Clients frequently ask us questions about their financial futures—do I have enough assets to sustain my lifestyle? If I make this gift, how does that affect my overall picture? What is the long-term implication of this estate-plan change?
Typically, most families have an exact grasp of the value of their assets, are well-aware of their outstanding liabilities, and can provide an accurate picture of their income. Where things get murky is when the discussion turns to expenses, estate plans, and retirement goals. We understand—it’s easy to come up with recent values from portfolio statements, real estate appraisals, and mortgage balances, but quantifying annual expenses and remembering the specifics of your estate plan are rarely top of mind. In our experience, helping families organize all aspects of their wealth, review their current picture, and project possible future outcomes leads to meaningful discussions about what can be done today to maximize future possibilities. After an exhaustive search, we recently selected, and have begun implementing, a new technology to help our families with this aspect of managing their wealth.
To plan effectively you should have all your information in an organized manner, and today we believe that means digital solutions. The platform we are implementing links portfolio statements, credit cards, bank accounts, loans, and almost anything else that can be accessed online. Wealth Managers start this process for clients by linking investment accounts and other items we know about as the framework for assets and liabilities. Bank accounts can be added (clients can determine the level of access they are willing to grant; balances, transactions, etc.). A simple budgeting feature is also available, which can help track monthly expenses and provide a fairly accurate estimate of annual spending. With this foundation, clients and the team at Manchester Capital can construct the two key pieces of a good wealth projection—a statement of cash flows and a net worth statement.
It has been said that the difference between a dream and a goal is a plan. The platform’s client portal allows clients to specify future goals, set funding target amounts and dates, and track progress toward achieving those objectives. This can be helpful for specific goals like college tuition in ten years, a new car in five years, or the family vacation each year. Longer-term goals such as retirement, educating grandchildren, or leaving money to heirs can be tracked as well. Assumptions can be made about inflation, changes in income, real estate appreciation, and portfolio growth. Since we know all our assumptions will not be correct, we can make projections using randomized portfolio returns and inflation rates to provide a range of possible outcomes.
Monitoring progress toward achieving goals creates a critical feedback loop. Wealth Managers can help clients from initial setup, to creating a plan, to reviewing progress through interactive screen sharing. Meetings can be held remotely with a Wealth Manager presenting real-time information to all parties on a conference call. This style of meeting allows for the ability to model “What-If” scenarios on the fly. For example, if during the meeting a client says they always wanted to buy a vacation home in Hawaii, this can be modeled during the call, allowing a realistic discussion about what might need to change in order to achieve that goal.
Another feature clients may find useful is access to a personal digital vault. Secure, easy to navigate, with unlimited storage capacity and the ability to share/post documents, the vault allows clients to store private documents that only they can see, while also allowing them to place items in a shared folder that their Wealth Manager can access. We have found this useful when clients have updated their estate planning documents or insurance binders and want to keep a copy in a secure location. Updates to these documents can be shared with your Wealth Manager and integrated into your financial projections. Once integrated, new estate flow charts can be generated to indicate how estates will pass to beneficiaries under current conditions or projected years into the future. We have used this interactive tool to illustrate the impact on estate taxes and asset values passed to children and grandchildren using various estate planning techniques including gifting assets or creating trusts.
Financial planning is an iterative process. With these improvements to our technology we are looking forward to enhancing our ability to help clients define and achieve their goals. There will be more to come as we begin rolling out this technology. If you are interested in learning more, we encourage you to reach out to your Wealth Manager.
This material is solely for informational purposes and shall not constitute a recommendation or offer to sell or a solicitation to buy securities. The opinions expressed herein represent the current, good faith views of the author at the time of publication and are provided for limited purposes, are not definitive investment advice, and should not be relied on as such. The information presented herein has been developed internally and/or obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, neither the author nor Manchester Capital Management guarantee the accuracy, adequacy or completeness of such information.
Predictions, opinions, and other information contained in this article are subject to change continually and without notice of any kind and may no longer be true after any date indicated. Any forward-looking predictions or statements speak only as of the date they are made, and the author and Manchester Capital assume no duty to and do not undertake to update forward-looking predictions or statements. Forward-looking predictions or statements are subject to numerous assumptions, risks and uncertainties, which change over time. Actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in forward- looking predictions or statements. As with any investment, there is the risk of loss.
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