Financial planning designed for a client’s specific needs
Financial planning designed for a client’s specific needs
I think my background has been very valuable in how I approach being a financial consultant. My training as an engineer taught me how to effectively problem-solve and think analytically. The quantitative orientation of engineering also has added value as I evaluate financial options for our clients.
Managing a building project and designing a sound financial plan are similar in many ways. Both involve considering numerous variables and start with a strong foundation. You must select appropriate materials for a construction project so that it meets the needs of the owner. You then have to monitor and maintain the structure, much like you have to monitor and maintain a financial plan.
Risk management is important in both construction and financial planning. Depending on where a construction project is located, it will have to be able to withstand hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, or extreme heat or cold. Those are just the worst-case scenarios. Risk management covers virtually all areas of a building’s design and how it is used on a daily basis. Similarly, in financial planning, we need to evaluate how clients’ financial plans will withstand worst-case scenarios within the financial markets, as well as the realities of changes in a client’s personal, professional, or family situation.
Larry and Karen Welder.
We have a wide range of clients, but we also have developed deep knowledge within a specific target segment. This segment includes medical professionals, and more specifically, military and civilian certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs).
This client-segment focus started several years ago when my brother and his wife asked me to review their financial situation. He was a CRNA in the Army and stationed in Georgia. After our discussion, he asked if he could introduce me to some of his colleagues. I had several meetings and came back two weeks later with specific planning concepts customized for the needs of each individual or couple. I was pleasantly surprised when my brother said that the word had gotten out about my services and asked if I would be willing to meet with even more people.
Over the next two years, our firm expanded its client base to include many military medical professionals in Georgia, elsewhere around the country, and even abroad. My wife left her position at an insurance company and became our firm’s full-time operations manager. We decided that we needed to have a brick-and-mortar office in Georgia and another office in San Antonio, Texas, a city that many medical personnel in the military pass through. Our practice then expanded to include civilians that work in hospital operating rooms. This target segment is very important to our firm and represents more than 50% of our client base. We are very pleased to have recently entered into an agreement with the Association of Veterans Affairs Nurse Anesthetists (AVANA) and provide numerous benefits to its members.
What are the specific needs of this segment?
We have found that many young CRNAs have questions about managing student debt and investing and older CRNAs question whether they are on track with their retirement planning. There are also several aspects of military service that are unique, including how income is taxed and the nature of benefits programs.
An individual might retire from the military after 20 years of service with both a pension and a TSP defined contribution retirement account. Let’s say they are in their mid-40s, well-educated, and have a highly marketable skill. They might start a second civilian medical career, and there will be many complex factors within their overall financial situation. The consideration of tax exposure for their investments is very important, as well as achieving synergy between the benefits programs of their second career and their lifetime military benefits. We have a strong understanding of these issues and can bring value to this segment.
“Our firm is committed to client education and to working with clients on a comprehensive basis.”
Describe the philosophy behind your approach to investment and financial planning.
The financial strategies we create for our clients can be conventional in nature or somewhat outside of the box of traditional planning. We understand the need to protect income from excess taxation and the benefits of creating tax-free income for retirement. We want to develop strategies that can mitigate the risks of market exposure, while having an appropriate portion of a client’s assets take advantage of growth strategies for long-term gain potential. With the uncertainties of the markets, future revisions to tax codes, and the possible changing nature of government programs, it is critical that a client’s financial plan and their investments be monitored periodically and have the ability to adapt to change in the overall environment and their own situation.
We talk to clients about investment risk and reward, review what they have done in the past, and develop a suitable risk profile. We think, in general, that actively managed investment strategies can help clients avoid catastrophic losses in volatile markets while having the potential to achieve competitive returns in strong markets. We believe that employing active investment strategies that work effectively together can reduce risk in the short run for a client’s portfolio and produce returns over the long run that will help them achieve their financial objectives.
Our firm is committed to client education and to working with clients on a comprehensive basis. We are also committed to acting as fiduciaries. Starting with our first meeting with a client, we begin an extensive fact-finding and education process, reviewing core financial concepts. That reflects my engineering background—you don’t just operate on the fly when you’re designing a building. One thing that I find refreshing in the world of financial services is that we don’t have to wait a year or more to see the finished product!
Following the fact-finding or discovery phase, we spend a lot of time analyzing that information. We use sophisticated planning software, but that only reveals part of the picture. You must use that data to develop customized strategies and then present those to the client. Then it is a matter of educating the client further on how each of the pieces fits within the entire puzzle, what role various strategies have in the financial plan, and what risk and reward factors need to be evaluated.
Hopefully, the client will make a well-informed decision about whether this makes sense for their situation and move forward with implementation. We set up a schedule for review meetings and encourage clients to reach out if there are major changes in their professional or personal lives. Another important point is that we have established relationships with trusted outside professionals. When appropriate, we can refer these professionals for client needs that we do not directly handle.
While I always prefer to meet with clients face-to-face, sometimes that is not possible. We are big believers in using technology to better serve our clients. We try to be as paperless as possible and can communicate effectively remotely. One of my favorite video conferences was an annual review conducted when I was in San Antonio, a Navy doctor was in Afghanistan, and his wife was in Norfolk, Virginia.
How would you like a client to describe their experience working with your firm?
I think education is at the top of the list. I believe that clients who participate in our process truly comprehend their financial and investment plan and have a good grasp of the strategies that make up the plan. I hope they feel that we are very knowledgeable and thorough in our approach and are committed to serving their specific needs and best interests.
For all of our clients, but especially the CRNA segment, we want clients to feel that we have worked hard to understand their profession and life situation. Many might have young children, hectic work schedules, and the added burden of caring for aging parents. While they are intelligent and highly educated, they may not have been taught sophisticated financial concepts. They may have significant student debt, they may be buying a home, and perhaps even buying into a medical practice. We want them to feel they have a sound plan in place to help them grow and protect their income and assets, while allowing them to enjoy life and their families. If we can help them accomplish that, and I believe we can, it will have become a highly rewarding experience for our firm and for our clients.
A road map for clients' financial planning
Larry Welder, founder of Granite Financial Solutions LLC, says he is committed to applying his analytical, planning, and management skills to “helping people develop integrated financial strategies.” Mr. Welder follows a disciplined process that encompasses four key phases. He describes them to clients in the following manner:
- Mutual discovery: Our first meeting—via a phone call or video conference, or in person—allows us the opportunity to get to know each other. At the same time, I will share my philosophy and passion for helping work toward achieving your financial goals, all while providing you financial education.
- Information gathering and analysis: We take a snapshot of your current information and begin to refine your financial goals and objectives. We perform a detailed analysis to help formulate your individualized financial strategies.
- Action plan: At this meeting, we will provide you with a report of your current financial position, highlighting your net worth, projected cash flow, and details about protecting current and future assets. We will identify strategies and work with you to establish a timeline for implementing them.
- Mentoring: We are available to you for periodic reviews—to re-evaluate your plan and make adjustments, if necessary, to your financial strategies as your needs change.
Larry Welder is a financial consultant and the founder of Granite Financial Solutions LLC (GFS), which has offices in Texas, Georgia, and Iowa. GFS helps develop comprehensive financial strategies for a variety of clients and has experience working with medical professionals. GFS consults extensively with both military and civilian certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). GFS recently entered into an agreement with the Association of Veterans Affairs Nurse Anesthetists (AVANA) to bring added value to the association’s members.
Mr. Welder grew up “in a small, rural town in the middle of Iowa.” His father was a general contractor and commercial construction superintendent. His mother worked for a university’s student health program and helped manage a family-owned retail business. Mr. Welder says he worked for his father “after school and in the summers, all the way through college.” He says his strong interest in construction, math, and the sciences influenced his decision to attend Iowa State University, where he graduated with a degree in civil engineering. He later earned an MBA from Drake University.
Mr. Welder spent over 25 years in construction and engineering, working as an owner’s representative for hospitals and health-care facilities in Iowa and as a project manager for commercial contracting firms. He says he began to consider a career change when the construction industry “started slowing down in the mid-to-late 2000s and became much less enjoyable.” He saw an opportunity to apply his analytical, planning, and management skills to “helping people develop integrated financial strategies.”
Mr. Welder secured his insurance and securities licenses working for a national financial-services firm and started to build a significant client base. Within a few years, he became an independent financial professional and founded GFS. His wife, who has held several different positions in the financial-services industry, is the vice president of operations.
Mr. Welder enjoys spending time with his wife, four children, and six grandchildren. He is active in his local church and enjoys hunting, fishing, and genealogy.
Disclosure: Securities and investment advisory services offered solely through Ameritas Investment Corp. (AIC), member FINRA, SIPC. AIC is not affiliated with Granite Financial Solutions LLC or GFS Financial Solutions LLC. Additional products and services may be available through Larry Welder, Karen Welder, Granite Financial Solutions LLC or GFS Financial Solutions LLC that are not offered by AIC. Representatives of AIC do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax advisor or attorney regarding your situation.
Photography by Vanessa Velazquez