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The exact process you can use to find and assemble your own personal finance power team
Before you get started, let me say this; This is a longer article, but if you could take 10 minutes or so out of your day to understand strategies that are typically only presented to families with a net worth of 50 Million or more, would you? Take the time to read this, you won’t regret it. To figure out if you have the right people on your financial team, let’s start with some critical questions. If you don’t have an absolute yes to any one of these, then you’re at the right place.
- Do you feel like you are paying too much in tax? Do you know how to find out if you are? When was the last time you had a second opinion on your taxes?
- Did you know there is a specific order in which you should be paying your loans down? Do you have more than one loan? If so, have you refinanced or renegotiated your interest rates in the last two years? Are all of your loans structured to give you the maximum tax advantage?
- Do you have a system to pay yourself first and automatically build a cash reserve of money to invest?
- Do you know how to best leverage the cash you have saved?
- Do you understand all your investments? Do any of them cause you worry or concern? Do you feel like you are on track and where you want to be financially?
- Do all of your investments create cash flow for you? Are you happy with their performance? Have you protected the downside? Do you have a written exit plan for each investment?
- Have you updated your asset protection and your estate planning? Are you certain you have the right structure?
- Are all of your insurance coverages up to date? Have you reviewed your policies in the last 2 years? Do you have an umbrella policy to reduce cost, increase coverage and avoid duplicate coverages?
- Do you have the maximum amount of life insurance to protect your greatest asset? Does your disability insurance adequately cover all your real costs in the event of a temporary or more permanent disability?
- Do you own your own building? If so, have you done a cost segregation study for tax purposes?
It’s ok to take a breather right now. If you answered “no” or “not sure” to any of these, then take a moment to answer this: If something happens to you financially, be it an up or a down, do you know who to call? Do you at least have one person, a financial quarterback, who you can call when you have a financial question, who’s also looking out for you proactively, every step of the way? Do you have the financial team you want? Are you missing anyone, or do you need to replace anyone? This blog is long, so it’s probably worth bookmarking, printing out, or spending a few minutes reading. So do that right now, if you want to. We’ll hold on… Ok, back? At this point, it’s time for a story from George Acheampong, Capitalwize’s Co-Founder and Managing Advisor. Helping people navigate their personal and business finances is his passion. What follows, will tell you how to vet your current team, identify the values that your financial team needs to have, and how to find the right people. To begin, we have to start with WHY personal finance for entrepreneurs and business owners is different than the mainstream advice we often hear about budgeting and investing in the stock market, and why that mainstream advice might be loading you with an unnecessarily poor quality of life, and excess risk. Here’s George…
Personal Finance for the Entrepreneurs and Business Owners, like the Wealthy, is not Exactly About Budgeting and Investing in Mystery Boxes
When I was 23 years old, after graduating from college just a year prior, I found myself working in the financial services industry after my hopes for a marketing executive position dried-up due to graduating just after economic turmoil in 2008. Finding a job in finance was pretty easy at that time. I started working for a prominent insurance company that offered some “financial planning” services. Make no mistake about it though, Insurance was the answer to every problem. If you let them tell it, insurance was the miracle financial vehicle that could solve anything. I was drinking the cool-aid too. This was my first official career so I assumed this is how things were done. Until I stumbled upon a guy who said he was apart of a “Family Office” This is the kind of firm that only caters to people with a net worth upwards of $50 million, where a lot of smart people sit around the table for one client to build out and manage a coordinated wealth strategy. I was very intrigued by this and wanted to learn more. I started to realize that the services the insurance company that I worked for was providing paled in comparison to this concept of a Family Office. But the concept is something that everyone needs yet it was only offered to the super-rich. The concept is this, you go to a meeting and in one room, there is every member of your financial team. Around that table, would-be attorneys, accountants, cash flow specialists, fiduciaries, investment advisors, and every kind of insurance professional you could imagine, sitting around one table. What a genius concept. Then I realized that this genius concept was only available to those who were already wealthy. But what about all the entrepreneurs who aren’t worth tens of millions of dollars?”
They are getting pieced-mealed advice from financial service professionals that are not even experts in the areas that they say they are. Which results in short-sided, inaccurate advice. The need for a full financial planning team became even more prevalent in 2015. It was the year I got married to my beautiful wife, Majesty. Throughout that entire year, I was experiencing significant back pain. I work out a lot already and was going overtime so I could look great in my wedding tux so of course I naturally assumed I may have tweaked something. I went to over 10 different doctors all with different, and wrong diagnoses. It was not until about 11 months later that I finally got the answers I was looking for. At this point, I could barely walk and leave the house. Doctors finally found that had a fractured spine that was caused by a tumor that was growing inside of my 9th vertebrae. I was diagnosed with several different things prior, including an incurable kidney disease, which was wrong. After a couple of surgeries and some intense physical therapy, I came out on the other side and I’m doing just fine today. What I realized was, all of the “specialized” doctors I had been seeing, had a narrow view of what they thought could be wrong with me. The problem with the human body (as with your financial plan) is that it can’t be compartmentalized. If the brain doctor only knows about the brain, there is a good chance he may miss the fact that a person’s root issue could be caused by another factor. But imagine if all the specialized doctors worked together to coordinate your treatment plan? taking their individualized expertise to create a truly comprehensive approach to your health. There would probably be a lot less misdiagnosis. After this experience, I knew I had to finally change the way financial planning was done. it had to be integrated. It had to be comprehensive. It had to be a team approach. The way the current financial planning structure is setup for the middle class and the upper-middle class to fail. they’re coming to an entrepreneur, and telling them to take money from their business, and penny-pinch and budget instead of creating a strategy that will actually help them grow their business and their wealth. This is old, antiquated rules, that are costing people substantial wealth. So when I saw this wealth team, it seemed obvious that this was what every entrepreneur needs, even if they’re not worth a substantial amount of money. I thought back to my health journey and remembered how challenging and harmful it was to keep getting the wrong answers. I knew this same issue existed in financial planning and I wanted to solve it. I have to build that for the business owner. I have to create a team that’s coordinated, that communicates across silos of expertise, that’s focused on results and education, that helps bring a concise and condensed amount of information that applies to the individual without overwhelming the client with a bunch of financial jargon and information that’s out there, because that starts to suck up their time, create stress and frustration… The second thing I wanted to know was, how do I find the best people out there to be on my team?
How to find the best people to be on your team
In the beginning, it was just a matter of networking and trying to find great people who I could add to my network of resources. I knew it had to go deeper than that, though. I needed to know that these people were experts at what they did. I knew I had to get crystal clear on a financial philosophy that me and my clients could subscribe to. something that would be the guiding light for all of the moves we made.
If you don’t understand clearly what your financial philosophy is, someone else will come to your door and sell you theirs.
Clarity. Confidence. Control
So ask yourself this: Right now, if you think about all the financial professionals that you need on your team, do you have them? I’m going to go through right now and ask you the questions to determine this. Because no one individual is an expert in everything. When I was 23 years old and got licensed with my life and disability insurance license and I presented myself as a financial planner. But I didn’t know about corporate structure. I didn’t know about estate planning. I didn’t know about credit score. I didn’t know about the best way to get the best interest rates on loans. I didn’t know about domestic asset protection trusts. I didn’t know about a lot of things, because I worked in a specific niche where I got paid to focus on that niche. So first ask yourself:
- Do your financial professionals get paid for transactions tied to a specific product? Or do you write them a check for a service?
- Do they have a bigger picture and a team they work with?
Because no individual is an expert in everything, which is why you have so many different types of doctors. let’s go through the different individuals that I have, and the different components that we look at. I have one person who deals with property and casualty insurance, car insurance, homeowners, and limited liability or business owner policies. He knows everything about the above types of insurance, he’s not just beholden to one insurance company. I want someone who’s an expert, who’s somehow nerdy enough that they love this stuff and want to pay attention to every detail. My guess is that you don’t love this, you don’t want to pay attention to insurance every day and find out what’s changing and upkeep it to have the very best structure. But that’s what this individual does. The next aspect is disability insurance. That’s an entirely different type of insurance and area of expertise. Then there’s health insurance, which is another area of expertise, meaning another individual. Then there’s life insurance. This is an area where there’s lots of confusion and misinformation. So it’s important to make sure they agree exactly with your financial philosophy, whether it’s like my 20 premise points mentioned earlier, or entirely your own. Make sure they understand that life insurance is just a tool — not the only tool — and how it’s going to be used, so you go for the right amount first, before you select the type. Side note: we only want insurance people who only work with insurance companies that are 100 years or older. They’re only mutual-based companies so they don’t have to pay stockholders. They’re not in property and casualty insurance, so they don’t carry that kind of financial risk. These are just some of my criteria, and at this point, we’re only on insurance and we’re already at 4-5 different individuals. There’s also estate planning, which includes wills and trusts, and powers of attorney, and medical directives, like living wills. That’s a different individual than a corporate attorney, who deals with the corporate structure you choose. And even different than your tax attorney, which might be needed when you’ve achieved a certain level of success in your business, having higher-end strategies. What about somebody who helps you with credit? Or with cash flow? Do you have the right loan structures? Are your financials in order so that if you took them to a bank, you could get that loan you’re looking for? How about your investment advisor, someone who deals specifically with investments? Or the types of attorneys that would deal with setting up a captive insurance agency (a topic for another day) would be different than your tax attorney. I think you get the point now.
“If someone calls themselves a financial planner, first look at how they get paid. Do they get paid for transactions on mutual funds and retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs? Or do they get paid on Advice?”
There are a LOT of moving pieces, and if someone calls themselves a financial planner, first look at how they get paid. Do they get paid for transactions on mutual funds and retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs? Or do they get paid for Advice? Or on designing a plan for you? Or on bringing everything together and making sure it’s implemented? Or do you find that 90% of the time they’re only talking about the things they paid on? Now if this is the case, it’s not that they’re bad people, or that they’re wrong. Because we don’t need to replace good people. But we SHOULD focus on making what you have even better. We want to make sure that team works together. At Capitalwize, we’re the glue that connects everything, and where people are missing a person or strategy, we can bring that individual or strategy in, and really help them out. You may have heard us talk about “Forecasting Your Freedom” Or maybe you’re new to us, and in that case, Welcome! What we’re talking about is building a team. This isn’t something that you get from our team unless you come to one of our workshops, or work with us one on one. We’re very selective on who we work with, because we only work with 25-30 people/year. Why? Because it’s high-touch, we’re helping do the heavy lifting to help them get results more efficiently, with a lot less effort, and with everybody coordinated and working together off the same proverbial piece of paper. It’s more of an orchestra, where it sounds like music. Not like the chaos of a 3rd grade band.
What a Freedom First Wealth Team can Do for Your Finances
Let’s dive into some examples of what my team has been able to done for me, and then we’ll go into how to select a team, along with some very specific questions you can ask your team to find out if you have the right person. And if you don’t have the right person, we’ll talk about how to find that right person. The biggest thing I learned from my team – I see it as changing my financial destiny for me and my family. Because it’s not just the team I’m learning from. But it’s the structure my team brings to me that will support my kids in the future. The wealthiest families always have this. Family services firms are designed for legacy. That your children get to continue working with the same team. That they get to continue getting the solid advice they can count on, instead of dealing with the fragmentation that most people deal with. A lot of people are born back into bondage. Their parents spend or lose their money, or place it with speculative investments, and then the kids have to start over again. Imagine having a family bank, and a legacy plan that says, “you can use this money, but you replenish it. You don’t get to be entitled, you’re not guaranteed to get this money.” This is something that we call the “Rockefeller Method.” The Rockefeller Method is about perpetuating legacy from generation to generation, because you have the right team. This team has saved me a LOT. For one, my team has helped me save money from a tax perspective by amending my prior taxes returns. You can go back three years and amend your returns just by getting a second set of eyes on your taxes. Why would you need a second set of eyes?
- Maybe your business has grown, and you’re just in a better place than you were three years ago, and maybe you’ve outgrown your CPA, or your tax attorney.
- Maybe you didn’t get your information to them on time, or didn’t furnish them with all the information that they needed to devise a better strategy.
- Maybe some tax laws have changed that allow you to go back and retroactively amend.
Going back and amending the last three years of your tax returns and having the IRS cut you a check, instead of you cutting them a check, feels pretty good. I do this every three years. Accountants can get in a rut; they can get busy. Information might not have gotten to them. You want to do this. Do you have someone who has your back? If not, navigating the waters alone can be very risky, so if you don’t, get one. Now let’s go to the other side: the tax attorney. As you gain momentum, and make more money, there might be a lot you can do here. Let’s say you bought $2 million worth of art, but only paid $300,000 for it. After 3 years, you could donate that art for its full appraised value. You can donate to a museum, That museum gets the art, you get the tax deduction, and for every dollar, you spend on the art, you getting $2 back in tax savings. This is an attorney strategy. For example lets say you want to buy a building, a good tax attorney would tell you that you could actually bring in an engineer, and do a study called a Cost Segregation study. That study could allow you to take 3X the tax deduction of the several years, and not have to wait 39 years to get my tax deduction. This idea will put more savings your pocket right away. Lets take this one for example, another strategy that we use with one of our clients, called a Charitable Remainder Trust. Our client was selling his business, and was going to have hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax liability on his $1.7 million sale. By using a charitable trust, he got a tax deduction instead of a tax bill, and the full $1.7 million is providing him income from the Charitable Remainder Trust. When he dies, the charity will keep what’s leftover. But in the meantime, he avoided hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax, and he increased his cash flow by thousands each month, because there’s more money at work for him. Do you have a CPA and a tax attorney? This is probably the hardest place where we had to go looking. This was probably one of the toughest roles to find someone who subscribed to all 20 of our points, including:
- No one person is an expert in everything
- We focus on cash flow over accumulation
- Focus is more powerful than diversification
- We look at protection first, and then production
- We want people to only invest in what they know
There are just certain things that when implemented, will help people achieve sustainable wealth, but most financial advisors miss them, because they’re saying, “buy low because the market’s on sale,” or “you’re in it for the long haul.” All these sayings are excuses. I hate these excuses. I was told to give these excuses when I started out my career, and put money in mutual funds for my clients. When the market went down, I was told, “tell your client that the market’s on sale and that they’re in it for the long haul.” Here’s another strategy: Most people put their money in the market, but they could actually put a trailing stop loss on their investments, so if the market goes down by a certain percentage, they’re guaranteed not to go below that amount, because the investment is automatically sold and moved to cash.” I asked him why not everybody knows this. His answer? The investment advisors can’t get paid when the money’s in cash. So that goes back to these questions:
- Is your investment team getting paid on getting you results?
- Is it getting paid on giving you the strategy?
- Or is it merely getting paid based on the transaction, or a service tied to a specific kind of product?
This is absolutely critical to understand and expose. Next:
- Are there any pieces of your financial picture that are missing?
- Do you have the right people?
- Are they proactive with you?
- Do you have your entire team communicating at least once/year so that everything is operating from the same piece of paper?
We find all the time when meeting with a new client that they have a really high interest rate on a loan, and they’re not earning that kind of money on one of their current investments. It’s a guaranteed savings if they cash out the investment and pay off that loan! Yet most financial planners and retirement planners aren’t comprehensive enough to actually look at that advice, because it hurts their pocket book and their bottom line. Whose bottom line is more important to you? Yours or theirs? Now hopefully there’s a win-win structure for you. It does exist, because we’ve actually developed one. Unfortunately, we only work with 20-30 people/year. I didn’t want to go scale a business and work with thousands of people/year, and then we don’t know them, and they’re just another number. I said, “Let’s make sure to keep this small and intimate and be responsible for the results. That we can have a depth with every person who works with us.” We love the people that are apart of our team but it’s important to realize that sometimes people change. And if someone on our team stopped subscribing to our philosophy? We replace them. We want only the best, and create standards where they’re meeting with each other on a regular basis, teaching each other, and meeting with our team. Our programs have a high price point, but for many of our clients, the cost is negligible, because we’ll only bring someone into the program if we feel, with a high level of certainty, that we can put more money back in their pocket than they pay us. The way they put money in their pocket after working with us is, we save them in tax, we save them in interest, we save them from duplicate coverages and cost, and we’re finding, like financial detectives, every nook and cranny where money exists. We’re not telling you to cut back or scrimp. We’re just finding a way for you to put your financial house in order, that leads to you keeping more of every dollar that you make. As a business owner, you recognize that A-Teamers produce results, you don’t have to micromanage them, they love what they do, they’re great at what they do, and they protect it fiercely.
“Do you have an A-Team of Finance?”
One of our strategies when an organization gets big is, get rid of a B-Teamer, give the A-Teamer that work + a 10% bump in income, and watch that productivity soar while your profit margins increase at the same time. If you deserve that in your business, do you have an A-Team of Finance? Do you have that unique, 5200% advantage with your team? When our clients come to us and say “Here’s an investment I’m looking at, let’s poke holes in it,” I get really good due diligence. They’ve saved me a lot of money, several times, because of what they could see and detect that I just wasn’t trained to do. When I look at all these tax strategies that put money in my pocket when everyone’s complaining about how much tax that they pay, that’s what happens when you have the right wealth team. When it comes to interest, how much interest have I saved by having the right interest rates, and being able to have access to money when other people didn’t have it? That was absolutely critical. Our clients tell us that:
- They have more peace of mind. They know they have a financial team that has their back, one that’s empowered and educated them.
- They have more financial clarity. They know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
- They have confidence. When you know you have the right team on your side, you can be more confident.
So how do you go out there and get that team? I know three ways to do it. If you’re worth $50 million or more, look up a family services firm. I think there are some amazing firms out there that do a great job. The second way involves the list of critical assessment questions I’m giving you today. The third is, you can apply to work directly with us. By filling out a few questions, you’ll help us understand if you’re the right candidate for the program, or what resources we might be able to give you based on your situation, in the event that our program isn’t a fit for you. There’s plenty more to explore, and we look forward to sharing it with you in the next installment.