The Diversified Blog

A wealth management blog dedicated to creating a long lasting sustainable retirement.

When Planning, Focus More on Goals Less on Numbers

Financial planning is a complex, lifelong process that people tend to approach with a numbers orientation. What rate of return do I need to reach my goal? How much insurance do I need? Can I afford a bigger house? How much money do I need to save for retirement?

To support their pursuit of the "right numbers," people often use separate advisors -- for instance, a banker, a financial planner, an insurance agent, a tax professional, and an estate planning attorney -- to oversee the various components of their household wealth. But can too many cooks spoil the broth?

This "siloed" approach to financial planning can easily lead to redundant investment strategies that could create exposure to unnecessary levels of risk. It may also result in multiple, random investment accounts in need of consolidation. Furthermore, such an approach may inadvertently overlook crucial tools, leaving entire planning areas to chance.

Unlocking Financial Synergies

When viewing their financial goals -- such as buying a home, paying for a child's education, or saving for retirement -- individuals typically think in terms of what those goals cost rather than how achieving them might affect their lives. If, however, they were to re-engineer the planning process and assess their current life issues and future aspirations prior to selecting investments and asset allocation strategies, they may be in a better position to achieve satisfactory outcomes. Perhaps equally important, by putting life circumstances at the center of financial decision-making, individuals may find more meaning in their actions with regard to money.

Indeed, values have a significant role to play in determining how individuals manage their assets. This is one way in which a holistic approach to "financial life planning" enables individuals to better assess their wants and needs, establish meaningful priorities, and avoid misguided investments. And, as life circumstances and priorities change -- as they inevitably will -- so too do financial goals. In this way, individuals employing a holistic approach to planning can easily identify and address those areas of their financial lives that are still working well and those that may be hindering their financial well-being.

Crafting a Plan

Crafting a plan that reflects your unique situation and that ties your life aspirations to your financial goals is part art, part science. To achieve this level of planning you need to rely on the guidance of a single skilled advisor -- someone who will take the time to get to know you and your circumstances and who will put together an appropriate combination of vehicles, strategies and, where appropriate, additional planning professionals to help achieve your goals -- whatever they may be.

Required Attribution

Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by Wealth Management Systems Inc. or its sources, neither Wealth Management Systems Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall Wealth Management Systems Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content.

© 2016 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

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Cash Balance Plans: Offering a Break to Successful Small Business Owners

For successful small business owners, cash balance plans can offer larger contributions than 401(k) limits allow.

Are you a small, highly profitable business owner looking for ways to (a) reduce your current taxes and/or (b) dramatically step up your tax-sheltered retirement savings?  If so, a cash balance plan may be worth looking into for your company.

What Is a Cash Balance Plan?
A cash balance plan is a retirement savings vehicle, crafted with the small business owner in mind. When combined with a safe harbor 401(k) or profit sharing plan, it can allow you to make significant, tax-deductible contributions to your own and select partners’ retirement savings, while controlling the costs of your contributions to employee retirement accounts.

What Are the Potential Benefits?
Here are a few of the possibilities a cash balance plan can offer:
•  It can position you to contribute considerably more toward your tax-sheltered retirement savings than 401(k) limits allow – up to $200,000 or more annually (depending on your age, income, years in business and other IRS limits).
•  Your annual contributions are tax-deductible.
•  You can make varying levels of contributions for you and partners in your firm.
•  You must contribute to your employees’ 401(k) accounts, but the contributions can be modest, typically in the range of 5.0–7.5% employee’s salary.

What Does It Take to Set Up a Cash Balance Plan?
In addition to accompanying it with a 401(k) or profit-sharing plan as required, your cash balance plan usually works best when all of these conditions are met:
•  You are a small business owner, age 40 or older, with 1–10 employees.
•  Your expected income is relatively predictable for at least the next five years.
•  You can contribute up to $200,000 or more annually for the next five years.

How Does It Work?
To establish your cash balance plan, you open one trust investment account for the plan, where investments are pooled for participants. Participants typically include you, and any partners or key employees. As the business owner and plan sponsor, you are the plan’s fiduciary trustee, charged with prudently managing its investments (or selecting and monitoring an investment manager to do so for you).

Each cash balance plan participant has a hypothetical “account” that earns a set interest credit annually, regardless of the plan’s actual investment performance. Contributions are then adjusted annually as needed, to fill any under-performance gap that may occur.

Investment Strategy Counts
If you’re reading between the lines, the structure of your plan means that it is both your fiduciary duty as well as in your best financial interests to be careful about how you invest your cash balance plan’s pooled assets.

You probably have taken or are continuing to take plenty of rewarding risks in your thriving business. Your cash balance plan serves as venue for offsetting those risks with a stable approach to preserving the wealth you’ve worked so hard to accumulate. Typically, we’d suggest something in the range of a three percent performance target, generated by a conservatively managed, low-cost portfolio.

Cash Balance Plans in Action

Case #1 – A Medical Practice with 1-10 Employees*


Dr. Curtis, age 53, is a successful internal medicine practitioner with four employees. During the next decade, she wants to maximize her own retirement savings while contributing to her staff’s retirement accounts. Here’s how that might look:

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