Helping Millennials Match Their Money with Their Values
Helping Millennials Match Their Money with Their Values A conversation between Sophia Bera Daigle and the Betterment for Advisors team about building a goals-driven practice for millennial clients. Non-paid client of Betterment. Views may not be representative, see more reviews at the App Store and Google Play Store. Advisor: Sophia Bera Daigle, CFP® After working in traditional financial planning firms since 2007, I quit my job at a NY start-up to launch my own firm, Gen Y Planning. I now live in Austin, Texas with my husband, Bryan, and our son, Theo, who was born in the fall of 2020. After spending several months living abroad in 2019, we’re excited to share our love of travel with Theo! Firm: Gen Y Planning Gen Y Planning brings financial planning to millennials. We now work with a variety of clients in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who are in the middle of making huge life decisions: navigating a new job, buying a home, merging finances, starting a family, relocating, and pursuing advanced degrees. The Gen Y Planning team believes that the earlier you work with a CFP®, the faster you can build a secure financial foundation for the future. Why did you decide to become a financial advisor? I like to help people use their money to match their values. My clients range from creatives to small business owners to Silicon Valley employees. Whether you plan to retire early, take a sabbatical, or build a career you love, I’m excited to help! What is the least understood aspect of your job? I would have to say the least understood aspect of my job is that financial planning does not just mean managing investments. I offer comprehensive financial planning, which includes all areas of your financial life: paying down debt, protecting assets that have been accumulated, purchasing a home, refinancing a mortgage, reviewing job offers and company benefit packages, reviewing tax returns, and proactively tax planning. My approach is goal-driven with my clients in the driver's seat. I work with clients to co-create their recommendations so that they’re more likely to implement the recommendations. Then my team and I act as their accountability partners to see that they are following through on the recommendations so that they can reach their goals. Why did you choose to partner with Betterment for Advisors? I like that Betterment offers robo-advising, which includes automatic rebalancing, at a low, flat platform fee, and doesn’t charge more for trades. In addition, Betterment has a simple, user-friendly interface that makes it easy for clients to navigate. Betterment also has great features like effortless Roth conversions and tax-loss harvesting. Something small that I love is the ability to set up an automatic investment weekly instead of monthly. It’s a great way to dollar cost average into the market while also smoothing out cash flow. How have you set up your firm's tech stack? And how has leveraging automation impacted your practice? We utilize a handful of low cost tech tools (Trello, Dropbox, Zoom, TextExpander, Gmail, etc.). We have found that our philosophy of “simple over sexy” has a greater impact on our clients than fancy software with charts and graphs. We don’t pay for expensive financial planning softwares that produce twenty-page reports our clients will never look at. The benefit for us and our clients just isn’t there. We like using Trello to track our clients’ financial goals and life changes and to take notes. We have a board for each client so we can easily prepare for our client meetings. We have a Google form we send to clients before their check in meeting and they update their net worth in Excel. We send them a one-page meeting recap after their meeting in a PowerPoint that we print to PDF. It’s efficient, simple, and the action items that came from the meeting are clear. Can you walk us through what the onboarding experience might look like for a new client at your firm – from when they land on your website to your team actually opening and transferring their assets – and how Betterment may fit into the onboarding workflow? An interested potential client starts by scheduling a 30-minute introductory meeting. They would fill out an intake form prior to our meeting. During the meeting we learn more about them, dive into the services we provide, and end with a quote for our services given their financial situation. After, if they decide they want to become a client, they sign a contract, pay their upfront client fee, and schedule their first client meeting. Prior to this meeting they are given a list of documents to gather and upload to a Dropbox folder for us to review. What is one critical lesson you have learned from your clients? My values and priorities are not necessarily the same as my clients. I need to keep this in mind when a client is making a decision that might not be the best financial decision, but may be a really important life decision that deeply affects other areas of their life. In that case, I want to help them figure out the best way to financially navigate through that choice so that they can continue to reach their goals. How has a remote or hybrid work environment changed your relationship with clients and prospects? I have always run my business remotely, which has a plethora of benefits for clients, the business, and my employees. Clients can meet in the comfort of their home or office and don’t need to worry about commuting to our meeting. It also allows me to work with people across the country and travel myself. It opens my workforce options up to the whole country as well since I don’t require my employees to be in one location and come into an office. I can’t imagine having in-person client meetings again. Now, when I get to see my clients in person, it’s only social! It’s way more fun that way! What do you think is the biggest opportunity for advisors today? I think the biggest opportunity for advisors is in working with the millionaires of tomorrow—young professionals who are making good money but maybe haven’t accumulated much wealth yet. They still need planning in many areas of their lives: paying down student loans, purchasing their first home, negotiating job offers, navigating company benefits and company stock options, starting a family, and saving for retirement. If you could only give one piece of financial advice, what would it be? Don’t wait to start. Small steps have a dramatic impact on your overall financial situation. You don’t want to be shoulders deep in a complex financial situation before you seek help. Find a planner who will be your financial partner to navigate finances with you so you can reach your goals and achieve your dreams.
How Portfolio Rebalancing Works to Manage Risk for Your Clients
How Portfolio Rebalancing Works to Manage Risk for Your Clients Portfolio rebalancing, when done effectively, can help manage risk and keep your clients on track to pursue the expected returns desired to meet their goals. What is rebalancing? Over time, the value of individual ETFs in a diversified portfolio moves up and down, drifting away from the target weights that help achieve proper diversification. Over the long term, stocks generally rise faster than bonds, so the stock portion of your client's portfolio will likely go up relative to the bond portion—except when you rebalance the client’s portfolio to target the original allocation. The difference between the target allocation for your client's portfolio and the actual weights in your client's current portfolio (e.g. their actual allocation) is called portfolio drift. Measuring Portfolio Drift At Betterment, we define portfolio drift as the total deviation of each asset class (put in positive terms) from its target allocation weight, divided by two. Here’s a simplified example, with only four assets: Target Current Deviation (±) U.S. Bonds 25% 30% 5% International Bonds 25% 20% 5% U.S. Stocks 25% 30% 5% International Stocks 25% 20% 5% Total 20% Total ÷ 2 10% A high drift may expose your client to more (or less) risk than you intended when you set the target allocation, and much of that risk may be uncompensated—meaning that the portfolio isn’t targeting higher expected returns by taking on the additional risk. Taking actions to reduce this drift is called rebalancing, which Betterment automatically does for your client in several ways, depending on the circumstances, and always with an eye on tax efficiency. Cash Flow Rebalancing This method involves either buying or selling, but not both, and generally occurs when cash flows into or out of the portfolio are happening anyway. Cash flows (deposit, dividend reinvestment or withdrawal) can be used to rebalance your client's portfolio. Fractional shares allow us to allocate these cash flows with precision to the penny. Inflows: Your client may be rebalanced if they make a deposit, including when they auto-deposit or receive dividends in their account. We use the inflow to buy the asset classes your clients are currently under-weight, reducing their drift. The result is that the need to sell in order to rebalance is reduced (and with sufficient inflows, eliminated completely). No sales means no capital gains, which means no taxes will be owed. This method is so desirable that we’ve built it directly into our application. Whenever client drift is higher than normal (generally 2% or higher), we calculate the deposit required to reduce the client's drift to zero, and make it easy for them to make the deposit. Although we show the deposit amount needed to bring drift back to 0%, smaller deposits also help reduce drift. In fact, the first dollars deposited have the largest impact on reducing drift. This means, for example, that depositing half the amount recommended to reduce drift to 0% will generally reduce drift by more than half. Portfolio Drift vs. Deposit Size The chart above is a hypothetical, illustrative example of the relationship between portfolio drift and deposits needed to rebalance without selling any assets. The blue line in the chart demonstrates the general relationship between deposit size and drift. As you can see, the first dollars of a deposit reduce drift by more than the last dollars. The dotted grey line shows what a linear relationship between drift and deposits would look like. Withdrawals (and other outflows) are likewise used to rebalance, by first selling asset classes that are overweight. (Once that is achieved, we sell all asset classes equally to keep you in balance.) We employ a sophisticated ‘lot selection’ algorithm called TaxMin within asset classes to minimize the tax impact as much as possible in taxable accounts. Sell/Buy Rebalancing In the absence of cash flows, we rebalance by selling and buying, reshuffling assets that are already in the portfolio. When cash flows are not sufficient to keep your client's portfolio’s drift within a certain tolerance, we sell just enough of the overweight asset classes, and use the proceeds to buy into the underweight asset classes to reduce the drift to zero. Sell/Buy rebalancing is generally triggered whenever the portfolio drift reaches or exceeds 3%. Once an account balance is at or past the minimum threshold, our algorithms check your client's drift approximately once per day. Our algorithms check your client's drift approximately once per day, and rebalance if necessary. Note: In addition to the higher threshold, we built in another restriction into the rebalancing algorithm for taxable accounts. As with any sell trade, our tax minimization algorithm seeks to select the lowest tax impact lots, and stops before selling any lots that would realize short-term capital gains when possible. Since short-term capital gains are taxed at a higher rate than long-term capital gains, we can achieve higher after-tax outcomes by simply waiting for those lots to become long-term before rebalancing, if it's still necessary at that point. As a result, it’s possible for your client's portfolio to stay above the 3% drift if we have no long-term lots to sell. Almost always, it’s because the account is less than a year old. In this case, we recommend rebalancing via a deposit to avoid taxes. The Portfolio tab of a client’s goal will show your client know how much to deposit, as described above, to rebalance via cash flow. Please note that for advised clients on our Betterment For Advisors platform, the drift threshold is 5% for portfolios that contain mutual funds. For custom model portfolios, advisors can set a custom drift threshold. Allocation Change Rebalancing Changing your client's target allocation by moving the allocation slider and confirming the change could also cause a rebalance. Because you have chosen a new target allocation, Betterment will give you the option to select one of our three tax-aware migration strategies. Depending on which option you select, this could result in selling securities and could possibly realize capital gains. As with all sell trades, we will utilize our tax minimization algorithm to help reduce the tax impact. Additionally, before your client confirms the allocation change, we will let them know the potential tax impact of the change with Tax Impact Preview. Transaction Timelines If you’d like to turn off your client's automated rebalancing so that Betterment only rebalances your client's portfolio in response to cash flows (i.e., deposits, withdrawals, or dividend reinvestments) and not by reshuffling assets already in the portfolio, please contact our support team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From $0 to $40MM AUM: Jason Hamilton on Improving Client Service with Technology
From $0 to $40MM AUM: Jason Hamilton on Improving Client Service with Technology We sat down with Jason Hamilton to learn about his personal journey to becoming a financial advisor and launching his own practice—and how Betterment's technology has helped him build a $40 million firm. Non-paid client of Betterment. Views may not be representative, see more reviews at the App Store and Google Play Store. Advisor: Jason Hamilton Jason J. Hamilton, CFP®, CRPC® is a Certified Financial Planner™ and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® who helps high-performance professionals and high-net-worth investors create alignment with their abundance so they can live in flow with their wealth and serve their purpose. After coaching clients on their finances for over a decade and over six years as a registered investment advisor, he knows what helps clients go from chaos to serenity with their finances. As a Certified Financial Planner™, he also brings the technical expertise, education, experience, and ethics requirements investors are looking for to help them achieve their goals, lower their taxes, and optimize their income and investment returns. Jason is the founder of Keep It Simple Financial Planning, a fee-only registered investment advisor, managing over $40 million in assets for his clients. He is also the Head of Family Financial Coaching at his family's nonprofit IDEAL, a community development corporation, located in East Los Angeles. Firm: Keep It Simple Financial Planning Keep It Simple Financial Planning (KISFP) was founded in 2016 to help underserved investors receive technical financial advice in a simple and understandable way. Read more about why we believe “Keep It Simple” is the best philosophy. Why did you decide to become a financial advisor? My story originates just before the 2008 financial crisis. Before this, my family owned a small business: An Italian restaurant in a suburb of San Jose. The restaurant's name was Mio Vicino which means "my neighbor." Prior to the financial crisis, my family hired an advisor to help them with their financial and retirement planning. Unfortunately, instead of comprehensive fiduciary financial advice, my family was sold a myriad of insurance products. I believe with better planning, we would have had a much better response and outcome to the economic situation. Before the end of the crisis, we were forced to close the restaurant due to insufficient financial resources. On the bright side of this journey, I saw what my family went through and became determined to not have the same fate for myself. This led me on my journey of financial self-discovery to learn everything I could about financial planning and wealth management. What started as a Google search for "how do people become wealthy?" became an obsession and now a career. Helping clients get into alignment with their wealth has been rewarding in many ways. For years prior to becoming an advisor, I would read online forums, where I found out about advanced financial planning education to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. At the time, I had no knowledge of the financial planning industry. Since my company offered education reimbursement, I decided to sign up for a course at UCLA extensions. This was the beginning of my journey to become a CFP®. I enjoyed the courses. They filled in the gaps from my prior reading and gave me structure to the process of proper financial planning. It was actually fun! In my search to change careers, I found a group called XY Planning Network that was providing the tools and education to help advisors launch their firms, and the rest is history. I hired coaches and consultants to help me start up and learn the business and the compliance aspects of running a registered investment advisor and, in 2016, I launched Keep It Simple Financial Planning. Over time, I have obtained the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designations. More recently, with the popularity of investing in cryptocurrencies and other digital assets, I completed my Certificate in Blockchain and Digital Assets and became a member of the Digital Assets Council of Financial Professionals. Today, we help clients with flat-fee financial planning advice in nearly 40 states and manage over $40 million in assets under management for our clients. Coming from a lower-middle-class family, we knew how to work but I was never taught HOW to build wealth outside of one day buying a home. Investing was not part of the culture of my family. We all knew how to work hard and sacrifice. But, one thing that I teach now that I didn’t get growing up is how to turn my labor into capital that will work for me. Books also had a significant impact on my journey. Dave Ramsey, Warren Buffet, Suze Orman, and Jack Bogle are a few of the authors from whom I absorbed great insight and knowledge. But the most impactful for me were two books by Thomas J. Stanley: The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind. The Millionaire Next Door showed me the path for how to become a first generation millionaire (and that over 80% of millionaires are first generation!). And The Millionaire Mind showed me what it takes to achieve multimillionaire status. Reading these books changed my perspective significantly about what it takes to be successful financially. What is the least understood aspect of your job? The least understood aspect of my job is that many times there is more psychology than technical financial planning in what we do. We are dealing with humans and not machines. Within a number of hours I can tell a client exactly how to optimize their financial situation. The challenge is, what may be optimal financially may not be optimal emotionally. As advisors, the better we are at understanding humans, the more likely our advice is likely to be implemented. What does your firm's current tech stack look like? I am a self-admitted technology addict. While we don't use all of our tools with all clients, there are some great applications for advisors to use when appropriate. We use: Asset Map, RightCapital, Income Conductor, Income Laboratory, Holistiplan, Cash Flow Mapping, Kwanti, AdvicePay, and, of course, Betterment for Advisors. Why did you choose Betterment for Advisors? And how has our technology impacted your business? I have tried multiple custodians since starting my firm but the efficiency, beautiful client portal and app, and the support team I get with Betterment for Advisors is second to none. Because of the digital onboarding and easy digital account transfer process I have been able to scale much faster and serve a more financially diverse client base than I could with a traditional custodian. What is one critical lesson you have learned from your clients? One critical lesson I have learned from my clients is that if you help people get into alignment with their wealth, other parts of their lives will flourish as well. Finances are such an important aspect of living in the United States and, if you can get into flow with your financial wealth interactions, you will experience harmony in other areas of your life typically. How has a remote or hybrid work environment changed how your team works? Our firm has been primarily virtual since our founding over 6 years ago and, since the pandemic, it has tripled in size as many more investors have become comfortable with virtual meetings. In our case, the remote work environment has improved our ability to grow and serve clients. We were ready as more and more clients become comfortable with using virtual communication tools to stay connected to friends and family. Now, it has become the overwhelmingly preferred meeting method and has allowed us to help clients solve the specific challenges they face from nearly anywhere in the nation. What do you think is the biggest opportunity for advisors today? To put themselves out there on social media to discuss and share their expertise. I see so many advisors wasting time and money on paid lead gen services, which if you knew how they worked, are typically a huge waste of money. Maybe not waste but for sure not fully optimized. People in general are desperate for a great advisor that aligns with their personality type. I think if advisors would just put out one educational video per week in their niche, or even general good financial advice, they would never have to struggle for business. If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money? Pay off mom's house and travel a lot. If you could only give one piece of financial advice, what would it be? That if your financial situation is not ideal, DO NOT blame or put any responsibility on anyone outside yourself. If you do not take 100% ownership of your situation you will never be successful. Literally anything you need to know about finances, you can find online in a blog or on YouTube. The challenge is people are typically their own worst enemy when it comes to finances. For this reason, hiring a trusted fiduciary advisor may be the best decision individuals make for themselves.