Thursday, April 12, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Building wealth is not accomplished by finding a high-paying job or putting money into a savings account—it’s an undertaking that requires a clear objective, thoughtful strategy and ongoing maintenance. Successful wealth management relies on a holistic approach, evaluating each component of an individual’s financial life.
“Building wealth is a time-consuming process, and it doesn’t happen overnight,” said Paul Couch, Vice President and Senior Finance Adviser at City National Securities.
Regardless of your personal financial situation, understanding the key principles of wealth management can lead to a more secure future.
Wealth management strategies
• Make a plan: “The most important thing is to have a plan, preferably in writing, that outlines your financial goals and the steps you’re taking to address them,” Couch said. Whether planning for retirement, saving for a large purchase or building your nest egg, identifying those overall goals is the first step.
Once you’ve done that, consider your action plan for the long term and short term. Couch stresses the importance of keeping your plan up-to-date and revisiting it on an annual basis. “The economy and markets are constantly changing, so you need to adjust accordingly.”
• Take advantage of compound interest: Saving is great, but smart saving is better. Compound interest can accelerate your financial growth and pave the way for substantial dividends in the future.
“Regardless of income level, everyone should aim to save 10 percent of their gross salary. Put it in an account that earns compound interest and don’t touch it—time really is money. If you do this throughout your life, you should be well off by the time you hit retirement age,” Couch said.
• Look for alternative sources of income: Always be on the lookout for new sources of supplemental income. Having one steady source of income that can facilitate other opportunities can be beneficial.
“People often ask, ‘What should I do with my money?’ The real question should be, ‘What can my money do for me?’ One way to make your money work for you is to leverage your existing income to create supplemental cash flow. Start a small business, invest in bonds, purchase a rental property, etc.,” Couch said.
• Take on good debt: While debt generally conjures negative associations, Couch suggests reframing that perception.
“There are plenty of bad debts, but there are good debts, too. Credit card debt is bad, but having a mortgage or taking out a loan to start a business—those are good debts because they appreciate over time. The majority of American wealth is leveraged in homeownership,” Couch said.
Asset allocation and diversifying your portfolio
Whether it’s stocks, bonds, real estate or elsewhere, where you allocate your assets is the most important component of an investment portfolio. “Eighty percent of your return will reflect the asset allocation breakdown,” Couch said. Be careful when choosing your investments, and don’t rely too heavily on any one asset class.
How you allocate your assets will also depend on your risk threshold. “Since the crash, a large percentage of investments are in the stock market, so you generally have to assume more risk than you used to. However, you should be comfortable with your investments, too. Determining your risk tolerance before creating an asset allocation model is crucial,” Couch said.
Once you’ve created your asset allocation model, you’ll use it to form your diversification plan. A healthy, diverse portfolio will align with your overall goals and should be revisited often. If you’re working with a financial adviser, he or she will be able to monitor your portfolio on a daily basis and make appropriate changes on your behalf.
Building a wealth management team
Wealth management may require a team of professionals to oversee different aspects of your financial life. Hiring a financial adviser is a great start, but you may also need an accountant/CPA and an attorney. As you’re building your team, be sure to communicate between them.
“Financial advisers can oversee everything, but they can’t necessarily do everything,” Couch said. “So if you have multiple people helping manage your finances, maintain transparency and keep communication channels open.”
If you’re using multiple financial advisers, make sure they’re communicating as well, otherwise they may duplicate investments unknowingly. “We have a limited amount of investment opportunities, so if you’re working with more than one adviser, there’s a fair chance they’re putting some of the investments in the same the place,” Couch said.
Who should hire a financial adviser?
Wealth management may seem like a concern reserved for the very affluent, but everyone can benefit from comprehensive financial planning services. Because there are so many different financial services out there, look for ones that cater to your individual needs.
“We have two arms in our wealth management division,” Couch said. “One is a brokerage service that can offer advice on specific issues but won’t manage your finances on a regular basis. It’s a transactional relationship that’s good for smaller investors and traders. The other option is an asset management service that maintains your portfolio, monitors your assets and actively manages the accounts daily.”
Ask different financial advisers, firms and institutions what services they have available until you find a suitable candidate.