Client Experiences

SHWM believes strongly that affluent individuals, families and institutions deserve objective advice. We partner with you to tackle all your financial challenges and goals - serving as a trusted advisor you can depend on for timely, objective advice that always has your best interests at heart. Because we do not sell products, we are able to provide unbiased options and recommendations. Following are some stories of ways we have worked with our clients to help them solve problems or achieve their goals.

Type of Issue: 
Life Insurance

Life Insurance: Rarely a Priority, but Often Should Be

Challenge:

A young couple with two children and dual incomes (his steady, her self-employment income quickly rising) came to us to discuss their investment and tax needs. In the process of discussing their goals and their plans for the future, life insurance naturally came up. This couple had invested wisely and had adequate insurance on the husband, who had been the primary breadwinner for years. However, the wife’s self-employment income had risen significantly and they had come to rely on it as well. The life insurance on the wife, based on their past income, was minimal.

Solution:

Our discussion with them was about the need to significantly increase the life insurance coverage on the wife. If she were to pass away suddenly, we explained, how would the husband maintain his job (and income) while caring for their children? Would he be able to afford to leave his job to become a full-time stay at home parent for several years? The answer was a resounding “no.” So with our assistance and the advice of an objective insurance provider, our client purchased additional life insurance on the wife. Tragically, she passed away suddenly a short time later. While the family struggled to grieve and adjust, the one thing that they did not have to worry about was whether the father would be able to care for his children with the time and in the manner he and his late wife had dreamed of. Life insurance is a part of financial planning that none of us care to think about, simply because of the implications. But those very implications are what make careful consideration of life insurance and appropriate levels of insurance, so vital.

 

Type of Issue: 
Financial Planning

Business Owner's Goal is to Become Former Business Owner: How To Do It Successfully

Challenge:

Many of our clients are business owners and entrepreneurs. Part of what makes them successful is their drive and dedication to success. One of our clients told us that, like many, his ultimate goal was to eventually sell and realize enough return on his business that he could comfortably pursue his next “big thing” even if that “big thing” was golfing every day.

Solution:

Because it is equally important to manage one’s personal wealth as strategically as one manages their business, we approached our conversations with this client as his family CFO, laying out our very similar role to his corporate CFO, who he already acknowledged as one of the most valuable assets in his business. 

We worked with him on how to plan for his business sale to get the most out of the sale and how to invest so that his hard-earned wealth served its purpose for his entire life (and possibly for a future generation of Smiths) while minimizing his tax liability along the way. Like his CFO, our role was to understand, measure and report to our client on his financial health, progress toward his goals, profitability, cash flow and uses (spending, saving, taxes), retirement planning, risk management, future plans, budget versus actual and asset management toward his goals with minimal risk. He took important steps prior to selling his business that increased its value, while creating a plan for that “cash out” he’d dreamed of which would allow him to pursue his next “big thing.” By the way, this client is still pondering what that next big thing might be, but he is really enjoying himself in the meantime.

For more information on our approach for business owners and executives, read this.

Type of Issue: 
401(k) Plan Needed Customization and Increased Participation

Retirement Plan Consulting Services for Businesses

Challenge:

XYZ Company was referred to us for 401(k) consulting. Their issues: they had an existing 401(k) plan, but interaction and communication was all online with no input or guidance from an advisor. As a result, communication (to the participants and to the executive team) was poor, investment choices were limited, participation was low and the plan seemed to be designed for someone else.

Solution:

Smith & Howard Wealth Management’s 401(k) advisors created a strategy to review both the plan design and the investment provider. This began with introducing a local Third Party Administrator (TPA) to oversee the design and administration of the plan. The TPA provided a plan solution that was customized, allowing the client to achieve their goals in a more effective manner than the cookie-cutter plan they had. Also, the client now benefited from direct communication with a dedicated administrator. At the same time, SHWM prepared a Request for Proposal from several qualified plan providers (including the existing provider). We collected and reviewed the proposal responses, which included evaluating the available services from the providers and reviewing the investment choices as well as the fees. We provided the client with a recommendation and reasons for that recommendation. Once a change was made by XYZ Company, SHWM held education meetings with the employees, a first for the company and its participants.  The entire process resulted in a much better understanding of the value of the new plan and ultimately in increased participation. An additional benefit is that the employer now has an attractive plan in place that also serves as a recruiting tool.

SHWM was able to customize and improve the current plan while keeping the fees about the same.

Type of Issue: 
Investment Management

Helping a Local Nonprofit with $2M Foundation

Challenge:

$2 million is a lot of money, but for Wall Street firms, it is not. A lack of attention because of a perceived small investment coupled with high turnover of investment managers created frustration for a local nonprofit board.

Solution:

Smith & Howard Wealth Management’s nonprofit group stepped in to work with the board and provide the level of service they had been lacking. Nonprofits tell us that they enjoy being served by a team that’s been together for years, including an owner of the business.  An added bonus is our affiliation with Smith & Howard, a nationally recognized CPA firm that houses an extensive nonprofit practice. This partnership with Smith & Howard brings the benefit to nonprofits of a blend of wealth management and accounting consulting assistance on an as-needed basis, expertise on the IRS Form 990, board governance advice and invitations to our popular quarterly nonprofit workshops.

For more about our services to nonprofits, visit this page.

Type of Issue: 
Financial Planning

Divorce Highlights Need for Financial Advisor

Challenge:

Recently, a woman in the early stages of a divorce was referred to us by her attorney. The couple had been married almost 20 years and had amassed significant wealth, possessions and some debt. Although she had worked after their children went to college, her employment was not the primary source of income for the couple. She had not been involved in the family’s financial planning or investment decisions and was unsure of next steps. She needed advice and guidance from her entire team of advisors to ensure that she received a fair settlement that would provide a secure income for her.

Solution:

The advisors at SHWM worked closely with our new client and her attorneys to determine all sources of income, investments and insurance and gain a clear picture of the couple’s debt. We also had several conversations about her future goals – her work plans, desires for a residence, alimony versus settlement and more. Although in the midst of the emotions and legal workings of a divorce it can be difficult, it’s important to begin the process of considering the future. We helped her lay the tentative groundwork for the next phase of her life.

Armed with a full understanding of the income and investments available to her, as well as an outline of expenses that can blindside some newly divorced clients, such as health insurance costs, life insurance, home purchase costs and more, our clients was equipped to begin working on a settlement plan.  With our ongoing support and ability to quickly adjust projections as negotiations progressed, she and her legal team were able to secure a settlement that provided a secure future for her.  We were able to help her start her new life with a structured plan to ensure a secure future.

Although we can help anyone at any stage of a divorce, engaging a SHWM investment advisor early in the process can save significant time and increase your ability to secure a final divorce settlement that provides the security you seek.