Goals-Based Financial Planning
At Summit, it is our belief that to build a solid financial plan, one must first establish a clear and achievable set of goals. Our goals based financial planning process provides our clients with the peace of mind in knowing that their plan is supported by a comprehensive analysis of each person’s entire financial picture.
We identify and prioritize financial objectives in order to help our clients feel confident about the actions they are taking and the future they want to create and safeguard.
The purpose of this process is to accomplish the following objectives:
Summit advocates a Factor Based Efficient Markets philosophy. Traditional “active” investment management involves an attempt to select superior securities or time the markets. These efforts result in higher costs and riskier, more concentrated portfolios. Studies show that for the vast majority of professionals, efforts to “beat the market” simply fail. Engaging in a factor based portfolio strategy provides our clients with more dimensions to provide better portfolio risk controls, minimization of trading costs and taxation, and maximization of a client’s probability of achieving their goals.
Very often, we find that new clients have scattered holdings among disparate money managers or mutual funds, with virtually no coordinated strategy for measuring and managing risk, keeping portfolio costs down and minimizing taxes. Summit’s total portfolio approach to wealth management coordinates assets across all account titles to better control risks and costs and achieve better bottom-line returns.
Financial independence occurs when you’ve saved enough to support you for the rest of your life without needing to work for money. You might choose to work for other purposes — such as passion and purpose — but you no longer need an income to meet your expenses.
Cash-flow, Debt and Taxes
Cash FlowThe engine that drives the financial planning process is cash-flow. The goal is not to tell you where your money should go. Instead, it’s simply to understand where it is currently going and if that reflects your wishes. We can’t tell you how to spend your money, all we can do is help you understand the potential consequences of how your income is allocated.
Additionally, we make an ongoing effort to understand the level of income needed to operate your household at an acceptable level of comfort for you. This is important because it ties directly into a number of other considerations, such as how much short-term disability insurance to carry, how much emergency cash to keep outside of investments, and ultimately how much income your portfolio will need to replace when you reach Financial Independence.
Tax StrategiesWe understand it’s not how much you make—it’s what you get to keep. With that in mind, we focus a tremendous amount of energy in understanding that every financial decision we make on your behalf has a tax impact. Of course, the goal is always to pay no taxes. In reality, we work to make sure our clients pay the least amount of taxes legally possible.
Debt StrategiesThe goal for debt strategies is to identify your current debt, make sure you’re paying the least amount of interest, and make sure it is tax qualified, while balancing it with flexibility. It would be nice if there were some simple way of knowing when to refinance and knowing exactly what the rate should be, whether or not to pay points, ARM or Fixed, 15 or 30 year loan. The reality is that selecting the appropriate debt strategy requires careful consideration of both your particular situation and the current rates at that particular point in time. Only then can we determine what is best and most appropriate for you. Unfortunately, we do not live in a static world. Each time we address these decisions, we have to review the current situation and explore all options.
Risk Management & InsuranceInsurance is a necessary evil. People don’t like to think about what would happen if they weren’t around, were unable to work, or if they needed long-term care. Unfortunately, these things do happen, and it is up to us to see that our clients are prepared as best as possible from a financial perspective. The thought of insurance brings to mind the negative perception of insurance agents in general. While there are many valid reasons for this image, we can assure you that our goal is not simply for you to buy more insurance. We do not sell insurance, nor do we receive commissions. We are simply here to give you objective advice about the types of coverage you may need to protect yourself and your family.
Not everyone needs all types of insurance, and we do not take a “cookie cutter” approach. No two clients have the same insurance needs, and we make insurance recommendations according the individual situation.
Potential Areas of Risk
- Premature death
- Convalescent or “Nursing Home” costs
- Property losses or liability
Estate and Legacy
The area of estate planning has gone through many changes in past years, and will probably go through extensive changes again in the near future. The purpose of estate planning is to effectively transfer the wealth that you’ve accumulated in your lifetime to whomever you want (children, charities, etc.) in a very clear, cost effective (taxes) way possible.
Many professionals in this business use taxes as a way to scare clients into using their “cookie cutter” approach to estate planning. As with most financial planning areas, there are certainly some general guidelines, but personal preference should be the top priority. Our estate planning goal is to understand the client’s goals and dreams, what their perfect scenario would be, where the assets go, who receives them, or any restrictions that may apply. It is then our job to collectively understand that, work with attorneys, and have the documents do exactly what they need to do at the least amount of cost and taxes. The estate tax is an optional tax, and we approach estate planning that way.