The Whitnell Way
Insights For Business Owners, Executives And Affluent Families
Brian Henderson Publishes Article In Forbes.com
Please Congratulate Brian As He Takes This Next Step In His Career
Whitnell’s commitment to producing thought leadership materials stretches back several years now. The Whitnell Way is one example of how we share ideas with our clients and the wider market. But it’s not the only way – especially now that Brian Henderson is a published author on Forbes.com.
How To Protect Your Family After You’re Gone
Five Lessons Learned From My Dad And Aretha Franklin
My dad and Aretha Franklin have something in common. No, he wasn’t a world-famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer and songwriter. I can’t say that I have ever actually heard him sing. He was a quiet and private man who lived a relatively simple life. What they did have in common is that they both died intestate, which means they died without having a will in place.
The way he passed from this life left his children with a heavy burden to bear. I’ve been reflecting these past few weeks on how the choices we make while we’re still alive have such a powerful impact on the people we love after we’re gone. If you want to protect your loved ones from these burdens, here are five lessons that I know, from personal experience, will really help your family.
How Financial Wellness Gives Your Company A Competitive Edge
Five Ways These Programs Help Businesses Retain And Attract Top Talent
Over the years, business leaders I’ve worked with often report feeling stressed out by three situations: a key employee is departing, it’s tough attracting new top-talent and managing executive benefits is expensive and complicated, like herding cats. To address these challenges, many organizations have instituted financial wellness programs. Usually financial wellness means that the talent inside an organization is focused and energized to do their best work because they are not worried about their personal finances or their family’s financial well-being.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with keeping top talent, attracting new talent or managing executive benefits in a way that really helps their organization, I believe financial wellness provides many benefits. Here are five ways these programs empower business owners and executives to worry less and excel more.
Whitnell Podcast: Insights With Wayne Janus
How Do We Know We Have A Great Financial Advisor?
In this podcast, originally aired on Chicago’s Premiere talk-radio station, WGN, Wayne Janus tackles tough questions like why is it so hard for people to talk about money? Why don’t people share openly with their financial advisor and even family members? How do we know if we have a great financial advisor?
What Do I Do With Mom And Dad’s Money?
How Not To Feel Guilty And Truly Benefit From Your Inheritance
Many Americans will inherit some level of wealth from their parents’ estate. While this event should come as a source of comfort, for some people it is a mixed blessing. I counsel clients who are dealing with feelings of guilt and anxiety about their inheritance. The challenge seems to be that they know how much their parents sacrificed to provide the inheritance. This produces a deep sense of obligation to be wise with the money and even to make it stand for something, to honor their parents.
After working closely with numerous clients who are facing this situation, I’ve learned a number of lessons that I’d like to share with you. If you want your family inheritance to be a source of joy, comfort and protection from life’s uncertainties, here are five guiding principles to consider.
Why You Shouldn’t Focus On Money
Focus On Your Family Purpose Instead
I know it might sound strange for me to say that you shouldn’t focus on money. Of course, I’m not saying that you should ignore your finances and hope for the best. That would not be wise. But through my experiences with serving families, something has become very clear to me. Wealth is a means to an end – living a great life.
Families work hard to build wealth, not for the sake of achieving some number on a balance sheet. They want the wealth to support their family life. As a family’s wealth grows, it is easy to get consumed by the numbers from taxes to balance sheets to interest income, etc. There comes a point where it may be a good time to take a step back and reflect on the why – your family purpose – to assess whether your wealth and hard work is helping you to achieve a greater purpose.
How Do We Fund College – Five Guiding Principles
Protect Family Wealth Through This Life-Changing Event
When a young person is accepted into college, it is a joyous moment for them and their family. This is the realization of dreams that began when the child was small, even in grade school. It is an affirmation of years of hard work. It breathes life into the hopes of a young adult who is about to venture off into an exciting new direction. For many young people, college is the actual beginning of adulthood.
But this moment can also produce stress. College is expensive and even families who are financially prepared can feel the pressure. For the last several years, I’ve counseled hundreds of families and young people as they seek to go to college and prepare financially for it. If you’re wondering how to fund college for someone you love, here are five guiding principles that will really help you.
Whitnell Podcast: Insights With Wayne Janus
How To Choose A Financial Advisor
Choosing a financial advisor can be a stressful event. What should you look for? What should you expect from them? What’s the difference between a tax advisor, a financial advisor and a wealth manager? Wayne Janus discusses what you should look for and what kinds of questions you should ask to ensure you get the best possible advisor for your family.
How To Find Balance In Today’s Hectic World
Four Key Principles That Have Guided Me Well
I’ve been reflecting lately on the need for balance. It often seems to me that the pace of life, especially as technology has connected us, makes finding balance a real challenge. As a wealth manager, I’ve seen first-hand how balance produces great results for my clients. I developed balanced investment portfolios for certain clients several decades ago. These portfolios have helped them live the life of their dreams. I find great satisfaction in serving these clients well.
However, it’s not primarily investments that I want to focus on in this thought piece. Balance in life is a lot like balance in an investment portfolio. But life is so much more important. I’ve tried to live my life with balance among four key areas: work, play, love and faith. I believe that finding balance in these four areas produces a richness of soul that protects us from meaninglessness. Here are my lessons learned.
How Young Professionals Build Wealth Today
Lessons Learned From Working With Millennials On The Rise
I’ve had the privilege of working with some young professionals who I think will be quite financially successful over time. They adopt a certain mindset and set of disciplines when it comes to their money. I’m also seeing a group of young professionals who are struggling to make good decisions. I am concerned that they may not achieve their long-term financial goals.
Working at Whitnell, I get the chance to see how multi-generational families handle their wealth. I see parents who have done well and their children who may or may not do so well, depending on choices they make. If you are a young professional on the rise and you want to build lasting wealth and achieve complete financial independence, here are some of my best ideas.
Whitnell Podcast: Tax Insights With Wayne Janus
How To Avoid Paying More Than Your Fair Share In Taxes
The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 was supposed to simplify tax matters. However, the TCJA has probably introduced far more concerns than certainties. The major changes in the TCJA that impact high-net-worth individuals are related to standard deductions, charitable gifts and mortgage interest. Wayne Janus provides insights and strategies about how to address the changes in the TCJA in this 22-minute podcast, originally aired on Chicago’s premier talk-radio station, WGN 720.
Retirement, Parents, Kids: The Trifecta Of Financial Stress
How Financial Planning Produces Peace Of Mind
There is this thing that happens in the middle years of our lives. It seems nearly unfair. As incomes go up, our expenses often seem to go up much faster. It often feels as if we cannot do everything we want to do to support the ones we love while also living our desired lifestyle. This is frustrating.
I hear this from clients all the time, especially when we initially start working together. People who are middle-aged, say 40-65 years old, often realize financial pressure from three sources: aging parents, young-adult children and their own retirement. I call this the trifecta of financial stress. It squeezes people and drains so much joy out of living.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with this trifecta, I want you to know that there are effective solutions. I believe you can greatly reduce financial stress, take control of your future and once again find joy in the little things. You can have peace of mind about the future. Let me share with you what I think it takes to get there.
What Level Of Risk Is Right For You?
Lessons Learned From Private Equity Entrepreneurs
Over the last few years, I've begun to work with more private equity entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and business executives. I really enjoy working with these people because they are so bold and willing to take risks. These individuals live and breathe the American Dream every day. They put it all on the line.
Yet I've also noticed that their penchant for risk-taking sometimes hurts them when they miscalculate an opportunity. Private equity entrepreneurs are willing to take huge risks because they know that's how they'll realize huge rewards. But this mindset can be a hindrance to building and preserving long-term wealth.
We all have to take risks to achieve rewards. But it’s essential to fully evaluate the opportunity while being realistic about best-case and worst-case scenarios. The key is to take the right risks at the right time. When we take the wrong risks, or take reasonable risks at the wrong time, we diminish the likelihood of achieving our goals. Here are lessons I've learned about risk-taking from working closely with private equity entrepreneurs.
How To Respond When The Markets Go Up
Should You Change Your Strategy?
In early January of 2018, the financial media watched in awe as the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 25,000. This event made national headlines. The stock market defied skeptics, continuing its long run higher and rewarding investors with a gain of over 50% in just the prior two years. Yet, the most amazing thing during this period was the S&P 500 producing positive results 14 months in a row. This occurred with such an extremely low level of volatility that it was nearly unprecedented.
Following these strong gains and with the return of volatility, you might be wondering if this is the time to change your investment strategy. None of us want to miss out on the opportunity for attractive rates of return. But there is a nagging feeling that the market can't continue to rise like it has. Even stronger is the fear that that the market may drop again and give back its recent gains.
Before you make any decisions about how to respond to this extended period of market growth, I'd like to provide some perspectives that have served our clients well for decades.
What To Do With Taxes In 2018
Strategies To Get The Greatest Benefit From The New Tax Laws
In my last article on the topic of tax law changes, I noted several steps that you could take to reduce your 2017 taxes. Many of those strategies required immediate action and created a rush of activity. But even if you didn’t get an opportunity to take advantage of those ideas, there are still many things you can do in 2018 and beyond to reduce taxes.
The new tax law is hundreds of pages long and is anything but a simplification of the law. Many long-standing itemized deductions have been greatly reduced, like real estate and state taxes. The standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly is now $24,000. Congress did not repeal the alternative minimum tax. All of these changes are creating confusion. Clients are asking, “what do we do now?”
Fortunately, my colleagues and I have been examining the actual tax laws, all 500+ pages, to determine how to help you. I’m happy to report that there are more options to reduce taxes than you might have heard about from other sources. Here are some of my best ideas about what to do with taxes in 2018 and beyond.
Tax Strategies To Consider Right Now
6 Ideas To Help You Win Or Tie Against Tax Changes
The details of the tax bill have yet to be fully explored and the impact of these changes may not be fully apparent for some time. But now that the bill has passed, it is important to understand how the new tax laws might affect you. Our team at Whitnell has spent the last several days reading and analyzing the proposed tax changes. This analysis has helped us draw several conclusions.
My counsel is to view these six ideas as either a win or a tie. Many long-standing tax deductions may be partially or completely eliminated very soon. These may include deductions for local real estate taxes, state income taxes, housing mortgage interest payments, investment advisory and accounting fees and possibly other deductions.
It appears that most changes to the tax laws will likely be effective going forward, but there are some with effective dates in 2017. Since substantial deductions may be partially or completely wiped out starting next year, it is wise to consider how to take advantage of current tax law to reduce future taxes. Here are six ideas to help you win or tie against pending tax changes.
Has Managing Family Wealth Become Your Business?
Why A Family Enterprise Could Be Essential To Your Future
I have the great privilege to work with families who wish to sustain their wealth to benefit multiple generations. This can be quite a challenge. Families that have worked extremely hard to build wealth find it just as difficult to preserve wealth over time. The concern is that a wealthy family could go from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. The first generation creates the wealth. The second generation consumes the wealth and the third generation is starting all over again.
While there are many strategies that can be put in place to preserve multi-generational wealth, here is what I’ve learned after so many years of serving affluent families. There are two critical factors that will have a greater influence on this goal than anything else: recognizing tipping points and viewing family wealth as an enterprise. The surprising thing is that neither of these are strategies, per se. They are both about mindset, about taking a certain perspective. Let me explain.
How To Build Wealth After College
Lessons Learned From Advising Young Professionals On The Rise
There are thousands of Americans graduating from college today. As people come out of undergraduate or graduate programs, they are eager to get into their careers, attain a comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle, establish their full independence and ultimately build wealth so they can live the life of their dreams. However, today’s college graduates face a lot of challenges that can make it very difficult to strike the right balance between living for now and living for the future.
Over the last few years, I’ve been advising young professionals who are on the rise in their careers. I’ve watched them struggle to balance competing demands on their limited financial resources. Many of these people feel as if there is not enough money to do everything they want to do. So they have to make tough choices.
There seems to be a lot of advice and conflicting opinions on how to attain a comfortable lifestyle, financial independence and long-term wealth. After counseling people who face these choices, and after reflecting on my own choices, I’d like to share with you the lessons I’ve learned. If you want to realize comforts for today and peace of mind for tomorrow, I believe these lessons will really help you.
You Need A Financial “Personal Trainer”
To Silence Those Voices Gnawing At The Back Of Your Mind
Many people make New Year’s resolutions. Often, they resolve to lose weight and get into shape. The people who are most likely to achieve their goals are those who hire and work with an effective personal trainer and commit to a long-term plan. The best trainers look at your health holistically. They ask you about your goals and what you’re trying to achieve.
They dig into your health history and maybe even partner with your doctor. They create a custom nutrition plan and an exercise plan and help you stick to it over time. They coach you and motivate you when things get tough, when it seems like you’re a long way from your goals.
I believe the same is true in the financial world. We all have financial goals and dreams. Some of us will achieve those goals and some of us will not. I believe the difference is having the right partner for the journey. Finding the right financial partner, often like finding a great personal trainer, is not easy. Here are my recommendations about how to find the right partner for your journey.
Why We Need Leadership Now More Than Ever
What My Grandson’s Music Camp Experience Taught Me
The other day I was speaking with my 14-year old grandson about his experiences at a fine-arts program this summer. This program inspires young people to excel in the arts and my grandson focused on piano performance and conducting. He is a gifted young musician with a keen ear and has been a disciplined student of the piano for several years.
This was his first experience in learning to conduct. I asked him what he learned and his observations were insightful. He said: “the conductor has to know the score and the players. He gets acquainted with the players through rehearsal. Every motion of his baton has to mean something. The goal is to get the musicians to play like a team, where everyone is doing their part. That’s how you make beautiful music.”
I pondered what he said and began to think about his statement in light of the challenges we face today. I believe there has never been a more important time for effective leaders to step forward. I’m not referring primarily to government leadership. The very notion of what a leader is, what they value, how they act, what they say and what it means to lead – all of these concepts are under duress. I submit for your consideration these 5 leadership principles my grandson taught me from his experiences learning to conduct an orchestra.
Why Your Wealth Advisor Needs A Tax Orientation
Investment Returns Unlikely To Balance Out Poor Tax Decisions
A friend of mine has been considering moving from California to Nevada’s Lake Tahoe region because he wanted a slower-paced lifestyle, fresh air and outdoor sports, far less traffic, and better overall quality of life. But he overlooked the big pay-raise he was about to give himself from lower taxes. Financial advice and tax strategies go together like fresh air and outdoor sports. Here’s why.
As a financial advisor with a Master of Science Degree in Taxation, I have come to realize that investment and tax advice must go hand-in-hand. If you get investment advice from one source and tax advice from another—and these two sources do not closely collaborate—you are very likely to miss substantial opportunities to grow your net worth. Here are 4 reasons that wealth advice must be paired with tax-mitigation strategies.
How Do You Measure And Maximize Impact?
Lessons Learned From Young Adult Financial Literacy Programs
Recently, I heard a story about a young man from Chicago’s inner city. He was fortunate to participate in a program that matched him with a successful mentor. One day they rode the elevator to the conference floor at the top of the Chase Tower where the mentor worked. Upon arriving and looking out the window, the young man could not help but exclaim: “Wow! Chicago is so amazing! I’ve lived here my whole life, this is the first time I’ve seen my city as beautiful.”
Before that mountaintop moment, all the young man had seen of Chicago was violence, poverty, and struggle. But that new view gave him hope for a brighter future. He suddenly saw what was out there in the world, as well as what might be possible for him personally. This caused me to ask myself – how am I impacting my clients so they have mountaintop moments and make a difference in the lives of others? Here are my perspectives.
Are You On An Investment Roller Coaster?
How To Get Your Feet Back On The Ground
Since 2009, the markets have made huge strides. While most investors still remember the pain of 2007 and 2008 when the markets were way down, as the markets have risen, those memories are fading. For some who are invested in the market today, it’s fun again with stock prices moving higher. Even so, many remain worried that the markets will go down again.
Up. Up. Up. Down. Down. Down. It’s like a roller coaster. Emotional investors, those who make decisions based on short-term market swings, are often subjected to a difficult ride. When the markets go up, they feel better and buy. When the markets go down, they become more pessimistic and sell. Have you done this? Do you know someone who’s done this?
How To Align Your Wealth With Your Dreams
The Three-Phase Process Your Family Can Rely On
I want to tell you a funny story. A few days ago, I was speaking with a client. She told me they had just returned from their vacation home after being with children and grandchildren. While playing Monopoly, a grandchild was trying to decide whether or not to put hotels on certain properties. Her husband said: “You better call Mia first. We never make decisions like that without her.”
We both chuckled when she told me this story. But after thinking about it a while, I recalled how long it took me to build trust with this client. My name came up because I had guided them in making so many important decisions, none of which involved play-money. I took this as a compliment, a sign that I was doing my job.
Top 5 Considerations For Wealth Transfer Planning
Why You Should Build A Long-Term Relationship With An Advisor Who Deeply Knows Your Family
Today’s affluent families have many options for choosing investment advice and financial advisors. There is no lack of information, or automated computer systems, available to help them make choices. Yet, as a seasoned financial advisor, my experience is that computer systems may help guide families and their advisors through the stages of wealth accumulation and wealth preservation. However, those systems are not nearly as effective for the final (and in many ways, most important) stage of wealth transfer.
How A Family Office Reduces Complexity
Affluent Families Need An Integrated Approach To Managing Wealth
Affluent families who face complexity in their financial lives will find that an integrated family office delivers real peace of mind. Simply put, a family office approach reduces complexity by coordinating key family advisors, integrating disparate financial interests and aligning stakeholders to support critical family decisions. The result is that affluent families can focus on being a family instead of worrying about how their wealth is managed.
But what exactly is a family office? The phrase “office” can have more than one meaning. Office can mean a set of rooms or a building where business is conducted. By this definition, a family office is simply the building where the business of your family is conducted.
Is A Family Office Approach Right For Your Situation?
Families With Complex Needs Deserve High-Touch Services
“Family offices” are often thought of as the domain of the ultra-affluent. When people think of a family office, they often envision a team of highly skilled people, such as lawyers, CPAs and investment advisors, serving a single prominent American family, such as the Rockefellers.
While this has been the common perception over the last several decades, a new trend is emerging. This trend is designed to serve a changing demographic. During the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations, the US witnessed a proliferation of wealth unlike ever before.
Why Millennials Need A Human Financial Advisor
Robo-Advice Is Good, But Not Enough To Build Lasting Wealth
There is a lot of talk these days about robo-advisors. The idea is simple. Type in a few parameters about your life, income and goals and a computer system will produce a custom investment plan just for you. The computer becomes your advisor. The elegance of this approach is alluring. This type of guidance is particularly attractive to Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1997.
Millennials grew up with more technology than any generation before them. So a computer-based advisor probably feels like a good fit for them. It feels natural. But there’s a problem, a hidden piece of the puzzle that might not be intuitive to Millennials.
Robert Legan Now Leads Family Office Services
Ultra-Affluent Families Well-Served Through His Experience
Whitnell is pleased to announce that Robert Legan is now leading the Family Office Service team. His background in working with ultra-affluent families made him the obvious choice for this role. For those who may not be aware, the Family Office Service team at Whitnell works with a select group of ultra-affluent families who have complex financial needs.
Preparing For The Unexpected
How To Comfort The Ones You Love
This is a hard subject for me to talk about. Yet, I feel like it’s really important and something I can’t simply ignore. I hope you will receive my message in the spirit in which it is intended: ideas to provide comfort to your family and loved ones should something tragic take place.
I started thinking about this topic recently because a friend of mine passed away. He was young, only in his 30s. He was in the prime of his life and had so much to look forward to. But in an instant, his life was over. His premature passing was completely unexpected and it devastated his family. I grew up with this guy and know his family really well. It has been very hard to watch them suffer.
Why I Have Great Hope For The Future
It’s An Exciting Time To Be Alive
Some people turn on the evening news and watch stories that leave them with little hope for the future. I can certainly understand this. You and I could outline a litany of events that drain one’s confidence in the world as a good, safe and just place: terrorism, natural disasters, crime, political leaders who miss the mark and even scandals in the financial services industry.
It would be easy to be discouraged. But I have come to believe that one’s outlook about the future is a choice. You get to decide what you believe about the future. This is a choice that only you can make. I do not discount or deny the bad things that exist in the world. They are very real. But the good things that exist in the world are very real too. Hopefully, the good things will outweigh the bad things.
How Do I Fit It All In?
Financial Guidance For Busy People
I recently moved from condo living in downtown Chicago to a single-family dwelling in the suburbs. This included a number of life changes for me. I love being outdoors in our yard when the birds sing. I enjoy the smell of freshly mown grass. It’s comforting to hear the cicadas and see families spending time together. I have friendly neighbors who’ve welcomed us with smiles, handshakes and even home grown tomatoes. The suburbs really do seem to support quality family living.
As much as I love my new life, there are many new demands on my time. Before moving, I daydreamed about all the hours I would spend reading under the pergola amongst the honeysuckle or playing board games as a family. That dream hasn’t quite come true.
The American Dream Is Not Dead
But It May Be Harder To Achieve Today
It has become more fashionable of late to say that you can’t get a square deal anymore in the United States. Whether from the political left or right, the message seems to be the same. If you work hard, play by the rules, pay your taxes, live within your means, invest for the future – in other words if you do everything right – you still may not be able to achieve the American dream.
The left likes to blame the one percenters. The right seems to suggest that somehow the entire system is rigged. Their message is that the odds are stacked against you, so why even try? The political candidates say, in so many words, vote for me and my party and we’ll fix it for you. We’ll give you back the dream. But do you really trust the government with your financial future?
Whitnell's Perspective on Brexit
Why It’s Wise To Stay The Course
Last week the United Kingdom approved a referendum to exit the European Union. Most of the polls, analysts and markets had expected the vote to go the other way, so the response globally was decisively negative. The British pound, the Euro and all major stock markets declined sharply. While no one knows what the outcome will be, here is our perspective of the impact on the economy and markets.
Why You Should Consider Your Parents’ Financial Advisor
It Might Just Be What You’re Looking For
There are many wonderful things about growing up in an affluent household. The creature comforts are great. You don’t have to worry about money. Your parents typically can afford to invest in all sorts of things that help you achieve your potential, like private schools, personal tutors, music lessons, travel and even college tuition.
But there is a challenge I’ve come to recognize after working with several children of affluent parents. Successful parents often cast a very long shadow. It can be quite difficult for the children of affluent parents to step out and chart their own course, to stand on their own two feet, so to speak. The measuring rod of anything they accomplish will always be their parents’ success. That can be a very long rod indeed.
Will You Be Happy After Selling Your Business?
75% Of Business Owners Are Not
I read an interesting statistic the other day, although I did find it somewhat disturbing. According to the Exit Planning Institute’s Readiness Survey (2013), 75% of business owners “profoundly regretted” selling their business 12 months after the deal. To me, this is very sad to hear. I’m privileged to work with a select group of entrepreneurs and I know how much passion and energy they bring to their businesses. They pour their lives into these enterprises.
They look forward to the day when all of their hard work will culminate in a transfer of equity to someone else. But all too often, that moment is followed by disappointment. Why?
Do You Need A Financial Quarterback?
Complexity In Your Financial Life May Require It
I had a really great moment the other day with a client. We got together to talk about some updates to their plan and in so doing, I had a chance to think about how far this family had come. You see, they’ve been my client now for nearly 20 years. And in that space of time, we’ve seen tremendous changes in their lives and their financial situation.
As I was driving away from our meeting, I couldn’t help but reflect on the differences between their financial situation today and where they were back then. This reminded me of the importance of having a plan and sticking to it over time. But that’s not the only thing I pondered.
How To Forge Ahead In 2016
Lessons Learned From Winning Baseball Teams
As I watched the Super bowl recently, I was reminded of different teams I played on growing up. In team sports, there are certain fundamental principles that come to life. Teamwork prevails over a star player. Execution matters more than raw talent. Experience comes with age. Defense wins championships.
But the football season is now over and baseball is just around the corner. Not everyone finds baseball exciting, but I find myself exhilarated by the looming start of the season. Of course it doesn’t hurt that I’m a lifelong Cubs fan and we have a lot to be excited about.
When The Markets Throw You Lemons, Make Lemonade
Strategies To Take Advantage Of Today’s Opportunities
Lately I’ve been meeting with clients over luncheons. I hear the concern in my clients’ voices during these conversations. Let’s be honest. The markets have been rough for quite some time now. This could last a while and no one can really say when things will improve. But I want to provide a perspective here that I think might help you see things in a different light.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were facing a much more difficult market. The downturn of 2007 and 2008 are still fresh in the minds of many affluent investors. But people often seem to forget the very substantial recovery that followed. Funny isn’t it? We remember the pain of the losses, but so quickly seem to forget the joys of a rebounding market.
What’s The Difference Between Information And Advice?
How Technology Is Changing The Way We Serve You
I recently Googled “year-end tax planning” and got back 91 million results. Talk about overwhelming! Clearly, people are thinking about this topic. But the question becomes: what do you do with this information? How can you know which article is right for you? Do you need to read all 91 million articles to finally figure out which one has the best advice for your unique situation?
This time of year there are an abundance of very useful tax tips and strategies for year-end. But here’s one you may not have heard. I recommend that you sit down with your advisor to look at the big picture and not just a set of uncorrelated tactics.
Year-End Tax Strategies To Consider
Four Case-Studies That Might Help Your Situation
Year-end is here and you’re probably thinking about what you want to do with your money. You might be considering gifts to family, charitable contributions, investments in tax-deferred accounts and other options.
What you may not realize is that the taxation picture has become more complicated than it’s ever been with the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), the new tiers for capital gains rates and the new Medicare taxes on investment income. What often seems like the obvious choice may not, in fact, be the best option for your unique situation.
How To Think About Today’s Market
Perspectives On Investing Now
I’m thinking of an acquaintance who made some financial decisions that he wishes he could take back. Let’s call him Hal, which is not his real name. As an engineer, Hal had substantial wealth that he invested in the stock market. He watched the markets rise with glee. But in 2008 and 2009, when the markets tumbled, his emotions got the best of him and he sold everything.
After the market rebounded, Hal did not reinvest. He felt burned from the volatility. Needless to say, within a year, Hal had huge regrets.
How To Help Your Adult Child Through A Divorce
Key Considerations For Emotional And Financial Health
I recently helped a client guide his adult child, a daughter, through a divorce. I watched the two of them struggle with a range of issues including custody of children, the emotional burden of the breakup and how to protect the adult daughter’s financial interests.
Divorces are difficult and can drain a person’s energy and focus. This is where a parent can be a real help to their child, if the child is willing. In my experience, a parent can actually strengthen the bond with their child, and even their grandchildren, if the parent offers the right kind of support.
What To Do During Market Volatility
What Actions Should You Take Now?
When I was a little girl, a bee stung me one summer day. I will never forget how much that hurt. In fact, as an adult, when I hear a bee flying by, I sometimes feel that sting again. This is what psychologists call phantom pains. The source of the pain might be gone, but the memory lingers.
I have a sense that many people are struggling with their own type of phantom pain right now. The downturn of 2008 left people with a stinging sensation that is hard to forget. Any market volatility brings back those feelings.
Finding Certainty In An Uncertain Time
What To Do When The Markets Make You Nervous
As I begin this article in the early days of October, 2015, I am well aware of how the markets have performed since June of this year. In fact, I’ve been making a lot of phone calls over the last couple of weeks, speaking with our clients about their goals and how the market changes are impacting their financial standing.
As I spend time with clients, I hear nervousness in people’s voices, and rightly so. The sting of the market declines from 2008 and 2009 are still very real for people. Those kinds of losses are hard to forget.
Prepare Now For An Uncertain Future
How To Protect Your Family From The Unpredictable
Twenty eight years ago I was standing in the maternity ward at the hospital, holding the hand of my new-born daughter Jacki. She is the youngest of our three daughters. I’ll never forget the joy of that moment and the miracle of a new life, looking down into her tiny little face.
What I didn’t know, at that time, is that 28 years later I would be in yet another hospital standing by Jacki’s side. But this time, I would be holding her hand as she lay in the intensive care unit of a hospital for 12 days, unable to speak or open her eyes as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
Are You Ready To Transition Your Business?
Key Considerations For Business Owners
I’ve had the privilege of working with entrepreneurs to transition their business to others, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Many business owners may be unprepared to transfer their business when the time comes to sell. This not only delays the liquidity event, it can also have a material negative impact on the value of the business.
If you are a business owner over the age of 40, I’d like to give you some key insights to think about now so you can start to prepare for your business transfer. Even if you think this may not happen for another decade, these insights will help you be ready when the time comes.
Four Strategies To Take Advantage Of Low Interest Rates
How Might These Benefit Your Situation?
Interest rates are still pretty attractive compared to previous decades. In fact, today’s low interest rates provide some opportunities that may not come around again for a very long time, potentially in our lifetimes. What seems certain, at this point, is that interest rates will not remain low forever – in fact, they could start to trend higher yet this year.
This raises some important questions. How can one take advantage of low interest rates? What strategies might work for your goals? What steps might you take now that might not be available or attractive in the coming months and years? Will you miss out on some great opportunities?
A High School Fast-Food Job Might Contribute Over 2 Million Dollars To My Net Worth
How To Help Young People Learn The Power Of Investing Early
The children of affluent parents sometimes struggle with saving and investing. We all like shiny objects and it can be hard to know how to balance delayed gratification with short-term rewards.
My parents helped instill some principles in me as a young person that have paid real dividends. I’d like to tell you a story of how my high school fast-food job will impact my net worth over time. The title of this article hints at this. But you might be surprised at the real numbers.
Will Your Family Ruin Your Retirement?
How To Reduce The Risk Of Aging Parents And Adult Children Consuming Your Retirement Income
When I meet with clients, I consistently hear this question: Christy, how do I know if I will have enough? My clients may be thinking about a traditional retirement full of travel, hobbies and time with grandchildren - or simply wondering if they can stop working for the money and start working for more deeply fulfilling reasons. It is a real concern.
Most of the families I’m privileged to serve are still building their wealth. They are earning incomes, saving and investing for the future. I can usually help these clients build a retirement plan based on some standard analyses and projections. But these first analyses and projections will always be based upon known factors, thing we can predict today.
Lessons Learned From My Father’s Honor Flight
How To Know If An Advisor Is Acting In Your Best Interest
Last year my family and I had the pleasure of watching our father board an Honor Flight bound for Washington D.C. A WWII veteran, our father had not yet been to D.C. to see the memorial built to show respect to the brave men and women of his generation.
As he and ninety other veterans boarded the plane, he was surrounded by a group of volunteers who would take care of his every need for a long eighteen hour day. In fact, Honor Flights are made up almost entirely of volunteers: nurses, drivers, pilots, tour guides. These volunteers have planned every detail of the journey: transportation, medications, logistics and a listening ear. The Honor Flight program, I believe, is a great example of Americans at their best.
Are You Fearful That Global Events Will Sink Your Investments?
How To Respond To The European Debt Crisis And Other Geopolitical Events
The news these days concerning geopolitics and the global economy is worrisome to investors. The European Union is struggling to figure out how to get its economy growing while dealing with debt-laden countries like Greece and Spain. Russia and the Ukraine are engaged in what appears to be an endless conflict. On our home-front, all eyes are on the Fed as it moves toward raising interest rates. In the US, the administration and Congress are trying to decide how to respond to the brutal ISIS aggression in Iraq and Syria and a growing level of uncertainty and instability around the world.
How Do I Help My Adult Children Learn Financial Discipline?
Why You May Want A Partner For This Job
When I sit down with clients today, I am hearing a consistent theme. A new thread is running through our conversations. It has little to do with investments, taxes, retirement or other topics that have traditionally been a focus. Instead, my clients who have adult children now often want to know how they can help those children adopt the financial disciplines that allowed the parents to achieve success. These parents know that their children will one-day inherit a large portion of wealth and they want them to be prepared to be good stewards of that wealth.
This is not as easy as it may sound. Most of what needs to be “learned” cannot be taught in a classroom because it has to do with lifestyle, mindset, life-experiences and appetites. If you or someone you care about is struggling to achieve this goal, I might recommend that you consider us as your partner in this endeavor. Here are my reasons.
Five Reasons Business Partners Need Formal Contingency Plans
They Protect You, Your Partners, and Your Families
Many successful private businesses are owned and managed by a limited number of partners. Sometimes these partners are family members or life-long friends. Other times the business partnerships formed after trusted working relationships were fostered. But I’ve noticed a dangerous trend in these types of businesses.
It seems many closely-held, privately owned businesses do not have formal agreements in place to protect the business owners from unforeseen circumstances that could dramatically impact them and their families. A high degree of personal trust and loyalty, handshake agreements, seem to suffice between partners. I believe this is a mistake. I’d like to share my perspectives with you.
The Five Biggest Mistakes People Make When Transferring A Family Business To The Next Generation
How You Can Avoid These Costly Mistakes
I’ve seen many families over the years grow successful companies that provide a great quality of life for the ones they love. Whitnell, in fact, was born out of a family business and still holds true to these roots. Serving families is an important part of our heritage and mission.
While family businesses provide tremendous benefits, they also present challenges. One of the biggest challenges comes into play when a senior family member, often the primary equity holder and sometimes the founder, decides to retire. If the founder’s children have shown interest in the business, the founder often wants to transfer the business to them. This should be simple, right? I mean, the family owns the business. So it should be a straightforward private transaction, right?
Plan, Process And Partner
How To Balance The Many-Faceted Demands On Your Wealth
Many people make new year’s resolutions, if for no other reason than to set a course for the near future. But I wonder how you’ve done against your resolutions in the past. Have you achieved every goal? How many of the resolutions you made in January of 2014 did you fulfill by December of 2014? If you are like most people, you hit the mark on some and missed on others.
But this raises an important question, especially as it relates to your wealth. How will missing the mark on certain financial goals impact other goals? You see, every financial decision impacts other areas. If you are uncertain about how to answer this question, I think you need the three Ps: plan, process and partner.
How To Prioritize Your 2015 Wish-List
A Framework For Getting The Most From Your Reflection Time
The holiday season is here in force. I feel it and I’m sure you do too. This is a wonderful time of year. But I sometimes wish there were 62 days in December instead of only 31 days. I know it’s the holiday season because of what happens with my clients. The busy executives and business owners that I’m privileged to serve are often so busy during the year that I have to schedule meetings months in advance. The pace of work and life leaves them with little time for anything else.
But during the holidays, somewhere around the third week of December, things start to change. People slow down a bit. They take time off from work and spend it with family. They relax and just breathe.
A Fable Of The Lion And The Deer
Who Is Your Partner In The Storms Of Life?
I read a lot, some novels but mostly non-fiction. I enjoy books on economics, history, biographies and psychology because they help me better understand how to put current happenings in perspective.
I’ve been re-reading Joseph de la Vega’s Confusion of Confusions. Joseph de la Vega was a successful merchant, poet, and philanthropist who lived in 17th century Amsterdam. Confusion of Confusions is considered to be the oldest book ever written on the stock exchange business and it made him famous. The book offers four principles which still hold water today.
2014 Year-End Strategies
Optimize Your Financial Situation While Maximizing Gifts
As we approach the heart of the holiday season, our thoughts turn to turkey, football games and festive holiday meals with family members. Many of our clients are thinking about the gifts they’ll give the ones they love, if they haven’t yet decided on a gift.
This may not seem like the optimal time to think about taxes and investments, but at Whitnell, that’s exactly what we are doing these days. In fact, we are making our lists and checking them twice, to ensure that our clients optimize their financial situation for the year-end. While this may not be as tasty as cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, it might just make your holiday season a little brighter and prepare you for the year to come.
What To Do After Your Liquidity Event
It’s Surprising How Many People Do Not Realize Peace Of Mind
I was talking to a client recently who had a substantial liquidity event a few years ago. This event changed his life in more ways than he could have imagined. It produced what should be multi-generational wealth. But he said one thing that surprised me. His liquidity event did not produce peace of mind. He had worked hard with his family for many years and dreamed of one day reaping the harvest. But when it came, the experience was not what he thought it would be.
How To Really Build Wealth – Part 2
Identifying And Overcoming Controllable Impediments To Wealth Creation
I spend my days helping my clients think through and make good decisions regarding their wealth. Often these decisions are based on what they want their wealth to do for their lives, their futures and their loved ones. Most of my clients have built or hope to build multi-generational wealth that will last.
To achieve this goal, they have to make informed decisions, especially at critical moments in the wealth-building process. A big part of my role is helping clients focus on those things they can control and make good decisions.
Why Should Investors Be Cautious Now?
Lessons Learned From The Shores Of Lake Michigan
This summer we got away regularly to the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. My wife and I love to spend time there with our children and grandchildren. We enjoy visiting with family and friends and taking long walks on the beach. Our grandchildren love playing in the water and I must confess that making sand castles with them provides a certain undeniable pleasure.
Last week, as my wife and I were enjoying some time together on the beach, we saw a storm brewing on the horizon. Within just a few minutes the weather completely changed. A beautiful sunny afternoon turned dark and cold. The placid waters churned and grew rough. The warm breezes turned into tumultuous gusts.
How To Really Build Wealth – Part 1
Identifying Seven Non-Controllable Impediments To Wealth Creation
As a wealth manager I see people making good choices and poor choices every day. While everyone wants to build wealth that will last for multiple generations, most people do not see the often invisible sources that drain their wealth. Like the proverbial holes in the dike that leak water, these wealth drainers prevent people from retaining and growing their wealth.
In my experience, people lose wealth to two sources: things they cannot control and things they can control. In this article I want to show you how to identify impediments to wealth creation that are beyond your control and how to address them. In my next article, I will discuss how to address impediments to wealth building that you do control.
You Don’t Need A Financial Plan – You Need Financial Planning
What’s The Difference?
When I first start talking to a new client, I often discover that they have a financial plan. At some point in the past, they worked with a financial planner who helped them build a plan that was probably a good one for their needs at that time. But then… The plan sat on the shelf. The details of the plan were not fully executed. More importantly, priorities changed. But the plan did not keep up.
This is why I say – you don’t need a financial plan, you need financial planning. If you are to achieve your wealth creation goals to support your lifestyle, loved-ones and retirement, financial planning cannot be a one-time event.
Transitioning Strategies For Family-Owned Businesses
How To Think About A Wealth Plan That Takes Care Of The Family
Family-owned businesses provide many wonderful opportunities and some unique challenges. Many business founders pour their heart and soul into their business for years and enjoy the fruits of watching it grow. But as time goes on, they begin to think about retirement.
For family-owned businesses, especially those families where children are involved in the business, the retirement of the business founder can be a real conundrum. There are so many issues to sort through. Some of these issues are financial or business-related. But other issues are unique to family-planning and caring for loved ones.
Is A Market Correction Coming?
Lessons Learned From A T-Ball Championship
My son’s t-ball team recently won the championship in the Oak Park, Illinois youth baseball league. Over the course of the season, we experienced many highs and lows. That’s the nature of coaching 5, 6 and 7-year olds. I witnessed joys and agonies among these young competitors who are just learning to deal with life’s ups and downs.
Should You Be Nervous About Retirement?
How Can You Know You Have Enough For Retirement?
When I sit down for meetings with people in their late 40s to early 50s, I often hear two questions. How are we doing compared to other families like us? Will we have enough to support our desired retirement? Underlying both of these questions is a general nervousness about the future. Most people in this age bracket have good reason to be nervous. Many of them are still paying down mortgages, have children in college and may even be supporting elderly parents.
If you are facing this situation, I’d like to recommend some strategies to help you move toward your desired future.
Five Ways to Pass on Wisdom to Younger Generations
Making the Most of Teaching Moments
As parents and grandparents, we would like to pass along our values to our children and grandchildren so they can live rewarding and meaningful lives. Most of us have a few simple goals for the younger generations. We want them to be independent so they can stand on their own two feet. We want them to be good critical thinkers so they can find their way through tough times that seem to come to all of us. We want them to be prudent financially, live within their means, make solid investments and position themselves to help others.
ROI: Return On Insight
Three Ways “Being Known” Benefits Our Clients
Last year we conducted a survey with several of our clients to understand how we are delivering value to them and what it feels like to be our client. We heard one overwhelmingly consistent theme – “you know me so well.”
Being known matters to our clients and it matters to us. But here’s something you may not know. The time we put into getting to know you, and the time and effort you put into talking with us, really helps us help you. This is something we call ROI: Return On Insight. Here are three ways that being known delivers real ROI to our clients.
I Am Optimistic About The Future
It Is Better Than You Might Think
If you’ve read my other articles, you may have noticed a trend. I've pointed out that news reporting tends to focus almost exclusively on negative developments. It's all about ratings, of course, and unfortunately, bad news attracts a bigger audience. So that is what we get.
How Do I Retire With My Current Lifestyle?
Hint – A High Income Is Not The Solution
I’ve noticed an overriding concern among my clients. Many ask me this important question. How do I maintain the lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to throughout my retirement? The answer may not be as simple as it first appears. Many people make the mistake of believing that a high income will automatically result in a desirable retirement. People seem to say to themselves: as long as I earn an income that is many times the national average and make good investments, I’ll be okay in retirement. However, I’m not convinced of this. Why do I say this?
How To Build A Great Financial Team
Start With Your Financial Quarterback
In my last article, I stated that a great financial team includes a wealth manager, CPA and estate attorney. The reason you need this team is because success in business does not necessarily equate to success in wealth. Even those who earn a high income may not achieve their wealth goals unless they have the right team guiding them.
Don’t Count On Mom And Dad’s Money
Five Steps To Developing Complete Financial Independence For Young Professionals
Young professionals who grew up in an affluent family often encounter a difficult reality somewhere in their late twenties to early thirties. Building wealth is hard. It takes a lot of discipline and focus. Children of affluent parents often benefitted from their parents’ financial situation. They grew up in nice homes, took expensive family vacations and even attended private schools and universities.
Are You An Investor Or Speculator?
Who You Listen To May Be The Deciding Factor
It seems nearly impossible to avoid the financial press. Whether at the airport, the gym, a hotel restaurant or even at home on TV, the financial press always seems to have the latest and greatest trend, idea, stock tip or other “must-know” information. Frankly, it can be addicting.
Why Does Your Money Need A Team?
The Importance Of Team Planning For Wealth Building
Success in business does not necessarily equate to success in wealth. Just because someone earns a high income, owns a lot of assets, holds equity in a private business or has a large portfolio – this does not always mean that they’ll achieve their wealth goals. To achieve the goals that matter most to you regarding your wealth, you need a team of experts who work together to address a wide range of issues including financial planning, taxes, retirement, cash-flow, estate planning, asset protection and even charitable giving.
Did You Miss Out In 2013?
Is This A Time To Change Strategy?
In 2013, the market performed very well for many investors. However, there are some people who feel as if they missed out on opportunities since their portfolio return didn’t keep up with domestic stocks. Some investors, with a balanced portfolio that includes a long-term perspective, feel as if their portfolio could have performed better.
This feeling is reinforced by industry news media who often seem to highlight the strongest gains of 2013 while frequently ignoring the potential risks. If you have a long-term investment strategy and feel as if you missed out in 2013, I’d like to offer an alternative perspective.
A Reflection Resource For The Holidays
Use This Guide For Those Rare Quiet Moments
The holiday season is upon us. For most families, this is a time to give thanks, bask in the joys of loved ones and hope to retain your sanity. Let’s face it – the holidays can be very hectic. During the holidays, most of us will find a few quiet moments at some point when we get a chance to reflect on the past year and dream about the year to come.
Four Tax Strategies To Maximize Wealth
Use These Strategies To Retain More Wealth
As we approach the end of 2013, affluent families are considering their tax situation. This is the right time of year to do so. However, most people think of taxes in relationship to ordinary income. I believe it is time for a mind-shift. I believe it is time for affluent families to look at their investments, not just ordinary income, in relationship to taxes.
Why do I say this? In 2013 we witnessed many changes both to legislation and to the markets that will likely impact your tax picture. I do not believe that we have seen the end of these changes.
The Value Of Continuity
Why It Matters To Clients And To Us
Over the years I’ve had the great privilege of serving many affluent families. Many years ago at another financial institution when I was first promoted into senior management, I began to notice a disturbing trend. Certain clients, whom I knew we were serving well and for whom we had delivered excellent performance, began to leave. The conversations often went something like this:
“Bill we really like you and we like this company. But we’ve decided to move our accounts elsewhere.”
When I enquired why, they would usually say something like: “you’ve taken good care of us and we appreciate that. But as a family we’ve begun looking at the long haul and who we can know and trust over many years. We have a lot of important decisions coming up and we need someone who really knows our situation. The problem is that our last two financial advisors did such a great job that they were promoted and we feel like we have to start over again. We just can’t do that anymore. Isn’t our relationship important enough that the best people should be able to advance in their career and stay with us?”
Out of these difficult conversations, I learned the value of continuity. I’d like to tell you how we approach continuity at Whitnell.
Pay It Forward
How To Be A Great Mentor
I’m sure that we’ve all had young persons in our companies who looked like they had potential but needed a little push to learn some of the things we had to learn to get ahead. Early in my career, I was fortunate to be mentored by a wonderful man who modeled for me the things I needed to know to become an investment professional, and what it looks like to be a successful mentor.
Risk – Friend Or Enemy?
Is It Necessary To Achieve Your Goals?
Today’s investors seem to have a rather high level of anxiety about where the stock market is headed next. This is understandable. While I do sympathize with this anxiety, it brings to mind an experience I had many years ago. As a young investment professional, I learned an important lesson about managing money for individuals. Risk is not something to avoid. In fact, it’s necessary. But defining the right risks for each individual investor – now that’s the real challenge.
Is Your Greatest Asset At Risk?
Protect Your Business and Net Worth
When I meet with business owners, it seems they want to talk primarily about their investment portfolio. What I often discover, however, is that their current investment portfolio is a fraction of their potential net worth, unless they’ve already had a liquidity event and sold their business.
Should You Switch Companies?
Twelve Key Areas To Evaluate Before You Jump
Sooner or later most senior executives consider switching to another company. Exciting new opportunities pose increases in career satisfaction and work-life balance. But when it comes to comparing the executive compensation packages and figuring out if you are better off leaving or staying – based on economics alone – it can be very tough to make an apples-to-apples comparison.
Will My Children Ever Be Truly Financially Independent?
Seven Steps To Help Them Make The Transition
Most affluent Americans have accumulated wealth by working hard, saving money, living beneath their means, investing, and surrounding themselves with good counselors. Many first-generation wealth-creators find it difficult to pass these values on to their children and grandchildren. Too often these loved ones don’t understand how hard it was to accumulate the wealth to which they’ve grown accustomed.
The Financial Impact Of Divorce
Things To Consider Before You Divorce And How To Re-Build After
The old saying about love is that “the heart wants what the heart wants.” When the heart wants a divorce, it can feel like your world is turning upside down. While divorces are gut-wrenching emotionally, the financial implications can be equally devastating. If you are thinking about a divorce, here are some key considerations about how this may impact you financially. If you’ve gone through a divorce, here are some steps to help you rebuild financially.