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A proactive approach to retirement planning

by Oct 6, 2021Advisor Interviews

A proactive approach to retirement planning

by Oct 6, 2021Advisor Interviews

Dean R. Crouthamel, CFF • Skippack, PA
DRC Financial Services • Independent Financial Group LLC
Read full biography below

Proactive Advisor Magazine: Dean, what is the nature of your practice and the types of clients you work with?

I have a relatively small but successful financial-planning and wealth-management practice in Skippack, Pennsylvania. I offer highly customized guidance to individuals, families, and business owners, with an emphasis on retirement and estate planning.

Our clients come from all walks of life, and they have a wide range of income and asset levels. My clients include blue-collar workers, business executives, and individuals in professional services. Close to 60% of our clients are over the age of 50. But I greatly enjoy working with younger clients who want to address their financial-planning needs at an earlier age. They are well represented in our client base.

Most of our clients are just everyday people who have worked hard all of their lives and want to build a secure lifestyle and have peace of mind in retirement. They are generally conscientious, family-oriented, and conservative in their spending habits. They want those values reflected in their financial planning and how they take care of their families now and in the future. My mission in working with them is to understand their personal values, provide financial education, and help guide them in developing specific financial objectives and formulating a plan to help achieve them. I have an unwavering commitment to placing the client’s best interests at the forefront of everything we do.

Talk about your process for retirement planning.

Once a client has decided to engage our firm, we have a wide-ranging initial discussion during which we get to know each other better and begin the process of both financial discovery and goal setting. Typically, when I ask clients to broadly discuss their financial goals, most find it difficult to define them. I need to lead them through the process of identifying in concrete terms what is most important in their lives and how they see their future ideally unfolding. One person’s vision of a comfortable retirement can be very different from another’s.

We need to uncover both their current worry points and their future needs and wants. How do they define their desired retirement lifestyle? What are the specifics of their current family situation that may impact that? Do they have specific needs in terms of education funding or elder care, or perhaps medical or other important considerations in their immediate family? How do they envision their legacy for their family? Is charitable giving a strong consideration? Do they plan on relocating in retirement? Would they like to purchase a vacation home? When would they like to leave their job? Do they have plans for a new career in retirement or perhaps working part-time? Only when we have worked through these areas, and combined that information with their specific financial profile, can we start to define financial-plan objectives.

One valuable tool I use in our process is based on the principles of the Circle of Wealth system. This helps clients visualize their personal economic model. I have an exhibit I walk through and explain to clients. Clients can see a schematic that outlines potential sources of lifetime income, the impact of taxes, how cash moves through their personal economy, the role of investments and savings, and the impact of spending choices. It is an excellent methodology for helping clients understand that money is essentially a means to an end, with various decision points having a major role in how they grow and manage that money. It gives us a common ground for then discussing the specifics of those decision points.

“I take the client through an educational and collaborative process of building their financial plan.”

I also use sophisticated financial-planning software that helps in developing and analyzing different plan scenarios for clients. I supplement this with a tool used to get at a client’s risk profile, called Riskalyze. This tool provides an interactive questionnaire that clients can work through in a short amount of time that helps them focus on the level of risk they realistically can accept—and want—with their investments. It also helps them to more firmly grasp the conceptual relationship of risk and reward. Once they have completed this, we compare it to their current investment portfolio. That can be quite surprising for many clients. We also use this risk assessment to help guide their future investment planning.

Using these tools and a few others, I take the client through an educational and collaborative process of building their financial plan. We look at their specific objectives, risk assessment, and time frame, and identify major areas of opportunity. For many, real gaps appear in their current financial and protection situation. I typically present different alternatives for final consideration, identifying the pros and cons of each alternative. It is a comprehensive process that I try to keep free of jargon and make as user-friendly as possible. I want to help clients understand why each element of their plan is important and how all of the pieces fit together to help them achieve their goals.

Discuss your overall philosophy on investment planning.

I have been in the industry long enough to have seen several true bear markets, as well as countless market corrections and the occasional one-off event that takes everyone by surprise. I have also seen major lengthy bull markets where it seems nothing will ever go wrong. I feel it is my role as an advisor to provide a perspective on market realities to clients and help them understand the cycles that markets inevitably will go through. I have a strong appreciation for risk management and the role it should play in client portfolios, with the specifics dependent on their overall plan objectives.

The true challenge is finding for each client the appropriate balance between projected portfolio growth and the assumption of the risk associated with that growth. For clients approaching retirement, it is especially important to employ risk-management approaches that strive to mitigate the worst of market downturns during challenging market environments. There are many approaches in this area. Some are primarily offered by third-party investment managers or specific fund providers that I have reviewed in a thorough due diligence process. I am confident that these approaches can play an appropriate role in client portfolios in terms of risk-managed investment performance. I have been pleased over the years with the professionalism and execution of several different providers in this area.

In the broadest sense, I think there is a role for both passive investment strategies and more active, risk-managed approaches in most of our client portfolios. Each strategic element has benefits. I explain to clients that a well-diversified approach that blends several different specific strategies has the highest probability of delivering managed portfolio growth over the long term. Different strategies perform differently depending on the market environment, and not all will deliver optimal performance at all times. That is to be expected. We are much more interested in the sum of the parts and how that blended approach works together. There is no guarantee of future performance, of course. But a close examination of a blended strategic approach over longer time periods and full market cycles demonstrates why this type of approach makes sense for most clients.

Briefly, what attributes of your firm do you consider most important for prospective clients to consider?

I am a Certified Financial Fiduciary and take pride in that designation and what it means for clients. They can know that I will approach their financial-planning situation with a strong commitment and guidance designed specifically with their best interests in mind. Prospective clients should also know that my years of experience in the industry and depth of knowledge will be used to both educate them and allow us to jointly consider sophisticated solutions to help meet their financial objectives. Finally, I believe in being proactive in helping clients navigate the challenges of planning for retirement. We want to assist clients in finding opportunities to grow their wealth and future income streams, while always considering the risk factors that need to be properly and proactively managed.

Delivering on the objectives of online marketing

Dean R. Crouthamel is the founder and principal financial advisor of DRC Financial Services, located in Skippack, Pennsylvania. The firm provides a range of services, including integrated financial planning, wealth and investment management, retirement-income planning, insurance strategies, and estate and college-funding planning.

He is an avid proponent of online marketing and uses social media sites and third-party content providers to communicate regularly with both clients and prospects. He says his integrated program delivers on three major objectives:

  1. “Building name recognition for my firm and myself. I believe that targeted messaging over time will lead prospects to consider our firm as a financial-planning need arises in the future.
  2. “Providing valuable financial information and education. The recipients of these communications will find in-depth discussions of a variety of timely topics related to a full range of financial-planning issues. Whether they ultimately contact our firm or not, I think it helps to position our firm as a thought leader in the industry.
  3. “Directly providing a means to prospects to seek out further information from our firm or to set up a meeting. While the ‘call to action’ in these communications is nonintrusive, the communications provide a means for prospects to follow up if they would like more information on a specific topic or to book a complimentary consultation.”
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Dean R. Crouthamel is the founder and principal financial advisor of DRC Financial Services, located in Skippack, Pennsylvania. The firm provides a range of services, including integrated financial planning, wealth and investment management, retirement-income planning, insurance strategies, and estate and college-funding planning.

Mr. Crouthamel was born in Philadelphia and raised by adoptive parents in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. He says he feels “very fortunate” as his parents “provided a supportive and warm family environment.” His father worked a second job as a movie theater projectionist, and Mr. Crouthamel grew up “doing odd jobs at the theater and seeing just about every new movie that came out.” He says this helped prompt his interest in acting, and he performed for many years in community theater groups.

Mr. Crouthamel attended Peirce Junior College in Philadelphia (now Peirce College), where he took business administration courses. He started his business career in retail management and held different supervisory positions with a large retail chain. He began his financial-services career with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in 1980, later spending close to three decades with Lincoln Financial and predecessor companies. He became an advisory representative at the Independent Financial Group LLC in 2017.

Mr. Crouthamel is a Certified Financial Fiduciary (CFF). He says he has long been dedicated to continuing professional development and has completed coursework at The American College of Financial Services. Mr. Crouthamel has been active in local organizations, including as a past president of the North Wales Rotary Club, a former member of the Doylestown Toastmasters Club, and a past board member of the local branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He is currently a member of the Montgomery County Estate Planning Council.

Mr. Crouthamel has been married for 34 years. He and his wife enjoy travel, fine dining, and theater. His wife works part-time in an administrative role at DRC Financial Services, and he says she is “instrumental in the firm’s success.” In his spare time, Mr. Crouthamel is an avid reader and enjoys golfing and playing cards. He is a supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and other nonprofits that work on behalf of children.

Disclosure: Securities and advisory services offered through Independent Financial Group LLC (IFG), a registered broker-dealer and investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC. IFG and DRC Financial Services are unaffiliated entities.

Photography by Michael Branscom


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