by Jane Meggitt, “Advisors Magazine” (May, 2018, pages 54-56 Read Online Here)
A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO MONEY MANAGEMENT
Diving Deep into Client Goals and Dreams
Bryan Sweet is more than a financial planner. Call the founder and CEO of Minnesota- based Sweet Financial Services a
“dream architect.” His vision for clients involves diving deep into their goals, dreams and hopes for the future, and prioritizing those items. Once the dream is established, it’s quantified so clients know what they must do to make the dream a reality. There’s even a dream wall in the office where the team can show some of the dreams they’ve helped clients accomplish.
“We take it seriously and in a different way than the client has been exposed to. Anything in life is possible if you do some planning in advance,” says Sweet.
Hospitality for Clients
Sweet says his firm’s client service philosophy is different than other firms, taking almost a high-end restaurant- like approach – and they use the word “hospitality.”
“It’s building client relationships. It’s not all about the numbers or creating a rate of return trying to beat some index,” he says.
While the company has informal minimums, they’ve been known to break those for existing clients who have someone they want the team to help.
“We like to work with nice people who like to follow our philosophy. We spend a lot of time upfront saying what we are good at, and what we don’t do. Our goal is to make sure we are a good fit for each other and that we can truly be helpful to the clients we take on,” said Sweet.
His team’s client reviews avoid the standard questions about how a portfolio compares to the Dow Jones or S&P 500. Instead, they build the individual client’s index.
“We do it differently than just numbers – numbers can scare people. We take a little more holistic approach to the whole money management scenario,” says Sweet. That means finding out what is important to clients, including why they are trying to save money, their retirement plans and what they want that to look like. “Every client’s circumstances are different, and they want to accomplish different goals and objectives,” he says, and as a dream architect, he takes all of that into consideration.
While each client will retire at some point, some clients have accumulated enough assets that detailed estate planning is needed.
“In cases where it’s very complicated, we will take it in bits and pieces and say, ‘Here are X things you want to accomplish.’ We prioritize them and over the course of time will slowly build one after the other until all are done,” he says.
Planning for the Century Mark
When it comes to retirement planning, Sweet plans for his client to reach their 100th birthday. “With lifespans increasing and advancements in healthcare, more and more people will live to the century mark. It helps build a more conservative edge in the planning,” he says, adding that with that comes long-term care issues, since a longer life increases the odds that a client will need long-term care.
“It’s a matter of having the conversation and running some planning assumptions and ‘What ifs?’” Sweet says. “What if at age 80 you incurred expenses, what would it do to your financial plan? It shows the consequences of not living to 100 but needing that kind of care. The consequences may be that the plan blows up, or the ability to reach all goals is greatly diminished,” he says.
If a client doesn’t want that risk, Sweet shows them what they need to do, so if it occurs they don’t have to be concerned about it.
Sweet says long-term care issues affect three groups of people differently. Poor people must worry, the very wealthy can pay for it themselves, and then there’s most people in between.
“We utilize various vehicles out there to help with covering those expenses. There are new hybrid plans where if you don’t use the long-term care element, it has other benefits associated with it. It’s not like car insurance, where if you don’t get into a crash you never get the money back. We try to build those vehicles into the planning, if needed, to show there are solutions to mitigate risk. With long-term care, we’re using less individual contracts and more of the hybrid versions of those vehicles,” he explained.
Changes Needed in the Financial Industry
When asked about changes needed in the industry, Sweet told “Advisors Magazine” that there are some products, such as certain types of annuities that would cause a lot less turmoil if they were just eliminated.
“Annuities get a bad rap when bad products get sold. Unfortunately when the insurance company and representative that is selling them is only focused on commissions, the product ends up having no real benefit to the client,” he said.
What’s also missing is more comprehensive planning, and investors tend to do too much without a full understanding of how one thing may affect another.
“We’re trying to do it comprehensively. How does everything relate to the big goals and objectives you have and does everything you’re doing help you move forward?” he says, adding that the more his firm does that, the better the results. Clients understand more of the “why” behind what the planner is doing and, consequently, the course needed to take.
“We get some comfort and understanding that everything ties together and will strive to get the client to a place that’s important for them.”
Choosing a Financial Advisor
At Sweet Financial Services clients receive a second opinion checklist with 10 questions, and it’s a template for choosing the right financial advisor. The questions include the background, specialties, and niches of firms and advisors. You can find this checklist at sweetchecklist.com
“We’ve run into situations with clients who had an advisor with one staff person. That person retires and there’s no succession plan. It’s a one -man shop versus a team of advisors that continues into the future. We want clients to be aware of that before they engage someone,” Sweet says.
Other questions a person seeking an advisor should ask include how an advisor is paid, related fees, and how risk levels and proper investment allocations are determined. Transparency is essential when looking at advisor compensation.
“Does the advisor do anything to show how a portfolio stands up under certain market changes, such as in 2008?” Sweet asked, adding that he advises people to use BrokerCheck – a free online platform run by independent securities firm regulator, FINRA – to research an advisor’s background.
Investing in Technology
Sweet Financial Services spends 7 to 10 percent of its annual budget on technology. The latest tech makes Sweet and his team more efficient and streamlined, with better, faster results for clients.
“With the explosion of technology and soon all the benefits of blockchain making what we do better, if you’re not spending more and spending more time allocating for that, you’re probably going to be behind the curveball pretty quickly,” he says.
Clients in 32 States and Four Countries
Although the practice is located in a southern Minnesota county with a population of under 20,000, Sweet Financial Services currently works with clients in 32 states and four countries. Sweet wants to develop more of a network within a 60-mile radius.
“We’ve found people will travel up to an hour to experience what we do, but not as many are aware of us,” he says. The practice has several niches for specific clients, such as their Women Forward program, working with women in transition. They also offer the Smarter Business program for business owners, helping them run more profitable businesses and setting up venues for employee engagement to create a better culture. Sweet and a colleague developed the Elite Wealth Advisor Symposium (EWAS), bringing together top financial advisors from around the country for a unique conference aimed at helping high performance “practices.”
For more information on Sweet Financial Services, visit: sweetfinancial.com
Sweet Financial Services is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Investment advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Opinions expressed are those of Bryan Sweet and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), commonly known as “The Dow” is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of the Wall Street Journal. The companies engaged in the communications and technology industries are subject to fierce competition and their products and services may be subject to rapid obsolescence. This information is not
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