you
    (ii) know more or less specifically that you want to buy, for protection of yourself / your family / your business, some

  • term life insurance
  • permanent life insurance (either pure protection or cash value plans)
  • long term disability insurance
  • critical illness insurance
  • long term care insurance
  • segregated funds
  • annuities of various kinds
  • business overhead protection plans
  • health & dental plans.
  • Besides insurance products that protect people against financial consequences of too early death, illnesses, or accidents, I can offer you insurance based solutions and products (segregated funds and annuities) that provide some protection against market loss in invested assets, or against the danger of longevity, that is someone outliving their investments.

    There are several insurance companies I have access to, and I have the tools, expertise, and organizational background to select the good alternatives to any particular situation from among the wide selection of choices available. Sometimes, reviewing existing insurance policies and strategies offers opportunities to improve protection and/or save costs.

    Can I assure you that I will always find THE SINGLE best perfect solution to your insurance problems? In simple cases, especially when term insurance is involved, it’s not too ambitious to expect even that. In general, however, reality is much more complicated, of course; and one should not easily buy into claims of such perfectness by anyone.

    Don’t look for a magician; look for knowledgeable, reliable and honest advisors instead. I think I am such a person. I have the ticklish feeling, however, that I am not alone with that claim. How to pick one of us? My basic advice: Look for professionals, as opposed to salespeople. Don’t forget that professionalism is about dedication, independence, and both broad and deep knowledge and skills that are continuously updated. Ask your candidate advisor or broker about their independence, their background, the tools they use, and the way they operate. Ask for and compare with them alternatives, and clarify assumptions that the offered computer-generated illustrations are based on. Ask many questions, do not accept any suggestion without being clear and convinced about its worthwhileness.

    I must emphasize the importance of the use of insurance premium comparison software, since there are so many offerings. If one does not select a policy from the wide choice available, it is very likely that /s/he will end up with unnecessary costs (not to mention now the possibility that the features of the policy bought can match his/her specific needs much less well than if the decision is based on careful exploration of all the choices). Do not forget: for practically the same product, one company may charge much more than another; and the company that is very competitive with one product, at a certain time, or for a certain client, can be quite uncompetitive with a different product, at a different point of time, or for someone else with different needs, age, smoking or health status, etc. Price comparison is not everything, of course (product features, and company strengths and characteristics also matter), but it is important enough not to neglect it ever.

    Even if I cannot promise wonders, free insurance (… unless you have some money to invest first), or longevity, I can surely promise that you will get honest and circumspect service if you ask me to survey your situation and make a tailor-made proposal to solve your insurance problems.

    Top of page

    As an investment advisor

    In addition to life planning and insurance services and products, I can offer help with investing as well (including socially responsible / green / ethical investing). I will not sell you any mutual funds, stocks, bonds, or ETFs, but I am committed to help you learn about managing your own finances in a less costly way. I use either the above mentioned powerful financial planning tools or a few simpler asset-allocation or risk-assessment tools to arrive at my investment suggestions, according to the client’s situation and whether there is client interest / willingness in going deeper in the analysis or not.

    Of course, computers are basic tools with investment products and various investment plan illustrations as well, though in a somewhat different way than with insurance. With funds, the emphasis is not so much on illustrations of what may happen if you pick this or that fund (or more often, combination of funds). Computers are important, instead, mainly for their ability to quickly and efficiently filter the fund universe according to various criteria, and compare certain past performance characteristics (risk-adjusted returns, sector or geographic distributions, etc.) of our scrutinized funds with those of other relevant funds and benchmarks.

    Compared to a life plan, there is less exploration, soul-searching, goal setting, and co-creation involved when an investment plan is being made. Into this situation, the client comes with more specific goals, and reveals less to the advisor. The process is simpler and quicker, at the expense of perhaps not going deep enough, and not finding goals, solutions, or opportunities that more attention and openness could have brought up. Regulations try to ensure though that clients are protected from their own potential close-mindedness and unwillingness to investigate properly by obliging advisors to follow some minimal rules and procedures when dealing with clients. The rules are there to protect both clients from unscrupulous or poorly prepared service providers, and also advisors from being exposed to undeserved accusation of unacceptable service.

    What all this boils down to is that even with this relatively simple activity, there are several steps to follow, and many questions for you to answer. If you do not accept the ‘rules of the game’, you shouldn’t expect that you will find an advisor to deal with you. You can cheat of course, by not revealing or falsifying some important information, for example. However, it would be the most foolish to do, since then your advisor cannot make his/her job properly, and you can blame only yourself if something turns really bad perhaps. The advisor is there to give recommendations to you, but the final decision should always be yours. You can decline some recommendations, but there may come situations when I’ll ask it in writing, or even that I’ll ask you to find another advisor or go alone if you insist to do something that I think is totally wrong.

    Top of page

    Our respective roles, process issues, and expectations; feedback, and value added

    According to your situation, choices, and what we agree upon, I can fulfill various roles in the support of the financial side of your life. My preferred roles, and the ones in which I feel I can be the most useful to you are those of a researcher, educator and facilitator. In the first two roles, I collect and interpret information, and then make it digestible to clients so that they can make better decisions on important financial planning issues. In the facilitator’s role, I try to be a neutral / non-biased sounding board, and an arms-length, independent catalyst for value clarification, goal setting, communication, conflict management, and decision making, … then a source of support during the implementation. Some people may need regular prodding, nagging, and reminding, to actually do what they’ve planned. It’s certainly not a preferred role, but if really that’s what you need and want, I’m willing to give it a try. What I wouldn’t even try is to take over decision making rights and responsibilities that belong to you. In various ways, my role is to help you make good decisions, and follow through with discipline.

    Although insurance and other financial issues are sometimes quite complicated, they should not be intimidating. After all, the basics are simple. The complications come mainly from the multitude of choices, especially when they are not directly comparable. It is not rocket science, and not even an exact one; assumptions play a basic role in what kind of conclusion we arrive at. Again, being knowledgeable about some statistical, social, financial and quantitative stuff (trends, patterns, relationships, facts) can help a lot with making our assumptions reasonable. Shortly, it is a knowledge business, and as such, it cannot be decently done without ongoing self-education; my commitment to that, I think, is a strength you can benefit from. Moreover, I believe that from my various presentations (on the web and otherwise) even the young generations (students, children and grandchildren of clients as well) can benefit.

    It is important for me try to achieve this impact on some youngsters because of two reasons. One is that often I can help clients more effectively if I contribute to the improvement of common understanding, and open, sensible and meaningful communication about basic financial issues within families. Second, when I think about our common future, I cannot help feeling some responsibility for the preparedness of next generations for it. Values, attitudes, habits, priorities, knowledge regarding life objectives, lifestyles, and money matters are important (and often neglected or mistreated) part of the preparation package, I think. As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘We are made wise not by recollection of the past but by responsibility for the future’. This is certainly an important part of the wisdom I keep striving for.

    Perhaps I should try to dispel some impressions here. From the foregoing, or simply from the sheer length of this page or the extent of my whole website, I can imagine some readers getting fed-up with my verbiage, seeming overconfidence, and bloated ego, puffing and condescendingly spilling around some alleged pearls of wisdom from the limitless reserve I may believe to have. I hope I’m not that bad or crazy. Yes, I’m more interested in wisdom than smartness, but I also realize that seeking wisdom is a never ending story, and that we each may have something to offer in that regard (just like we each can be a fool sometimes, … no offence intended).

    I’m very interested in others’ life stories and what their experiences and views suggest. I don’t want to force-feed anybody with only my facts, opinions, or assumed gems of wisdom. On the other hand, I’m willing to contradict, and offer my views. I’m not an appeaser at any price, but I’m not obsessed with being always right either. I can even shut up, … I have witnesses if you want. Actually (and seriously now), one of the reasons why I go into so many details is that I want to encourage (potential) clients to respond in kind, because I’m curious about their views and thinking.

    By now, you probably won’t get surprised by this: I cannot guarantee that it will take only a few minutes of your time, or just one occasion of sitting down together, to make a deal with me. It will depend on the circumstances; for purchasing a product, two meetings can be taken as normal. The more complicated the task is, the more time and effort it will take, of course. Assuming a simple insurance purchase inquiry now, I will get familiarized with your situation, needs and preferences on the first occasion. At that time, we can often select a few possible candidates for further scrutiny. I will come to the second ( or perhaps third) meeting with written analysis and a printed comparison of the options I recommend, so that you can pick the one you really want. Whenever I will not have immediate answers to some technical questions, I’ll go and deliver those for you from credible sources, instead of pretending that I know them already.

    What I do expect from you is mainly openness, cooperation, and respecting my time. By openness, I do not mean that you necessarily reveal everything (all your dreams, money, etc.) to me immediately. What I do mean is that you at least don’t mislead me, and that you keep your word. I expect you to tell me if you do not like something I did or told, or if something is not clear, and not just disappear while keeping me working on your case. If you give a chance to open communication, I trust that you’ll realize that it’s in in your best interest to reveal things to me that you perhaps withheld first. Just like you cannot expect proper help from a physician without revealing things you wouldn’t discuss freely with most people, you cannot expect best performance from me either if you hide relevant things from me.

    I also expect that you will be responsive during our hopefully long period of collaboration. I expect that you will return phone calls, emails, e.g., or that you’ll inform me about major changes in your life, so that I can serve you and other clients to the best of my abilities, instead of wasting my life with chasing phantoms. I’d like to get feedback, either negative or positive, from you regarding my performance, so that I can keep improving it.

    Although (or perhaps all the more because) I am a rather informal and flexible person, we should agree on the regularity, preferred forms and content of our on-going communication. I like to document things well, because I believe that it can enhance our less-than-perfect recollections, and thus enhance learning, and hopefully prevent potential misunderstandings and conflicts. I think my clients too can benefit from this ‘archivist’ tendency of mine. This formal treatment will extend to our meetings as well. As a rule, we should always agree on the agenda and objectives beforehand, and I intend to offer you sharing my documentation of our meetings (perhaps just a short note, perhaps full recording, … it depends) afterwards. I believe that offering a structured, systematic and disciplined process is an important component of my value proposition, or value added you can expect from our cooperation.

    Top of page

    Compensation: transparent options

    When we meet first, whatever the follow-up will be later, if any, there will be no charge for a one hour initial consultation. The objective of this meeting is to get acquainted and assess if we want to work together, and if so to outline our cooperation. For further work, I expect being compensated for in some way. The key words in this regard are in the title of this section: my compensation will always be transparent, and I will offer you options.

    I will not hide my own interest from you in suggesting one solution or the other; in other words, I will not make a secret of the commission, where there is immediate or ongoing commission paid, from various alternatives. I hope it will help me to convince you that I base my suggestion on your interest and not mine.

    For pure planning, without implementation (that is no insurance or investment product purchased through me), I charge a fee. Commission from product sales can decrease or eliminate this fee, on an individual basis.

    Insurance protection products are sold in Ontario with fixed commission compensation from insurance companies. Negotiating the price or any rebate is prohibited by regulators. In B.C., the rules are somewhat different, so rebate is not completely out of question there. I’ll do my best to present choices of products where both costs and features/benefits of each are clearly revealed. This way, you can make informed choices, not tainted by my potential preferences due to differing levels of compensation.

    Sale of investment products by insurance companies is rewarded by one time and ongoing commission. Recommendations will not be based on my commission incentives here either, and all the costs to you and the rewards for me will be shown. One central idea behind encouraging and helping you to implement your own investment plans is that it can save you expenses, which is extremely important. If you do not want to do it yourself, in many cases you still do not have to be stuck with purchasing more expensive, commission based, mutual funds or low yielding bank accounts, … which will probably remain the best choice to some but not everybody at all. Provided you have at least $150,000 invested, I may be able to refer you to the kind of individualized separately managed accounts that have significant advantages over mutual funds and that were available only to much wealthier investors in the past. For this, I’d be compensated by a referral fee, … again, clearly revealed to you.

    Top of page

    Share

    No Comments

    No comments yet.

    RSS feed for comments on this post.

    Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

    Based on 3Column SEO WordPress Theme by EasyWebTutorials.com ::: Powered by WordPress