Frequently Asked Questions
What makes us distinct is we are comprehensive wealth managers, not just investment managers. What this means to you is guidance with your personal and business decision making. You can run decisions by us, such as a home purchase, and use us as a sounding board. We bring every financial component of your life together, including wills, trusts, mortgages, investments, the college aid process and more. All components are there with you to arrange life’s matters together with a plan. Traditional investment management focuses only on the investment outcome. We focus on what market performance means and how it impacts your long-term objectives. Our investment approach is time tested, based upon Nobel prize winning research and utilizes “best in class” investments vehicles. Outside of typical planning services, it is about help with your personal decision making. You can feel comfortable knowing we are independently owned and commission free (Fee-Only). We have no hidden agendas, product sales or high-pressure sales practices. We are always working in your best interest.
Our team has complimentary skills & credentials consisting of Certified Financial Planner®, Certified Public Accountant, Masters in Taxation, MBA, Certified Trust Financial Advisor, Accredited Investment Fiduciary™, and Certified Exit Planner designations.
As of 3/31/2021, Total Wealth Planning serves over 481 client families representing approximately $690 million of trust assets under management. We have structured our firm to remain small enough to give you personalized attention, and a relationship where you feel valued, while big enough to have exceptional depth and expertise. Our team consists of 11 passionate professionals, serving clients on a global basis. Our firm was established in 1989 and is managed by the second generation of independent owner
We simply ask for your written commitment by signing a Wealth Advisory Agreement. The agreement will provide the terms of the engagement with our firm. In the unlikely result that you are unsatisfied in any way, you will not have made an up-front monetary commitment. We charge no commissions and have no contracts in order to reduce your risk of an unsatisfactory result.
In order to work with clients during different stages of their lives, we have developed four distinct service offerings and fees vary based upon the level of service provided. These offerings are typically broken up by the amount of assets our clients entrust us to manage, starting at approximately $250,000 of investable assets. In certain situations services can be accessible at lower account sizes and can be offered on a retainer basis.
Your investment portfolio is held by a qualified, independent custodian. Each year we initiate a due diligence process to evaluate the quality of custodians, evaluating multiple criteria such as the investment platform, technological capabilities, quality of communications and services, etc. Most clients of Total Wealth Planning use Charles Schwab – Institutional, with the next most common being their employer’s retirement plan custodian such as Fidelity, TIAA – CREF, Vanguard or similar. Although we expect it to be very rare to see a need to change a custodian the opportunity to make a change is always available to us since we are not employed by any of these institutions.
We recommend transferring your existing holdings in-kind when possible which avoids incurring a taxable event. We then mutually agree to hold or sell positions evaluating factors such as potential tax implications, investment costs, and future opportunity metrics.
These can be done by check, bank transfer (ACH), wire transfer, or account transfer (ACAT). At no time is Total Wealth Planning in possession of your funds. All funding happens directly between you and the custodian. To simplify the process, we recommend and assist with establishing standing instructions between the custodian and your local bank account. Deposits or withdrawals can be set up as automated or on demand. Schwab maintains local branch offices in most major cities if you prefer an in-person process.
Our clients pay a quarterly fee based on the average daily balance of their managed investment portfolio for the prior quarter. The initial quarterly fee is pro-rated from the date of investment until the end of the quarter. The default method for payment of fees is to deduct from your investment account, with exception that we do not advise paying a fee from a Roth IRA unless this is your only investment account and prefer NOT to pay by check.
Protection & Privacy
Your assets are held in a separate account, in your name, at an independent, third-party custodian, typically Charles Schwab Institutional or your employer’s retirement plan custodian (i.e. Fidelity, Vanguard, TIAA-CREF, etc.). These accounts are protected by SIPC insurance plus additional coverage through companies such as Lloyd’s of London up to limits detailed by each respective custodian. For additional safeguards in place with Schwab, please visit https://www.schwab.com/schwabsafe.
We do not hold client funds directly; they are always held with separate and independent custodians. All deposits to client accounts should be sent directly to the custodian, or if processed by our office, must be made payable to the client’s account and NOT “Total Wealth Planning” or owners or advisors of the firm. Because we are operate a commission free environment, we are often able to help clients manage “held away” accounts like a 401k/ 403b plan. In these special circumstances, the SEC deems that we have “custody” and subjects us to special regulations to ensure the security of client funds including surprise annual audits by an independent CPA firm, Flynn & Co.
Yes, we carry Errors and Omissions insurance, Cyber and Data Privacy insurance. Additionally, we have an extensive internal code of ethics to return client accounts to 100% from any mistake originating from our office.
What makes our investment management process distinct from other portfolio managers is our focus beyond outcomes and performance. Traditional investment management focuses only on investment outcome. We focus on outcomes and how market performance impacts your long-term objectives. It is not just a process or an investment portfolio. It’s about personal decision making, financial stability, and planning out a life roadmap when markets or circumstances change. Since our founding in 1989, in addition to protecting against downside risk, Total Wealth Planning has focused on creating wealth for clients through opportunistic profit taking, tax loss harvesting and rebalancing amongst asset classes. We employ a proprietary process of evaluating market and business cycles, asset class valuation, and investor behavior.
Our investment process is based upon Nobel Prize winning academic research, known as Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) and is the foundation for the portfolio management that Total Wealth Planning has delivered to clients for over 30 years. Rather than chasing last year’s best performing investments or speculating on the future performance of a limited number of securities, we focus on managing the risk of the portfolio by diversifying across multiple asset classes. With the uncertainty and volatility of the global investment environment, MPT has made traditional portfolio management obsolete.
We focus on the types of investments that are right for you and realistic goals for what is being put in. We help bridge the gap between investments and tax-efficiency, giving you more options. We don’t tell you what we do before we find out more about you, what you need, and the objectives you want to fulfill.
There are two types of reporting you can expect to receive. Your custodian sends periodic account statements, transaction confirmations, and tax-related documents. Total Wealth Planning sends a quarterly Comprehensive Client Report which includes:
- Account Inventory: listing of accounts, starting values, deposits, withdrawals, net investment gains, and ending value for the time period,
- Asset Allocation Overview: aggregate portfolio diversification, in comparison to your specific portfolio target
- Activity Summary: Aggregate portfolio activity (deposits, withdrawals, dividends, growth/loss) for current time period, past several calendar years invested, and Time Weighted Return (“TWR”) for each period.
- Market Value Mountain Chart: Visual graph of comparing net amount invested versus current market value from inception of relationship until end of reporting period (i.e. typically, end of quarter)
- Portfolio Holdings Performance: return of each position held for the time period of the report, including liquidated positions.
- Invoice for the prior quarter;
Clients may request specific and custom requests to their quarterly report based on their specific needs (i.e. tax and gain details, transaction ledgers, calendar year and aggregate returns since inception, many more).
We believe the purpose of rebalancing is to maintain your portfolio risk characteristics, but the process has also proven to enhance investment returns. We do not rebalance your portfolio according to an arbitrary calendar date. Instead, we review your portfolio frequently and rebalance on a contingent basis by waiting for an event to trigger the process. That event is typically a cash deposit or withdrawal to/from your accounts, or when a particular asset class deviates significantly from the target percentage determined by your plan. “Significantly” generally means a deviation of 15% to 25% on a relative basis or 5% on an absolute basis, but is subject to your particular tax and risk circumstances.
Our investment philosophy is inherently tax-efficient, but we look to make further improvements through efficient portfolio design. If you hold accounts subject to different tax treatment (i.e., taxable, tax-deferred, tax-free), we locate your holdings to maximize tax efficiency depending on your specific tax circumstance. If you need to minimize taxable income from your portfolio, we look to avoid short-term capital gains and hold tax-managed or tax-efficient funds in your taxable accounts, and hold tax-inefficient funds in your tax-deferred or tax-free accounts. We may also create custom rebalancing guidelines where appropriate.
Yes, as part of our tax efficient investment philosophy, we look for tax loss harvesting opportunities when they exist. However, for some clients who may pay a 0% federal tax rate on long term gains, a tax loss harvesting strategy may be counterproductive and incur unnecessary transaction costs, and reset cost basis lower, creating higher potential future tax should legislation and personal tax circumstances change. We tailor this strategy to each client.
Most clients hire Total Wealth Planning to consolidate and manage their hard earned portfolio on a discretionary basis according to an Investment Structure and Policy we agree upon in advance. Therefore, they do not need to give us prior approval to conduct routine trades and portfolio maintenance within the context of that Policy. We encourage them to monitor portfolio activity and contact us if they have questions. Under certain circumstances, clients with a desire to have a more hands on engagement, we offer non-discretionary services where the client is responsible to approve trades before our team implements with the respective custodians.
Transparency is important when engaging with an advisor. For this reason, we have made several resources available to provide the peace of mind that you are making a sound decision. You can review our top 10 questions to ask before you hire an advisor or the more extensive NAPFA field guide for hiring a financial advisor.