What Is Strategic Wealth Management and Why Do I Need It?

  • August 7, 2018

BY: HOWARD SAFER, CPA/PFS
CEO, Argent Trust Company
(615) 385.2790 | hsafer@argenttrust.com

Howard Safer

Strategic wealth management — not a phrase that rolls easily off the tongue, I know.

To put it simply, strategic wealth management is the way we help clients reach their financial goals efficiently and effectively, with as little worry and stress as possible. It’s a smart way to look at investing, regardless of how much money you have.

So how does it work? There are many schools of thought on that. But over the four-plus decades I’ve spent in the financial world, I’ve come to believe that successful strategic wealth management must incorporate two equally crucial elements:

  1. Investment management — choosing and periodically re-evaluating the specific stocks, bonds, and other assets in a client portfolio with the goal of maximizing risk-adjusted returns. This was historically viewed as the territory of brokers or registered investment advisors (RIAs).
  2. Financial planning — strategizing investments in a tax-friendly way to achieve a client’s specific long-term financial goals. This has been seen as a job typically handled by CPAs or CFPs.

The Best of Both Worlds

When I first entered the financial industry, each of these specialties was a silo. There was no such thing as a coordinator to give you the best of both worlds. In the decades since, though, there’s been an increased awareness of the advantages of selecting the right investments to fit into a comprehensive picture of long-term strategic wealth management.

I came to Argent Trust Company in 2012, and part of what attracted me was the company’s emphasis on blending these specialties together in a holistic way to pursue the specific needs of each client.

Although we can’t say we’re going “to make more money for people,” we do know that by being savvy to tax laws and focusing on goal-based investment strategies, we’re almost always going to have the opportunity for better value at the end of the day — whether the goal is to benefit the client, the client’s family, or a charity.

Five Core Concepts

When I first meet with clients, I outline five strategic wealth management core concepts that guide our thinking:

  1. A client’s needs come first.
  2. Take inventory.
  3. Refine goals and objectives.
  4. Utilize techniques and strategies to maximize financial benefits.
  5. Sooner is better than later.

Whether you have plenty of money or more modest resources, strategic wealth management works the same way. You start by taking stock of where you are, then map out the goals you want to accomplish. That could be positioning yourself so you’re financially comfortable in retirement, providing for your family, or donating to charities you care about. You also want to minimize the amount of taxes you pay to the government. I’ve never met a client who’s interested in paying more taxes than necessary.

It’s also part of our regular process to help each new client begin to fill out a questionnaire about their investment goals and risk tolerance. However, our conversational time with clients tends to be much more helpful in getting them to open up to us about what’s truly important to them. Almost universally, they want to be comfortable down the road and take care of their families in a thoughtful way.

Strategic wealth management is a plan that is better started sooner rather than later. I can’t overstate the importance of planning early and taking action. Too many people wait until their first heart attack at age 80 to begin planning for the inevitable.

The Fiduciary Difference

Because Argent has a fiduciary-based wealth management philosophy, we’re legally bound to put our clients’ interests first. In all my years in the financial services profession, I’m proud to say that I’ve never made a dollar on a commission product.

We see it as our responsibility to educate our clients, but only to the level that they want and at the pace they want.  We understand that most people can only take an hour or so of financial concepts in a meeting, so we don’t belabor a point unnecessarily. Our task is to keep it simple and communicate key points without overwhelming clients with choices. Of course, for those who want to dive deep into the specifics, we are happy to go into more depth.

Having a personal rapport with clients is at the core of everything we do. When meeting with clients, we not only seek to meet with the more financially savvy person in a family, we virtually insist on meeting with the non-financial members as well. We want them to be in the loop and know who to call if there’s ever a need.

Argent has grown quite a bit over the past 10 years, yet we are still an independent company, which means we can be more responsive and nimble than our larger counterparts. Real people answer our telephones, and we sit down with our clients for personal, individualized meetings.

Doing Right By Our Clients

I define my success by being able to give clients comfort. If something happens to me, for instance, my wife, who is not as involved in the day-to-day of our finances, knows who to call at Argent Trust. She knows the team that will help coordinate her new wealth management plan.

It feels good when we can assist a business owner or a retired couple with relieving the tax burden on them or their family. That part of my job gives me a great sense of accomplishment.

We always say that our goal is for clients to be happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise. If you feel that some of those adjectives are missing from your financial life, give us a call — we’re always here to help.