Improves Productivity, Increases Corporate Return, and Elevates Employee Well-Being
As a highly compensated executive, you are focused on your career and management responsibilities. But no employee can afford to overlook personal financial planning. At the same time, your employer has a vested interest in helping you, and not just in your job, but in your personal wealth management as well. Why?
Because when you’re not worried about your financial assets, you’re better able to focus on leading the business in the most effective direction. Perhaps, you run manufacturing operations, the sales force, or product design. Whichever, you make a significant contribution daily to corporate success.
A Forbes Insights and Northern Trust survey of 500 corporate officers shows that 75 percent of C-suite executives describe themselves as knowledgeable on wealth planning and investment management. Yet fewer than 20 percent claim they take the lead in managing either area.
To us, this statistical gap illustrates an often-unspoken reality: No matter the depth of knowledge that senior executives have on wealth planning or investment management, they still need additional professional guidance.
When you’ve reached the level of a highly compensated key employee, your compensation package leans toward complexity. A standard comp package will include a base salary, short-term incentives (typically paid in cash), long-term incentives, and equity awards. With private companies, however, equity awards become phantom stock. In the chart below, notice the many components of a comprehensive Total Rewards Package.
In addition, there could be deferred compensation plans and supplemental retirement plans to consider, as well as timing for stock transactions, plus the need to follow regulations for trading by executives of public companies.
It can challenge an employee to learn all that’s knowable in compensation and benefit plans, especially learning how to coordinate with personal assets. Yet these plans are critically important to the executive’s personal wealth plan.
Should Employers Help?
With this level of complexity, exacerbated by regulatory restrictions and corporate-ownership policies, it is understandable many areas exist that employees must struggle to master.
According to the same Forbes study, only 56 percent of executives are confident that their portfolios are not overly weighted toward their own company’s securities, and only 55 percent are confident that their portfolio is recession-proofed and stress-tested. Other areas of concern include optimization across asset classes (54%) and the use of trust and related wealth transfer/asset protection tools (50%).
While these are legitimate concerns, companies face limitations in how much they can assist in such matters. Most corporations do not possess the expertise or resources needed to provide individualized financial planning advice.
From the company’s perspective, it needs to create efficiencies, maintain confidentiality around internal compensation plans and policies, avoid potential conflicts of interest and manage the company’s risk exposure—for example, by not providing advice around company stock.
Yet the needs and goals of their key employees are all wrapped up in the company and its shareholders. Your employer wants you to be able to focus your efforts, creativity, and problem-solving on the business, and not undergo forced stress about your financial future.
So, it makes sense that your company does all it can to encourage you to obtain the resources needed to manage inherent complexities in financial planning. In this way, you can maximize opportunities around your compensation and benefits.
Fine Line Between Work and Private Life
Jason Hull, a CFP® professional, owner of Hull Financial Planning, a former HR chief, explains the planning versus wellness dilemma in a recent post, 5 Reasons HR Directors Should Include Financial Planning in Benefits Packages:
“One of the mistakes that I made in determining a benefits package was assuming that if we paid our team members well and gave them good health benefits, they’d be well set up for taking care of themselves financially. It’s a common mentality.”
Employers, who want their employees to be happy and taken care of, assume that there’s a fine line between work and private life and money issues are beyond that line.
Pay them, but the employer doesn’t really have any business dealing with what happens once the paychecks are issued.
Jason continues: “In a sense, that’s the correct approach. As an employer, you don’t want to tell your employees whether or not they can go out to that restaurant on Friday because it may or may not be in the budget.
Yet, employers feel that any financial decision that an employee makes is outside of the realm of what they should be concerned with, and this is the wrong approach.
If employees make poor decisions with their money, then they are going to have financial issues. Those financial issues will cause stress, and sometimes have other unwanted (from the point of view of an employer) repercussions and will affect the at-work performance of those employees.
If you provide a 401k plan as an employer, you may think that those one hour per year ‘employee education’ sessions fit the bill. They don’t.
Educating your employees on asset allocation doesn’t do a thing for them if they don’t know how much they should be putting against their debts, how much they should be setting aside for college for their kids, and how much they need in insurance to take care of their families if something happens to them. It scratches the wrong itch.”
Companies—Strike a Balance
Companies need to find a way to strike a balance between helping their key employees while maintaining neutrality. One of the most effective ways of accomplishing this balance: Companies can identify and provide access to external advisors with whom to work closely.
The key advantage for any company is economy of scale. It takes a great deal of time to address all the questions asked of any financial advisor about a company’s compensation and benefits programs. But by working with an approved list of advisors, we ensure you encounter few new advisors and, as a result, you are brought up to speed on basic processes quickly.
With highly experienced advisors behind them, employees choose to interact with the one most efficient and effective for them. Based on his on-going relationship with the company, that advisor gives his employee-client a head start in understanding that company’s compensation and benefits strategies and structures.
Advisors become the employee’s primary advocate, and their role is critically important to help the executive maximize opportunities involving their executive compensation and benefits package, developing strategies, and implementing support to help them achieve their personal financial goals.
Fine-Tuning Your Program
Many companies offer its senior management team access to a pool of approved advisors with whom they can work. From the company’s standpoint, it wants to offer unbiased advisors who do not merely promote products or services.
“Fee-only financial planners” are registered investment advisors with a fiduciary responsibility to act in their clients’ best interest. They do not accept any fees or compensation based on product sales. Fee-only advisors have fewer inherent conflicts of interest, and they generally provide more comprehensive advice. The benefits of fee-only include transparency, no hidden fees, and no bias due to conflicts of interest to sell a certain product line or company offering.
On the downside, fee-only advisors may include paying more than you would in a traditional structure; they may be less skilled than traditional advisors, or they offer a limited scope of products and services.
As for the number of advisors invited to participate in such a pool, it varies widely on key circumstances. Certainly, you want your company to have enough in the pool so that there is healthy competition and you’re given a range of choices to meet individual needs. Whether the number is three, five, or 15 depends on the size of your company and the size of the group of senior executives who need a high level of wealth management servicing.
Your company should also offer the flexibility to add more wealth advisors to its core community. In particular, you may be in a situation where you’ve taken a new job, but you’ve been working with your existing wealth advisor for many years. Trust and understanding are well-honed, and you don’t want to give up that relationship. Your company should allow you to continue, as long as they meet the company’s criteria.
Many companies normally provide their senior executives with a budget for such services to access the pool of approved advisors. The goal in this case, is to give them every incentive to make sure they take advantage of such an opportunity. The better served they are in their wealth management, the more they can focus on the needs of the business, freeing up precious time for family and community.
Start with a Coach
You may want to start this planning process with a financial coach. Someone who is unbiased and does not sell any products or services. They can gather all the facts, understand your goals, and work with you to build out a comprehensive financial plan that covers the seven key components of financial planning.
The Coach starts the process by uploading all of your employee benefits onto a personal website for you. Then you work together to link all your personal accounts, so you can review your net-worth in real-time.
With all this data in real-time, you and your Coach can start the planning process.
Probably the least favorite but one of the most important aspects of your overall financial plan is understanding the income/spending cash flow and relationship between your debts and assets. If you are living beyond your means, bleeding money every month, it will be impossible to reach your goals. We include goal planning as part of this step because setting realistic goals and achieving them is highly dependent on your ability to save for those goals. Most product-driven planners don’t spend a lot of time here.
How you manage risk should you become disabled or medically unable to perform your current work obligations or pass away early in life are also part of financial planning. Young families need to understand the risks and various options to prevent financial disaster for the remaining spouse and children. You also have liability risks if you are sued, your coach can help you do this evaluation.
Understanding your pension, 401(k), nonqualified deferred comp, and IRAs and how long they will last throughout your retirement years is very important. Social Security claiming strategies and Medicare applications are also very important and can add or detract significantly from your retirement income if not optimized. One of the most important items overlooked is your lifestyle expectations needed to fit your retirement budget plan. All of this needs to be taken into consideration for the determination of your withdrawal strategy to best provide you the income you need throughout your retirement years.
Although financial planners are typically not CPA’s, there is a base level of tax knowledge that a financial planner may provide in terms of the tax consequences of a given financial strategy. A CPA is always recommended for professional consultation in a complex tax situation. My Financial Coach can work with your CPA or recommend one of our subject matter experts to help you here in the planning process.
Because all of your assets and benefit plans are on our platform, we can help you with tax projections and planning.
When most people think of financial planning, they may think of investing. Our Coaches will not tell you the best stock to buy or how to allocate your portfolio, we leave that to our Subject Matter Experts. What we will do is help you build a strategy that takes your goals, your risk tolerance, and your timeline into consideration. Then, develop the best investing strategy to meet those goals.
Determining your college savings strategy isn’t as easy as it sounds. 529’s, filling out the FAFSA, understanding your Expected Family Contributions (EFC), the CSS profile, educational tax credits, student loans, and a host of other terms and issues facing college students and parents today. College planning consists of understanding the options that are out there and providing you with sound advice to help your son or daughter achieve their aspirations.
Some of the most important goals in life may be in how you transfer money at the time of death. Estate planning including wills, trusts, durable power of attorney, and medical directives are also a part of financial planning to help you meet your goals at the end of life. Blended families have the unique end of life asset transfer challenges. Protecting the children of the spouse that is first to pass in the current marriage needs to be planned for well in advance. My Financial Coach has board-certified estate planning lawyers as subject matter experts to help you in this planning process.
At My Financial Coach, we take the time to understand your goals and help you look at all aspects of your finances. Contact us and let’s start the process.
In best regards,