Wednesday is Intellectual Goals Day

There are two ways to look at your Intellectual Goals.

  1. What you are seeking to learn.  Make a list of your Intellectual Goals and apply the Six Simple Steps:


  • Account for where you are at
  • Account for where you want to be
  • Devise a plan
  • Implement the plan
  • Monitor the results
  • Adjust as necessary


  1. What you are called to teach.

Your Intellectual Property is Priceless.  We all have our own Knowledge, Experiences, Education, Reputation, Systems, Methods, Ideas, Traditions, Alliances, Skills and Procedures that make us unique.  The World is full of people waiting to learn what you have already figured out.   Find you uniqueness and turn it into your business or profession.  Friday is Professional Goals Day.

The Gore-Tex Succession Plan Stands Up To An Unusual Challenge


Was this the right result?  It’s hard to argue with the outcome.  Who would have thought that someone would be so desperate to increase her family’s share of an inheritance pie that she would adopt her 65-year old ex-husband? Even though the trust didn’t have language to deal with this situation, there was enough wiggle room in the definition of the word “grandchild” in the trust document that the court was able to fashion this result. Sometimes, the law is about fairness in the end.

On the other hand, unusual adoptions for family inheritances aren’t unheard of — just ask the Florida millionaire who adopted his girlfriend to try to shield his family fortune from a lawsuit. An adoption does create a legal parent-child relationship, so why shouldn’t it count?

This case shows what great lengths some people will go to when they want more of the family fortune.  Probate courts fights over wills, trusts and estates — not to mention joint bank accounts, real estate deeds and gifts — are quite common in a wide range of estates, from billionaire estates like this one to even modest estates of no more than a hundred thousand dollars.

That’s why doing the proper estate planning ahead of time is so important. While a good estate plan can’t always prevent an inheritance fight — as this story demonstrates — it can dramatically improve the chances of your client’s wishes being followed.  If the Gores hadn’t done such a good job with their estate planning, Susan may have been able to achieve her goal of more stock for her children.  But, the Gores’ estate plan — dating all the way back to 1972 — was created well enough to stand up to even Susan’s unusual approach.

It’s even more important to do this planning ahead of time when there is a family-owned business involved.  We’ve recently shared some stories with you about succession planning gone awry.  This is a great example of how succession planning can go right, for you to talk to your clients about.

Sure they likely won’t have to worry about their children adopting ex-spouses, but all business owners need to plan how to pass their businesses along to the next generation, in order to minimize taxes, reduce the chances for a family fight, and ensure that their legacies are carried on as they’d like.

Top 10 payroll mistakes that companies make

I’ve seen many businesses pay big time for some of these mistakes.  Protect your business and play by the rules… protecting your company from payroll mistakes.

What a Woman Wants: Sound, Specific Financial Advice

Women have very different needs than men in Financial Planning.  Read more here…What a Woman Wants: Sound, Specific Financial Advice

When to Send Your Clients to a Psychologist

You spent a lifetime building a business that may have been no more than a job.  To do it right you need to establish Policies, Planning and Procedures to have the business operate effectively without you there.  Then you can either pass the business on to heirs or sell it. Read more here…When to Send Your Clients to a Psychologist

If Price Were Not a Factor, What One Problem Would You Like to Solve?

Many years ago, out of the blue, I got a call from Pete, one of my wealthiest and most influential clients, and he was not happy. I could tell the minute I picked up the phone that something was very wrong. Pete said he wanted me to meet him at his office the next morning at 6:30 a.m. but refused to discuss anything further over the phone.  I asked him again what he wanted to talk about. He said, “No, we’ll talk about it in the morning.”

So I hung up and struggled to figure out what he would be so upset about. Pete was a valuable client who represented a significant amount of billings for our firm, I decided I had to show up and, even though I’m definitely not a morning person, I had to be there right on time.

Thankfully, when I showed up at 6:30 the next morning, Pete had the coffee made.  He sat me across the desk and poured me a cup. When he sat back down, he picked something off his desk and threw it in my direction. It was an invoice my office had sent to him, a small bill of about $40 or $50. Then Pete, clearly still a bit incensed, said something that totally changed how I see clients and billing: “Don’t you ever send me a small bill like that again. If you want to bill me, then come to my office, spend time with me, spend time with my employees, do something that makes a difference to me’’  — and then he said something that really shook me.  He said, “Then send me a larger bill, a large bill that represents the value that I received.

Pete wasn’t really angry about the bill. In fact, he wasn’t complaining about the bill at all. What he was really upset with is the level of service he was getting from my firm.  He didn’t know how to ask for more service, so he took it out on me by way of anger over the small bill.

That morning, we sat down and talked about his business; the problems he faced, his worries and his concerns.  We then discussed the services my firm could provide, how we could help him with everything from tax and accounting to wealth management, estate planning, business succession planning and more. We agreed to a whole new service level for him and his firm. After that day and until Pete passed away some years later, he never once called me to complain about a bill.  Instead, he would call me and ask what we were accomplishing. He wanted more communication and he was willing to pay for that extra communication.

This experience has remained with me throughout my career and has changed the way I interact with my clients. It has caused me to ask all my clients one simple question: If price were not a factor, what is the one problem you would like to solve?

The question is simple but amazing. It opens the client to a new perspective, because clients in general only see us providing the service that they currently receive. They don’t see the other services we provide and how those services could affect them.  They only know about what they’re getting. They know they want something more, but they don’t know whether we provide it.

I’ve got a nice fancy brochure with all of our services listed, and even if they read it, clients don’t always get it.  This simple question — If price were not a factor, what is one problem you’d like to solve? — gives the client an opportunity to tell me what he’s thinking. Often, the client will tell me exactly how much he’s willing to pay for the service he wants. He’ll say, “It’s too expensive. I know I can’t do this. All I’d be willing to spend is $5,000.” Meanwhile, I know that what they’re asking may only cost $2,000.

This question also gets the client to open up about his fears — fears of running out of money, fears of retirement, fears of selling his business, fears about being able to fund his children’s education. I know I can alleviate those fears by introducing the client to my financial services team.  This opportunity feeds my personal passion and gives me energy to do the right thing — enable clients to keep the important promises they make to the ones they love.

Recent marketing studies within the financial services industry have pointed out that this lesson I learned from Pete all those years ago is right on the money. Affluent clients, especially older ones, are discovering that free financial advice isn’t worthwhile and are willing to pay more for solid financial advice from a trusted professional.[1]  Think about this, then introduce your firm to the power of our simple question: If price were not a factor, what is one problem you would like to solve?  It’s worked for me. You’ll be surprised at the potential it has for your firm.

Jeff Neher is Managing Principal of CNC Financial Group, LLC, a Wenatchee, Wash.-based wealth management, financial planning and tax and accounting firm. You can learn more about Jeff at

1st Global Capital Corp. is a member of FINRA and SIPC and is headquartered at 12750 Merit Dr., Suite 1200, Dallas, Texas 75251; 214-294-5000. Additional information about 1st Global is available via the Internet at

A Roadmap To Selecting Your Best Strategy To Fund College And Retirement…

Saving for college and retirement is a daunting task for most families. Some families try to save for both at the same time, but most families are unable to accomplish this without sacrificing their current lifestyle or going broke. For the families that must decide which one to save for, the answer is simple. Retirement funding should take priority. Retirement is the dog, college is the tail.

Since college is a more immediate problem and involves their children, many parents fund college at the expense of their retirement. This can lead to disastrous retirement consequences. Therefore, unless you are secure in your retirement plan, you should not consider saving for your children’s college costs. Children can borrow for the entire cost of college and thus, not jeopardize your retirement. In addition, most children are unlikely to contribute to their parents retirement.

This guide is designed to help alleviate these problems by showing how to plan, save, and pay for college and retirement at the same time without sacrificing current lifestyles or financial security.

When developing a funding plan for retirement and college simultaneously, long-term solutions for each funding plan are developed. When thinking only in terms of funding college, and not retirement, you may be forced to consider conservative short-term investments that may produce lower yields during college years and the years immediately proceeding the college years.

If taking a holistic long-term approach to funding college and retirement concurrently, you can invest in higher-yielding investments because of the longer time frame. You will not be forced to invest in conservative low-yielding, short-term investments for college that could have a significant negative effect on your future retirement funds.

Since there are many attractive loan programs available to you and your students to fund college, you are not forced to use conservative short-term investments or liquidate long-term investments to pay for college costs.
To make funding education and retirement a non-issue, you must consider how to:

*Maximize cash flow in order to invest funds in education and retirement accounts.

*Utilize the numerous education tax incentives provided by the IRS to reduce taxes and produce “tax scholarships”.

*Qualify for merit and need-based financial aid offered by colleges.

If you can maximize the benefits produced by the above strategies, you may not have to compromise your retirement and education goals.

This book is available on the NICCP website…see the link below:

Life Goals

By John E. Girouard
December 1, 2008


When coaching other financial planners, I’ve realized that too many of my peers are caught up in trying to make clients comfortable, too eager to prove their trustworthiness. They have it backward. My role in my clients’ lives is to make them uncomfortable enough to talk about themselves in an honest way. This is how you build trust, which leads to comfort, which leads to loyalty. It’s good planning and good business.

Your job would be easier if clients focused less on how much money they think they need and could tell you what they’d like to do with the third act of their lives. Often, they have trouble articulating this, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to find out. Encouraging people to ponder the purpose of their lives can trigger life-changing conversations that lead to successful outcomes and grateful clients. I ask all new clients, before I’ve done any planning, to write down the five things they would ultimately like to be known for, or to have accomplished or achieved. This exercise can be a bit awkward, but it allows people to express what they intuitively know and give it substance that they can act on.

Soul Searching

This soul-searching exercise is part of an intake process, refined over the past three decades, that requires patience and a well-tuned ear. Financial planners I work with are often in a hurry to win the confidence of clients so they can move on to selling products that help them meet commission targets. Instead, I tell them to take a deep breath, lean back and listen up.
I have two basic rules of engagement. First, when new or prospective clients show up for the first meeting clutching a folder bulging with financial records, I tell them, “I don’t want to know anything about you financially. Put away the account statements and tax returns, and let’s talk. I want to get to know you.” The first three meetings with new clients are about their lives, not their money. Before I start crunching numbers, I want to know the role or purpose of money in their lives, and about the life they’d like to be living in retirement.

Same Income, Different Goals

Two different clients may have the same number in mind for retirement income, but they may also have opposite life goals. One may have lived in the same house for 40 years and can’t wait to travel and see the world. The other may have spent his or her entire career traveling and never want to step on another airplane as long as he or she lives. Those life experiences suggest two different financial plans.

My other rule is that I insist both spouses participate in the process. Many a husband has assured me, “My wife doesn’t care about all that. She lets me handle it.” It makes no difference if the prospect has $500,000 or $5 million. If a couple is involved, I want to get to know them as a couple or I won’t take them on.

In our frantic culture, people yearn for connection. The family doctor is extinct, the trusted lawyer has become part of a big firm, families are spread to the winds and we barely know our neighbors. Financial planners are uniquely positioned to play the most important role in people’s lives. To do that, we need to spend less time showing how smart we are and more time showing we care.

It’s a different business model from hitting your sales marks. But the extra time you spend up front cements a relationship that will pay for itself in the long run. You won’t earn a commission right away. But these clients are more likely to stay with you.

John E. Girouard ( is author of The Ten Truths of Wealth Creation, CEO of Capital Asset Management Group in Bethesda, Md. and founder of the Institute for Financial Independence.

Updates On 529 College Savings Plans

Targeting 529 Abuses

According to the Kiplinger’s Washington Editors, the IRS will clamp down on 529 plans this year and issue regulations that will target abuses. Under the microscope: putting as much as $120,000 (the maximum 529 pay-in that’s free of gift tax) into accounts for different people, then quickly changing the beneficiary on all of the accounts to one individual. And another ploy…stuffing a lot of money into a 529 plan and later using the funds to pay for retirement. That allows contributors to circumvent the pay-in ceilings and distribution requirements that apply to qualified retirement plans.

A Change in 529′s

Politics isn’t the only place where people are opting for change, states the Investment News.

Nervous account holders spooked by the recent turmoil in the markets are either switching over to more conservative investments in their Section 529 college savings plans or inquiring about options such as account rollovers, according to state officials in charge of programs.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in investment changes, and 99% are being made into certificates of deposit, which we began offering in October,” said Megan Perkins, program director for Wisconsin’s College Savings Program in Madison. The state’s EdVest direct-sold plan, which offers the CDs, has about $1.2 billion in assets.

According to Internal Revenue Service rules, 529 account holders can change allocations to an account for the same beneficiary only once during a calendar year.

As a result, industry officials say, a number of account owners who have already made the one change, or “rebalancing” permitted by law, are considering rolling over their accounts from one state plan to another so that they can make a change, or have already done so.

Finding the “positive” side to your 529

529 plans are tax shelters, according to the Wall Street Journal, that allow you to invest tax-free for college expenses. In a curious twist, if you have lost money in one of these accounts, you may still be able to deduct those losses from your adjusted gross income.

The tax break in question would show up as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on your income tax return. You can only deduct those to the extent they exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income.

There are lots of caveats. This is one of those things you don’t want to try on your own, consult your tax accountant.