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Case Studies: How We’ve Helped Clients Thumbnail

Case Studies: How We’ve Helped Clients

By David Stanfield

At Evergreen Wealth Management, we specialize in finding opportunities to add value to our clients’ lives. From helping them realize the goal of retiring early or buying a new home to simply saving money on insurance or adjusting the asset allocation of their portfolio, we believe that proactive and personalized financial planning and investment management can make a significant impact on their future.

By assisting in so many areas of financial guidance and investing, we seek to be available to our clients at every milestone and season of life they experience. Our ultimate goal is to offer people peace of mind and confidence in our abilities and guidance. Here are examples of five recent clients we have helped.

Case Study #1: Job Change

Sometimes we feel paralyzed by life’s choices. We know that every decision has repercussions, and nowhere is this more true than with a job change. Oftentimes people stay at a company because they don’t know how changing jobs will impact their financial plan and they lack the information to analyze their options.

I helped a client in this exact situation. Our first step was to review his career options from a planning perspective. After leaving his current role, he decided to go back to school to pursue a different specialty in his industry. I believe that our thorough planning process gave him the confidence and clarity he needed to move forward in this decision. Here’s a sampling of the planning process we went through that gave him that peace of mind.

We looked at two specific areas: saving and estate planning. First, we reviewed his 401(k) from his former employer and discussed the pros and cons of keeping it as is or rolling it over. We ultimately decided to roll it into an IRA, and also established a Roth IRA and discussed contribution methods. We reviewed the investments in his accounts and helped him understand the fees he was paying.Along those same lines, we looked at his overall savings picture and did an income and expense analysis. We then created a savings strategy, determining the right amount for an emergency fund and short-term goals, and allocating the rest to retirement.

Finally, I referred this client to an attorney to prepare estate planning documents. As a result of this process, this client was able to confidently and securely make a life change knowing that his family’s finances were in order.

Case Study #2: Retiring Sooner Than Planned

One of my favorite things as a financial planner is to go through the planning process with clients, review various scenarios using software, discuss retirement strategies, and then witness clients realize they may be able to retire sooner than later! Now, instead of working longer, they can spend more time with their kids and grandkids, travel, or pursue hobbies.

This is exactly what happened with one particular couple I worked with. In order to make the transition into retirement as seamless as possible, we needed to cover multiple financial planning areas. We first looked at two critical retirement issues: Social Security and income planning. Specifically, my clients wanted to know when they should claim Social Security and what tax issues they should be aware of. To answer these questions, we discussed their life expectancy, family history, and other unique factors, and used Social Security planning software to see projections for various claiming dates. Once we reviewed their options, it was clear to them what claiming strategy they should choose.

Then we needed to figure out the best way to withdraw their savings to bridge the income gap between their retirement date and their Social Security claiming date. We looked at their various accounts, built a withdrawal plan, and structured their withdrawals to help them meet their goals. We also analyzed their accounts, looking at how much they had in cash and where they were overweight or underweight in certain asset classes. We then balanced things out to diversify their nest egg.

Finally, we reviewed life insurance and health insurance. This particular couple had a term life insurance policy they had been paying into for many years, but when we looked at their life insurance needs and savings, we realized they no longer needed this product. We canceled the policy and saved them money on the unnecessary premiums. In terms of health insurance, these clients were uncertain about how healthcare costs would impact the success of their retirement plan. They wanted to retire early but were concerned that unexpected health-related expenses would eat away at their savings, putting them in a tight spot later. We spent some time looking at the idea of creating contingency funds as well as providing referrals to a health insurance specialist to review their Medicare options and pre-Medicare coverage.

This couple’s situation shows us that regardless of when you decide to retire, it’s critical to make sure each piece of your plan is working together to reach your retirement goals. Through the retirement planning process, they gained confidence and had peace of mind knowing they had a solid financial plan in place.

Case Study #3: Retirement Windfall

Receiving a financial windfall often comes with planning headaches. One couple, already retired, came to me for advice after receiving a lump-sum inheritance from a parent who had passed away. They had already met with an elder care attorney and received valuable advice on how to best structure their parent’s estate, which made the task of settling the estate much easier. When we sat down together and discussed the cash available to invest, we also uncovered several planning areas that had not been reviewed in quite a while.

First, we needed to determine how the sizable cash inheritance would fit into their overall financial plan. Initially, they wanted to invest it conservatively, such as in a money market account or certificates of deposit (CDs), because they felt a responsibility to the late parent. But after having a detailed conversation about their overall plan and looking at various financial planning software models that took into account their other assets, sources of income, and risk tolerance, they decided on a 70/30 allocation of stocks and bonds.

With the primary planning issue out of the way, we then turned to the rest of their financial plan. We reviewed the performance, fee structure, and risk level of their partially self-directed and managed investment accounts and were able to reduce their fee structure using passively managed portfolios. In terms of savings accounts, this couple had a short-term cash account for emergency funds, so we discussed the accounts and reviewed alternate banking options. We also provided guidance on structuring laddered CDs based on the current interest rate environment, making decisions on what length of maturity and amount each CD should have.

Since they were already retired, this couple was taking their required minimum distributions (RMDs) once a year by simply calling their investment company and requesting a check be sent to their home. They had not done any planning and were not aware that strategies could be implemented to help mitigate risk in taking withdrawals from investment accounts, such as the sequence of withdrawals risk, which looks at the timing of when a withdrawal is made.

For example, if you are in an aggressive investment allocation and the market is down when you are required to make a withdrawal, you could end up selling shares at lower prices. Sometimes spreading out your withdrawals over quarterly or even monthly distributions may help reduce that risk, particularly if you need the money to supplement income in retirement. We reviewed various options, and this couple felt that they would enjoy the predictability of monthly withdrawals and could use the money as a paycheck. We set up regular monthly deposits to their bank, which also reduced the risk of forgetting to take their RMD and facing a 50% penalty.

We finished by tying up loose ends. I introduced this couple to an insurance specialist who was able to review their existing Medicare supplement plan, maintain similar coverage, and reduce the cost of insurance premiums. I also reviewed their previous year’s taxes and, at tax time, prepared and submitted their tax return. When examining their credit cards, we found that they were spending thousands of dollars a month on credit cards that had high interest rates and didn’t offer a benefit for their spending. They switched cards so they could begin earning mileage, cash back, and other benefits.

Finally, this client wanted to know how their residential rental properties fit into their long-term financial plan, their debt structure, and what tax implications were present. I was able to provide planning guidance and refer them to various mortgage lending specialists. These clients are the perfect example of how small changes can make a big difference down the road.

Case Study #4: Aging Parents 

Aging is a challenge for many reasons, but one incredibly sensitive area can be that of finances and transitioning wealth. I have helped many clients with the questions that arise when aging parents are no longer able to manage their finances. The grown children making decisions for their parents are in a tough spot. They want to honor their parents’ hard work by making the right decisions, but they often don’t have a relationship with their parent’s financial advisor.

One of my clients recently went through the legal process of removing their mother from a revocable trust due to her being incapacitated. I was able to use my experience to work with the siblings and new trustees to develop an investment strategy for the mother’s wealth.

The mother’s money was invested more aggressively than what the children were comfortable with, but they were simultaneously uncomfortable with making changes for fear of realizing a long-term capital gain. I analyzed their tax return and found that the client had a several-hundred-thousand-dollar capital loss that was carried forward from a previous tax year. They were able to use this to offset the gain and move toward a plan that was more suited for their mother’s needs and goals. We also created an income plan for their mother, secured a large percentage of the assets into fixed guaranteed investments, and put a smaller portion into a growth potential strategy.

Handling the ins and outs of taking care of an aging parent is difficult, both emotionally and financially. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important that you work with an advisor who can walk your family through any decisions that need to be made.

Case Study #5: Business Owner

Over the years I have worked with clients that had goals of starting businesses, clients with existing companies, and with business owners after a liquidation event or selling a company to discuss ideas for re-allocating proceeds toward retirement goals. I am currently working with a company that has an existing Simple IRA plan in place. I have helped by visiting the company to meet with active employees and work one-on-one with employees to discuss not only their Simple plan investments but how it fits into their overall plan. I believe that employees benefit from having face-to-face interactions with an advisor who is familiar with the company.

Business owners often have complicated financial planning issues and need an advisor who is familiar with the ins and outs of a business owner’s circumstances. Throughout my career, I have helped small businesses with evaluating what employer retirement plans may be best suited for their company, succession planning, risk management, and other topics.

Now It’s Your Turn!  

Throughout my 20 years in the financial planning industry, I have worked with Baby Boomers, Generation X, Y, and Z, singles, families, retirees, widows, and business owners. No matter your situation or what questions you have, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Evergreen Wealth Management to see how I can help you add value to your financial situation or refer you to someone who is the right fit for your specific goals. Send me an email at dave@ewealthmanage.com, call me at 206-357-8428 x5028, or book a 15-minute complimentary phone call online. I look forward to hearing from you!

About Dave

David Stanfield is the founder of Evergreen Wealth Management with 20 years of industry experience. David is passionate about developing long-term relationships with his clients and creating tailored plans to help each client move closer to their financial goals. He serves clients in Seattle and beyond, including Everett, Bellevue, Kingston, Kirkland, Bellingham, Federal Way, Bothell, Shoreline, Edmonds, Port Townsend, Mukilteo, Bainbridge Island, Kitsap County, Cle Elum, and Ellensburg. He graduated from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in 1998 with a degree in Finance. He is also an Enrolled Agent (EA) and has technical expertise in the field of taxation. Raised in Seattle, WA, Dave currently lives in Edmonds, WA, with his wife, Irene, and their son, Egan. Outside of the office, Dave is a licensed private pilot and enjoys fishing, golf, and traveling. He is also an active real estate investor and received a Certificate in Commercial Real Estate from the University of Washington and is a member of a National Real Estate Investing Association. Learn more about Dave by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

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