Travis Allen, CFA, CFP®, RICP®

Travis is a Wealth Management Advisor and owner of Custom Wealth Planners. Travis has been working with high-net-worth families for more than 15 years. He specializes in retirement distribution and tax planning. Learn more about Travis here.

Splurge on the big family trip, get a new car every couple of years, and certainly buy coffee at Starbucks in the morning. (sorry Dave Ramsey)

This kind of guidance likely runs counter to what many would expect a financial advisor to provide. Unfortunately, our profession has built a reputation that is hyper-focused on restricting the two things that money is best at: buying and doing stuff.

While I’ve not solved the basic economic issue of people having unlimited wants with limited resources (and have a general appreciation for deferred gratification), we do operate with a slightly different mentality when advising clients.

Our focus is not on being the ultimate authority around what you should (or should not) spend your money on. That would lead to me projecting my own values and priorities onto you. Instead, we help clients better define what brings them joy, refine that into specific goals/objectives, and bring that all together to build a vision for them to live the best life that they can imagine. We then get to work crafting a plan that helps prioritize these items along with the specific actions needed (or factors for success) to attain them. Yes, there may be sacrifices of some items over others, but more often than not we find this gives clients a far greater purpose and energy around what’s possible with their financial and personal lives.

To give some greater context around this, I thought I’d outline our typical longer form planning process that we engage clients with.

Initial Introductory Call

We’re not going to be a good fit for everybody. As a transitioning advisor, it pains me to admit this. I’m seeking to be very purposeful around the clients we bring in to ensure we’re able to add value to their life. (their needs match our capabilities) While we have a strong reputation for both planning and investments, the real value is delivered through integration of both in a seamless manner. New clients of the firm can expect a short 20-30 minute initial meeting to assess whether we can add value or not. If we’re not the right fit, we’re part of a nationwide network of some of the best financial advisors out there. We’ll happily get you connected with one better suited to your needs.

Factfinding and Goal Discovery

The next step in the process is to begin data collection. This can be a little dry and boring, so I won’t waste too much time describing in this post. The goal will be to know every detail about what you own, your debts, current savings and spending habits, insurance coverage, tax situation….and many other items too long to list.

The second part of this has become my favorite part of this profession. Many enter into this conversation either not knowing what they’d like to accomplish, or carry very vague ideas around their goals (i.e. retire, pay for college, that boat purchase, etc.). We spend a fair amount of time unpacking the details of each, advocating and dreaming about what else, and seek to build full understanding around the “why” behind them. The why may sound a little touchy-feely for some. As someone who tends to favor analytics over emotion (ask my wife), I’ll admit this wasn’t a core focus of mine until the last few years. What I’ve found is that having a deeper understanding around the reasons behind certain goals helps us ensure our actions are best aligned with desired outcomes. It’s also a far better motivator and driver of follow-through when we tie a deeper purpose to generic goals (i.e. Retire Early vs. Stopping work at age 60 so you can spend more dedicated time with your children/grandchildren).

Analysis of Your Current Trajectory

With the awareness around your current finances and a developing vision for the future, we use sophisticated planning software to help gauge how doable the initial goals are. This projects long term income needs, income sources and assets available, and the potential wealth accumulation/decumulation over your life. We can also tease out several “what-ifs” to help determine things like a sustainable spending rate, required investment returns, early/delayed retirement decisions, or the capacity for one-off bigger expenses. This by no means is a precision exercise of exactly what will happen, but does allow us to make a reasonable set of assumptions to begin grounding financial decisions in math, not rules of thumb or guesswork.

Re-analyze Initial Goals, Craft New Ones, Begin to Prioritize

Ok, I think this might actually my favorite part. Most of the individuals we work with have far more resources than they would need to satisfy what tend to be relatively modest goals. (and significantly underestimate what’s possible) The analysis from above begins to clarify the magnitude of that. As they learn that the basics are easily met, they begin to think differently about what they want their future life to look like. I’ve had a client who thought he had 5 years of work left submit his resignation just days after one of these meetings. Not all are that extreme, but the sparks of curiosity and new priorities that are born out of this kind of analysis are some of the most exciting and rewarding things to be part of. It empowers clients to take control of what their future might look like and become very purposeful with the steps they take to get there.

Develop and Discuss Best Ideas to Improve Your Situation

Likely another dry/boring area to dive too deep with in a blog post. It’s also very wide-ranging depending on the individual’s needs, so I’ll spare you. Ultimately, we put together a list of recommendations (say a page or two) that represent our best thinking of how to improve your financial trajectory. There are many ways to do well financially, so we seek to focus more on education and collaboration around our best thinking and client preferences, not just a mandate of the one right way to do it.

Finalize Action Items and Begin Execution

All of this is wasted effort without execution. Whether engaging us on a one-off Planning Engagement or via our ongoing Advisory Service, you’ll receive the outline of final action items and how to execute. The difference will be whether you want to retain us for ongoing (and proactive) advice and execution assistance through our Advisory services, or comfortable handling things on your own through the Fee-Based Planning Engagement.

Ongoing Monitoring and Evolution of the Plan

Pretty self-explanatory here. Life, priorities, taxes, regulations, and many other areas are in a constant state of change. I’ve often walked into a meeting with clients expecting very little to come out of it, only to have to re-write the entire plan and have a list of a dozen action items. Don’t underestimate how much life changes in a short period of time. Financial planning needs to be a recurring and ongoing process to ensure you’re always on the path for the life you want to live.

I’d like to wrap this up with a fancy inspirational quote, but can’t seem to locate one that resonates best right now. Instead, I’ll again thank everyone for the great support throughout this transition. I begin onboarding my first clients this week. (starting with myself) A little nervous, but a lot excited about what’s to come.

P.S. – I did get a little grief in my last post for not including a picture of the entire family. (sorry mom) Apparently that’s because it’s been over 2 years since we’ve been able to wrangle the little one for a full pic. This will have to do…

Also, for those of you that are podcasts fans I can’t recommend this enough. Tremendous perspectives on wealth…

Welcome to Custom Wealth Planning’s blog where founders Travis & Clay share their thoughts on topics that cover Money, Mindfulness, & History.

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