Guiding clients toward financial freedom
Guiding clients toward financial freedom
I like to tell new or potential clients why I love doing what I do. My goal is to help people get to a point in life where they have the luxury of deciding how to spend their time. I’ve seen many people in my family and among acquaintances that are working later in life because they have to, not because they want to. When people engage with me, I’d like them to be able to say, “I’ll work if I choose to, but I also want the option of doing things in life I never had time for before.” That could be anything from trying a new career option they have always desired, working with charities or their church, pursuing personal interests, traveling, or simply spending time with family and friends.
This objective cuts across the many target segments that I work with. A tremendous amount of planning and teamwork with my clients goes into getting to that objective. My vision for our firm is that I want to be the advisor of choice in the Tampa Bay–St. Pete area for people looking to successfully manage their financial future—specifically physicians, executives, business owners, retirees, or soon-to-be retirees.
To achieve that goal, I am focused on developing a discernable point of difference for our practice. That starts with having a very comprehensive approach to financial planning and a strong values-oriented approach to clients. Everything at our firm starts with a rigorous financial-planning process, no matter what type of client we are working with. We analyze every aspect of our clients’ financial lives to ensure that the appropriate recommendations are being provided. This should lead to greater clarity in and understanding of their financial plan and a sense of confidence that their financial objectives are always at the forefront.
I learned early in my career that “selling product” might lead to some short-term personal success, but did not truly serve clients’ needs or lead to lasting client relationships. I feel fortunate to work with Lincoln Financial Advisors and feel we have a shared business philosophy in terms of placing clients’ needs first. They provide valuable support and consultation in many areas, which enables me to offer clients the best of both worlds: the resources of a large, innovative company and the personal attention that clients deserve.
We are happy to take on virtually any client that will benefit from our services, with one provision. I am looking for clients who have certain qualities that I think will lead to a productive and lasting relationship. I call this QCC. I want to work with people who are qualified, coachable, and committed. Our financial-planning process works best if people are committed to working as a team in developing their financial plan and are willing to be coached in understanding sound financial concepts. Those two attributes, in combination with their willingness to allow us to discover their in-depth financial-planning needs and to take an active role in the process, results in them being “qualified.”
Within this context, our primary focus is on individuals and families that wish to plan for their financial future comprehensively. They can be from all walks of life and of varying income and asset levels. I particularly enjoy working with physicians, as they frequently have complex financial-planning needs, are very interested in estate planning, and have unique risk-management needs related to their profession. We also do a lot of work with business owners, and we may start those relationships by working on business needs such as employee benefit programs, succession planning, and business valuation estimates. This may lead to a more in-depth relationship examining the financial-planning needs of their family. We also work with many business executives and have developed relationships with several companies in our area where we provide financial-planning services for their executives. That has turned into an excellent program, benefiting the company, its people, and our practice.
We have a highly disciplined but flexible process. We don’t have a set number of sessions for our financial planning—we have as many meetings as it takes for us to get all of the data and information that is required. We spend a lot of time going over a client’s situation; getting to know them on a personal level; and understanding their life, career, and retirement goals. We talk about their family situation and always want to include the spouse, and perhaps other family members, if appropriate. We conduct a detailed review and accounting of current assets, income, and expenses, and also develop an understanding of income needs in retirement. Once we’ve done a holistic audit of the client’s financial situation, we work together to develop specific financial-planning objectives. Part of that process is gaining an understanding of their risk profile and time horizon for things like college funding and potential retirement date. We use a sophisticated planning tool for analysis of their risk profile.
If it is a highly complex situation, I have the option of using case-management support from Lincoln to help with the financial-planning process. In most cases, we do the planning ourselves using our own software tools. We analyze and model a client’s current asset structure and determine the potential scenarios whereby these assets and future income streams can help the client toward achieving financial independence and meeting their legacy and distribution objectives. We build the financial plan across risk-management, tax-mitigation, investment, retirement, and legacy parameters and discuss strategic options with the client in all of those areas, and perhaps others that are specific to their situation. We want to take a comprehensive approach to their financial life, and I am always available to clients to discuss any issue that they would like guidance on.
Although I have studied the markets and investing theory for a long time, I would not represent myself as a trained market analyst or technician. We spend our time doing the hard work to shape a sound financial plan and then to build the framework for a client’s asset-allocation model. We strive to identify suitable portfolio allocations and a blend of investments that is in line with a client’s plan objectives, time horizon, and risk profile.
I rely on professional, well-qualified third-party money managers to assist in our selection and management of specific investment strategies. It is very important for our firm to conduct rigorous due diligence in the selection of those managers and then to provide oversight of their efforts on behalf of our clients. I rely on their experience, research, and staff for the actual strategy development, execution, and reporting. That frees me up for what I do best: financial planning, helping clients adopt a sound long-term approach, and building strong relationships.
A core philosophical point I often discuss with clients is whether they believe they are being fairly compensated for the risks they are assuming with their investment approach. When I analyze a new client’s current portfolio and explain that concept, the answer is usually “no.” Our broad objective is to focus on a risk-managed approach to a client’s investment plan that will provide the type of return potential that is in line with their objectives, seeking to eliminate or mitigate unnecessary risk.
My clients truly appreciate that type of approach. They come to understand that seeking to avoid significant portfolio drawdowns and attempting to smooth out portfolio volatility not only helps enhance the probabilities for meeting their long-term investment objectives, but also helps with their comfort level with their investment plan. We saw this recently with the first-quarter 2020 market slide. One of our third-party managers, in particular, was able to mitigate drawdowns for our clients. I believe that type of risk-managed approach provides clients with an enhanced opportunity toward achieving the important long-term objective I spoke of before: achieving financial freedom to do what they truly want to do later in life. I tell clients it really is a long game, and they are planning for a lifetime, not just for now.
‘Client promise’ and core values inform firm’s practice management
Marc D’Elia is the founder and president of Premier Planning Partners and a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., based in Largo, Florida. His firm’s vision is to help clients “toward achieving financial freedom” and “help clients find enjoyment and success in improving the quality of their financial lives.”
He has articulated a “client promise” and five core values he thinks should permeate all of his firm’s interactions with clients:
Working with our teams results in a personal financial road map and ongoing financial oversight that brings all elements of your financial life into one clearly focused picture.
- Honesty and integrity in providing objective guidance.
- Understanding of and empathy with our clients’ values and goals.
- Caring, reliable, and consistent communication.
- Comprehensive approach to financial planning.
- Value the importance of family and health in our clients’ lives.
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Marc D’Elia is the founder and president of Premier Planning Partners and a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Mr. D’Elia has over 15 years of financial-services experience and focuses on financial and investment planning for individuals and families, as well as services for businesses and their employees. His firm offers budget analysis, estate- and asset-protection strategies, investment and retirement planning, tax-reduction strategies, estate planning, and business valuation and succession planning, among other services. Mr. D’Elia says, “I believe the goal of financial planning is toward achieving financial independence and eliminating longevity risk so that working is an option and the risk of running out of money is reduced.”
Mr. D’Elia spent his early years in the New York City area before moving with his family to greater St. Petersburg, Florida, where he has resided for over 30 years. His father worked in the newspaper and promotional marketing fields and his mother was a homemaker, raising Mr. D’Elia and his sister. Mr. D’Elia says he was a good student in high school and an accomplished wrestler and weight lifter. He has been an avid student and teacher of tae kwon do and holds a second-degree black belt. Mr. D’Elia attended St. Petersburg College, where he studied graphic design and finance.
Mr. D’Elia began his financial-services career in the insurance industry, transitioning to comprehensive insurance, investment, and financial planning with a MetLife company, New England Financial. He became an independent financial advisor in 2008 and worked in association with other broker-dealers before becoming a registered representative for Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. in 2015. He says, “Lincoln’s focus on comprehensive financial planning for clients syncs up very well with my practice objectives.” Mr. D’Elia has earned the designations of Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), and Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS).
Mr. D’Elia and his wife have a combined family of three children. He says they enjoy “the active lifestyle in the area” and spending time with their children and three dogs. He also says he likes to scuba dive, play golf, and tour vineyards. He says “striking a work/life balance is extremely important,” and his family loves to travel, especially taking cruises and exploring new places.
Disclosure: Marc D’Elia is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker-dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Premier Planning Partners is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. CRN-3089446-051520
Photography by Steve Widoff