by Mark D. Marotta
This article originally appeared in Suburban Life Magazine April 2015 issue.
The team of professionals at Financial Coach takes a customized, comprehensive and collaborative approach to building “Retirement Gameplans®” for those who are in or nearing retirement.
Retirement is supposed to be a time of relaxation,
when one can reap the rewards after years of hard work. For those who have not laid the often complex groundwork for a fruitful retirement, however, post-work life can be just the opposite, filled with anxiety, even fear, over whether or not their money will last. The clients of Financial Coach, however, have a team of professionals who work tirelessly to implement a “Retirement Gameplan®” enabling them to retire with confidence.
Financial Coach, an independent firm based in West Chester that was founded in 1996, works exclusively with people either in or nearing retirement. Each member of the team understands that every client has a distinctive relationship with money, and that each person has a unique perspective with regard to how he or she prepares for the future. Because of this, the firm’s financial advisors create a customized retirement plan for each client, based on an in-depth understanding of the client’s dreams, fears and goals.
“We leave no stone unturned,” says Owen F. Mulhern IV, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER Practitioner (CFP®) and President of Financial Coach. “We are a comprehensive retirement planning firm with a significant focus on investment management. Our clients can’t go back and make what took them a lifetime to build, meaning the saving and the building of wealth are behind them to a significant extent. Because of our retirement specialty and this area of focus, our investment strategy reflects a bias toward wealth preservation.”
The firm’s investment philosophy is supported by “five pillars”,
according to Mulhern. These include asset allocation and diversification¹, minimizing costs and taxes, rebalancing, and a customized income and spending strategy. “Once we establish the asset allocation, we follow an ongoing rebalancing discipline to maintain that well-charted course,” he explains. The fifth pillar – and perhaps the most important of them all – is managing behavior. “Big behavioral mistakes,” as he calls them, such as panicking oneself out of the market or “getting greedy at the top,” can undo the important work that has been done to keep a client on track.
Financial Coach works to gain a clear understanding of each client’s financial position and risk tolerance in terms of market volatility. This is so important because market volatility, and one’s plan to deal with it, will have a significant impact on one’s ability to generate income. The firm focuses largely on “the psychology of money, the human element and behavioral coaching,” Mulhern adds, to make sure that clients do not let their fears or emotions trump sound decision making based on financial plans that have been both thoroughly researched and carefully architected.
“We pay attention to evidence and facts, and we structure our investment philosophy around those facts,”says Michael Traynor, Chief Investment Officer and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®). “We show our clients the evidence so they can feel confident that the investment plan is sensible, logical and the best course for the long term.”
With the lifespan of the average American continuing to lengthen,
having a well-balanced plan that provides a steady and reliable source of income that is built to last – even decades after one has stepped out of the work force – becomes nothing short of essential.
“People need a paycheck when they no longer get a paycheck, so they will be leaning on their investments to generate income,” Traynor says. As a result, he adds, creating and managing a “deliberate and sensible income plan” that enables a client to sustain his or her lifestyle regardless of market conditions is a major part of what Financial Coach does.
“Every decision that you make impacts all aspects of your financial plan,” adds Vice President Jeff Mastronardo, a CFP® and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®). “Your investment plan should reflect your goals, and that’s really what we focus on as coaches. We educate clients on the importance of being properly invested so that their money does not run out over their lifetime.”
While much of the industry places its attention solely on aspects of the timing or selection of investments,
Financial Coach places much of its focus on ways to manage its clients’ costs and tax consequences, according to Traynor. As an independent firm, Financial Coach has access to the most efficient investment vehicles, and seeks out alternatives with low fees, which “makes a huge difference over the long run in a client’s portfolio,” he says. Or, as Mulhern puts it, “Cost management, transparency and sensitivity are paramount.”
Mastronardo describes Financial Coach as a “one-stop shop” offering clients a team experienced in a range of specialties that encompass all aspects of financial planning. This includes not only a skilled in-house team but also third-party certified public accountants and estate planning attorneys. Just like having a diversified portfolio, having a team of professionals who, as Traynor says, “bring different disciplines and skill sets to the table” – from taxes and health care to education and real estate – can be a tremendous benefit to clients.
This collaborative approach is reflected in a remark by Meghan Tait, an operations associate who works closely with clients on day-to-day matters. She says that, in keeping with the firm’s name, “our goals are aligned with our clients’ and we work to team up with them. We’re alongside them, coaching them, from a professional and a personal standpoint, and we take our role as their coaches very seriously.”
Financial Coach brings the expertise needed to help clients pursue their long-term goals. Mulhern suggests the firm has the wisdom of experience to back up its desire to help clients enjoy a gratifying and confident retirement. “Our collective experience has been through raging bull markets and snarling bear markets, including two of the worst bear markets that we’ve ever seen,” he says. “Our investment discipline has been time tested.”