Lifetime Planning Q&A: How it Benefits You


Howard Essner, JD, Managing Director, Family Wealth Advisor

Q: Howard, what does “Lifetime Planning” mean?

A: “Lifetime Planning” is an individualized process that helps our family clients identify their financial goals and then develops a road map to achieve those goals and overcome the risks that might stand in the way. We believe that no two families are the same, so we customize our approach to meet each family’s circumstances and concerns. Lifetime planning can cover such topics as retirement income planning, college education planning, charitable giving strategies, insurance reviews, income tax planning, legacy and estate planning and social security optimization, among many others.

Q: How does comprehensive planning help clients achieve their overall goals?

A: Achieving financial goals is not possible without first articulating what those goals might be. Therefore, the first part of any planning engagement is a detailed discovery process that helps our clients develop their goals and identifies their concerns. This discovery process allows our planners and clients to work together to develop savings goals, an appropriate investment risk profile, proper income and estate tax strategies and legacy planning. We will develop comprehensive reporting on all of the client’s assets, not just those managed by us. A customized investment portfolio can then be developed around these goals and plans. Success is defined in terms of achieving long-term goals, rather than focusing on short-term benchmark comparisons. We have found this mindset, ironically, leads not only to better lifetime planning success but to better investment outcomes along the way as well.

Q: How are taxes taken into account in the planning process?

A: Most of our clients have different tax “buckets” of assets. These can include pre-tax assets (IRAs, 401ks and annuities), after-tax assets (taxable investment accounts and bank accounts), and tax-free assets (Roth). We will help identify the optimal withdrawal strategy from a tax perspective to maximize lower-rate tax brackets, while not overpaying by spilling over into a higher bracket. We will help evaluate Roth Conversion strategies as a way to minimize highly-taxed Required Minimum Distributions from large IRAs. We understand and take into account the IRMAA Medicare premium adjustments (which we wrote about last year) in this process as well.

Of course, estate taxes also play an important role. While fewer clients are subject to estate taxes these days, the estate and gift tax limits are in flux and could change dramatically over the next few years depending on the climate in Congress. For those clients who might be subject to estate taxes, we will work with the family’s estate planning attorney to design a plan that optimizes tax saving opportunities.

Q: Can you describe how Ancora’s Lifetime Planning approach is different than the typical financial plan?

A: Ancora’s depth of experience, team approach and level of customization in the planning process are all unique. The Client’s Lifetime Planning team will include professionals with experience in the areas of investments, insurance, tax and estate law. Our team members have earned many of the most respected professional designations and degrees in their field including Chartered Financial Analyst®, Certified Financial Planner® and Certified Public Accountant®, Juris Doctor (JD) and Master of Business Administration (MBA). In our opinion, that level of cross-discipline expertise in working with clients on their planning needs is unique and sets Ancora apart. Our only objective is to help clients understand and achieve their financial goals. Furthermore, all of this is done in close coordination with existing tax and legal advisors so as not to be disruptive to established relationships.

Q: Who is a good candidate for adding financial planning to their overall wealth management picture?

A: Anyone with questions or concerns about their financial future is a good candidate to tap into our experience, but here are some typical situations we deal with every day:

  • Younger families trying to develop college education and retirement savings goals and evaluate insurance needs.
  • More established families thinking about retirement and the time when they will begin to draw on their investments.
  • Elderly clients who want to maintain a lifestyle while providing a legacy for their family or charity in a tax-efficient way.
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