As we head into the final weeks of 2021, I am looking forward to taking some time to reflect on the past year and consider my intentions in the new year.
Each year I set aside time to evaluate my priorities and progress for the past year at work and at home – and I try to honestly assess what happened. I found a series of questions as prompts helps with this exercise. I ask myself the following questions:
- What made me truly happy and deeply sad?
- What is something I thought was important but is meaningless now?
- What are my top three successes and failures for the year?
- And my favorite – what is something new I discovered about myself this year?
After this reflection, I work on setting intentions and priorities for the coming year. The analyst in me loves the act of writing things down and evaluating them. I have a tendency to forget progress and focus only on the next goal or next priority, leaving very little room for celebrating our milestones, so this process always helps remind me of how much progress is made over time.
When I look back annually and see these insights and observations on one page, it keeps me grounded. It reminds me that everything is constantly changing, including me, my family and my business. Whether I notice or not is the key.
Becoming a Fee-Only Fiduciary Firm
In the past year, a major priority was our transition to become a fee only fiduciary firm with Fidelity as our custodian. This was a major undertaking, and we are so grateful to all of you for continuing on your financial journey with us.
Our Fidelity contacts are using us as an example of efficiency, as we had all of our client accounts over within a matter of weeks. They have even begun to use our process and client communications as examples when onboarding new businesses to their platform. We also have our clients and their loyalty to thank for that.
Building Our Reputation
Something really must be working for us here at Align HQ, as we were recognized again this year by the industry – this time as one of the Top 100 Influential Advisors in the country. Likely thanks to our fun talks with Roger Whitney over at The Retirement Answer Man podcast, one of the leading retirement podcasts on iTunes.
I also credit our work with Limitless Adviser, coaching other advisors throughout the country on best practices for delivering personal financial advice and business management.
Always Striving for Better
We’ve made investments into our tax expertise in the past year, and continue to refine our estate plan updates with clients and their attorneys. We are also now adding services by helping our clients with their Medicare Surcharge IRMAA Waivers when necessary.
Because of these added services, we spent time building out more formalized workflows for our tax and estate planning conversations with clients. We’re working on ways to deliver this technical content in a more systemized way throughout the clients financial journey.
Reviews and Fee Adjustments
This past year, we’ve also completed our internal review of our costs for services rendered and compared both to our peers, and industry averages. After completing this initially in 2019, we committed to this internal exercise every two to three years to continue the process of self-appraisal.
The good news is the transition to a fee-only firm eliminated some of the added costs being associated with a broker dealer. This year there will only be a slight change to the fee schedule, in your favor. Beginning in January 2022, all of our clients will receive a 0.03% or 3 basis point reduction in their annual fee.
How We Connect with You
Next year, a big priority is evaluating how we are delivering advice to clients. With the shift to Zoom with so many clients, we have had to rethink how you experience our connections throughout the year.
Currently we do it in regular meetings, usually annually or semi-annual depending on your financial complexity. You all have been a part of my long-winded meetings trying to cover your entire financial picture from cash flow and taxes to investments and estate planning – all in one visit. And you just can’t do that well on the internet.
My current reflection has been how to deliver some of this throughout the lifecycle of our relationship in more bite size pieces of information rather than trying to digest everything in an annual or semi-annual meeting.
We may move to annual meetings for more clients, and then set up follow up “Private Client Strategy” meetings throughout the year when it’s time to tackle a specific topic, such as evaluating a refinance, completing your tax review or reviewing your estate plan distribution.
We’re also putting a regular review rotation in for important but infrequent items like estate and long term care funding plans. I think this might allow for a better experience for clients. Our primary focus is maintaining meaningful connections with our clients. This allows us to consistently provide highly personalized advice and a client centered experience.
Cheers to the Future
So as you think about this past year and into the next. I might suggest you ask yourself a few of those questions. Is there something that you thought was important but is meaningless now? Or is there something that made you truly happy?
And remember, it’s hard to know where you’re going if you’re not clear on how far you’ve come. This is my mantra.
Here’s to 2021. All of it.