What I’ve found is that having more money makes you comfortable—it may even give you peace of mind—but it doesn’t necessarily make you happier.

At Sea To Peak Financial Advisors we’re constantly focused on your financial wellbeing.   As we embark on this most unusual holiday season, we are also reminded that wellbeing includes our mind, body, and soul. 

When people think about a doctor’s lifestyle, they might envision a high salary and a magazine-worthy, picturesque life.  And while a medical career can be financially rewarding, there are several overlooked complexities that can make achieving retirement goals challenging.  Careful, tailored financial planning for physicians alongside intentional lifestyle management can ensure that you balance current needs with tax-efficient retirement strategies and financial peace of mind along the way.

Besides the long hours and sometimes stressful workload, physicians can also bear large financial burdens too. And if a physician happens to marry another physician, what impact might that have on their financial and personal lives? Just when most couples might be planning a wedding and looking to buy a home, dual physician families are facing twice the debt, and half the free time. The need to control spending and manage their finances is amplified.

Through many conversations with physicians over the years, I’ve noticed a familiar theme.  It is an innate desire to help others. To honor that motivation, it’s my calling to help them in return. 

As a financial advisor, I’m here to help physicians maximize their leisure time with family and friends, so that they can be all in for their patients at work, and all in for their families at home.   My job is to help alleviate the burden of managing their finances and the decision fatigue that can seem overwhelming at times.  I help create the present and future that our medical professionals deserve.

Why is Financial Planning for Physicians Important?

Each profession presents a unique set of challenges, but maybe none more so than a physician. Over their professional lives, physicians will have to navigate a career path that starts them on an uphill climb to pay off their student debt, but despite their high income potential, many physicians will face choices between an increasing lifestyle and long term wealth accumulation.  This unique set of challenges makes it all the more critical to make responsible planning choices and create healthy spending habits.  

Dealing With Debt

While the average American student graduates with around $30,000 of student debt, that figure is dwarfed by the debt of the average medical student. And future physicians head into their chosen career with a passion to help people, despite knowing that it’s going to create a huge financial burden for themselves.

The average debt of a medical student is $200,000, but one firm who processed their own figures, situated the average debt of a doctor at $320,000. And with averages working in the way they do, we can assume that there are plenty of doctors out there with debts running as high as $450,000 or more.

There are different ways of dealing with a debt that high at the outset of a career. While loan forgiveness opportunities exist, those may not suit many as they often prescribe where and for whom a physician can work. They might involve accepting low paid work or significant relocations which often aren’t feasible, especially for dual physician families. 

Having debt can feel like a weight, but we recommend you treat this as a business investment.  You made this investment, but if you earn the average physician’s salary of $317,000 a year for ten years, the present value of that investment is $2.5 million. This is an investment that will pay off over time.  Our goal as your financial advisor is to help you develop a payoff plan that allows you to enjoy your life now while also planning for the future. 

Cash Flow Management 

Physicians devote themselves to their profession, and there’s an awful lot to learn. It’s not surprising then, that they might know a lot more about anatomy, medication, complicated health conditions than they do about financial management. They’ve generally had to focus their attention elsewhere. 

With unique demands on their financial lives, such as debt management and retirement saving, financial planning for physicians can help manage a very high cash flow in the most efficient way. Even maximizing contributions to saving plans might not enable a dual physician family to maintain their lifestyle in retirement. Extremely diligent planning including a thorough examination of potential tax implications will help a physician to make the most of their money now and for the future.

Managing cashflow can be a challenge for physicians, but we’re here to help. We can help dual physician families to balance the need to pay down their student loans in a reasonable amount of time with the need to provide the lifestyle they want and deserve. We can help them to strike a balance between paying off their debt, saving for retirement and lifestyle spending to provide a true picture of financial wellbeing.

This is an ongoing need for physicians. As new life developments happen, so does the need to adjust spending and saving, so we build long term relationships with our clients to help them through these changes.

Free Time? What Free Time?

With the extremely demanding schedules of newly-qualified health professionals, it may be close to impossible to find the time to devote to finances and big financial decisions. The day to day and week to week schedules of health professionals change all the time.  Especially for dual physician families that have two competing, chaotic work and family schedules.  

It can be hard to find the time for finances but it’s also true that finances can’t be ignored.  Not only is financial planning for physicians important, it can have huge benefits. It can help to grow wealth, maximize cash flow, secure educational goals for the children, and retirement goals for the future. It’s worth devoting time to.  Choosing to enlist the help of a financial planner can help you achieve financial well-being while still finding time to enjoy the things you love.

The Unique Needs of Dual Physician Families

In addition to high debt and demanding schedules, dual physician families can often face higher childcare costs than other professional families. They’ll need someone who can be available to meet their unpredictable schedules, and sometimes this means live-in help.

Even with all the complexities that arise in dual physician households, there are some clear positives.  Both parties understand what it’s like being a doctor and what it’s like being married to one.  They can bask in the good days and offer comfort during the hard days.  

Financial Planning for Physicians: Move Forward with Confidence

Managing finances doesn’t need to be another stresser for dual physician families. At Sea To Peak Advisors, as a fee-only financial planner, I’m dedicated to helping dual physician households create financial plans that help make the most of their lives now and maximize their retirement dreams. 

If you are part of a dual physician household and feel you would benefit from my assistance, please get in touch and schedule an appointment.

With best wishes,

About Kristi

Kristi Kearney is an Investment Advisor Representative of Dynamic Wealth Advisors dba Sea To Peak Financial Advisors. All advisory services offered through Dynamic Wealth Advisors. To learn more about Kristi, read more here or connect with her on LinkedIn.

While talking with new clients that have hired me as their financial advisor, many have said that they did not know there was a better approach to managing their financial life. They were either displeased or only moderately happy with their former advisor, but did not know how to make a change until someone pointed them to me. When it came down to it, they just didn’t know how to choose a financial advisor.

There are fabulous advisors out there doing wonderful work with clients, so there is absolutely no need to settle with someone who doesn’t quite feel right, or doesn’t go over and above to meet your needs. But if you don’t know some simple basics, it can be hard to feel confident about your decisions. 

Here are 10 key steps to help show you how to choose a financial advisor, and make sure they really are the right one for you.

#1: Find someone who will be your financial advocate  

Just because your friend recommends her advisor, keep in mind that they have to be a good fit for you (and if you are married or in a partner relationship, for both of you). There may be many good people out there, but they need to be what is best for you. A good advisor is someone who will partner with you and give you recommendations, but empower you to make decisions for yourself.  If you want someone to act in your best interest, ask the advisor if they will be acting as a fiduciary in your work together.

#2: A good advisor will have a skill set that matches your needs 

If you have your plans in place but just need some help investing assets, then a financial advisor should be able to help you. If you need something more comprehensive such as estate planning, asset protection, or charitable planning, you may need a wealth manager. This is someone who can work with you on a holistic approach and help you address all of your needs while using this information to help you manage your investments.

#3: Understand the different types of financial advisors

Professionals in financial services can work in several roles, and understanding the difference can be key in how to choose a financial advisor.  Someone can be a broker which means they are a registered representative and usually get paid on commissions and/or transaction charges. 

An investment advisor representative of a  registered investment advisor (an RIA) will generally be paid with an asset-based fee, and a fee-only financial planner may charge a lump sum planning charge or an hourly charge.

Finally, there are people like me who are a combination of the above. There is no right or wrong, but the important part is that you understand the fees and what services they will provide for those fees. This is both up-front and on an ongoing basis. Most advisors offer a complimentary initial meeting so take the time to truly understand your advisor and their role.

#4: Check out your potential advisors

If they are a registered representative, then go to the FINRA website and do a search.  Any regulatory action that may have previously been taken against them will be listed. If there is any regulatory action, understand the situation very well before working with that advisor. You can also ask for references and call them.

#5: Pick someone who listens to you  

If they are doing 80% of the talking in the relationship, then move on to someone else. An advisor should spend their time learning about their clients and then using that information to help them achieve their financial goals.

#6: Discern their main value proposition

This one takes some guile – sometimes their main value proposition is not what they tell you is their main value proposition. If the advisor’s main selling point is a particular product or past investment performance, walk away. 

This is someone that has their own agenda and is not willing to tailor an investment plan to your needs.  Also, although we see this on every piece of investment literature “past performance is not an indicator of future performance” it is one of the most often used factors to entice investors.

#7: Look for their designations

If you have concerns about technical skill or ethics – which in my mind, you really should –  consider picking an advisor that has an industry designation such as Certified Financial Planner® (CFP),  Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC),  Certified Private Wealth Advisor® (CPWA) and Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF).  

The entities that govern these designations have a very strict code of conduct for their designees.  This just gives you another layer to rely on.  You can find local Certified Financial Planners at the CFP Board of Standards website.

#8: Check out their network

If you think you may need other professionals on your side too, ask the advisor who their team of experts are that can help you. For example, their skills may not extend to tax planning so you’ll need to see someone else for that. These experts do not need to be in-house, but they should be accessible. 

Does this advisor have a network that includes reliable accountants, attorneys, insurance specialists, professional coaches, etc. that they work with that they can refer you to?  Also ask about how this works – how do they collaborate with these advisors? You’ll want it to be as seamless as possible.

#9: Understand the client journey

Ask the advisor who will be managing your account on a day-to-day basis and who will be meeting with you.  Often the larger the firm, the less likely your advisor is actually working on your financial and investment plans.  Also, form a picture of how often they are going to meet with you and make sure this is in line with your expectations.  

Additionally, make sure they understand your communication preferences and how involved you want to be in the investment process and whether they can accommodate these needs.

#10: Establish their limitations

Ask if they are limited in any way in offering solutions tailored for your needs. Advisors should find it comfortable to be honest about this. Are they required to offer a specific line of investment solutions? If they are limited, understand these limitations and make sure you are comfortable before proceeding with the advisor. Also ask if there are any conflicts of interests.

Understanding How to Choose a Financial Advisor 

Now take the next step. If you know people who have employed the services of a financial advisor, or if you have particular people in your life whose opinion you value, ask them who they think can help you manage your financial life. When you’re looking on the internet, be thorough and find several options. 

If you’d like to make Sea To Peak your first port of call, we’d be glad to answer any questions you might have. We’d love to start getting to know you, and to see if we might be a good fit. Reach out and schedule an appointment with us today.

With best wishes,

About Stephanie

Stephanie Bruno is an Investment Advisor Representative of Dynamic Wealth Advisors dba Sea To Peak Financial Advisors. All advisory services offered through Dynamic Wealth Advisors. To learn more about Stephanie, read more here or connect with her on LinkedIn.

A quick internet search shows that it’s not hard to find general financial planning advice. But general financial planning advice won’t work for you as an executive. Your lifestyle and finances can get complicated and you need advice tailored to the challenges and unique opportunities you face. To make your money truly work for you, you need specialized financial planning for executives.

For example, you’re pulled in many directions in a fast-paced environment, all while your personal wealth is inextricably linked to the prosperity of your company. Ultimately, the professional demands on your time often leave little margin to focus on the details necessary to optimize the financial future for you and your family. And when you do have a free moment, it’s hard to know where to start. 

Here are some of the most important financial planning actions you can take to put you on the road to financial success.

Minimize Those Taxes

As a corporate executive, you are likely highly compensated. While this is a reward for your dedication to your company, it can create tax headaches. The more you make, the more you’re taxed, unless you employ tailored tax strategies to maximize the money you take home. If your goal is to maximize tax deductions, minimize taxes both now and in retirement, and have a tax-efficient estate plan in place, you need to have a plan to accomplish this.. 

You also need to consider the tax implications of your company stock and be aware of all the details concerning any Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan (SERP). This will mean you don’t get hit with extra taxation or experience financial surprises down the road. For example, many SERPs allow you to choose your future payout date. This allows you to use tax smoothing and stagger payout dates to spread the tax burden around. You will also want to plan for required minimum distributions once retired and there are some key tax strategies when you retire early.

A professional who has specific experience in financial planning for executives will be able to help you minimize your taxes while working to create a plan to lower your tax burden in retirement. And they can do that all while taking stock options, pension, personal retirement savings, and other investment accounts into consideration. 

Understand Your Stock Options

As an executive, your company probably provides multiple equity-based compensation programs in addition to your salary. Unfortunately, equity compensation is quite a bit more complicated than cash. To maximize their value, you need to understand and stay on top of your stock options, including when they vest, expire, and how they are taxed. 

Familiarizing yourself with the 83(b) election or the new 83(i) election may also yield a potential advantage. And, if you have been with a company since its early days, a Qualified Small Business Stock election could provide enormous value. Additionally, of course, restricted stock units, 10b5-1 plans, and employee purchase plans are important to understand if you want to receive the maximum benefit they provide.

Invest Wisely 

Even if your company has a track record of success, you don’t want the bulk of your financial future tied up in the business. Consider this: as an employee, you are already investing in your company. You believe in its success and security, which is why you work there. You likely have stock awards and options and maybe minimum positions you must keep invested in your company stock.  Sometimes even your 401(k) contributions are matched in your company stock

But if most of the stock you own is in the company, you could be putting all your eggs in one basket. If the company went under or suffered a major setback, you could lose your income, your benefits, and your portfolio could take a major dip. You need a balanced investment portfolio.

Working with a professional, you can evaluate your portfolio’s current lineup and whether it needs to be rebalanced or diversified. Be sure to partner with someone experienced in employee stock options. There are certain rules, such as insider trading policies and SEC regulations, that may apply to your situation and affect your decisions. 

Cover Your Bases

Financial planning for executives involves more than just saving for retirement and balancing your portfolio. 

An effective plan covers every aspect of your life and will help you confidently answer important questions such as:

  • Am I saving enough for the future?
  • How do I maximize the distributions I can take from my portfolio?
  • How much will I need to save to educate my kids?
  • Will a major purchase or milestone impact my plan?
  • Will my family have the resources they need should anything happen to me?

And don’t forget about your ever-important estate plan! You have a large number of assets to your name and don’t want to leave these to chance should something tragic occur. If you do not have an estate plan, then it may be up to the government to make decisions on your behalf. 

Creation of an estate plan should at minimum include wills, living wills, healthcare directives, powers of attorney and name personal representatives and guardians. Your situation may also merit having a trust. In either case there is an opportunity to provide final instructions and conditions for how inheritances are received.

Financial Planning For Executives: How We Can Help

As a successful corporate executive, you have unique needs and goals. Your financial security is disproportionately tied to your employer. You have a complex benefit plan. You’re subject to a unique set of legal risks. And you’ve probably accumulated a large number of stocks in your company, resulting in unnecessary portfolio risk. Ultimately, you would likely want to spend more time enjoying life.

At Sea to Peak Financial Advisors, we have years of specialized experience and education to handle your financial needs. We can help you manage your compensation, benefit, and retirement plans so that they are working for you now and in the future.  This will give you more time for things that are important to you.

To learn more about the intricacies of financial planning for executives and how we can help you plan for a successful future, schedule a 15-minute phone call today.

With best wishes,

About Stephanie

Stephanie Bruno is an Investment Advisor Representative of Dynamic Wealth Advisors dba Sea To Peak Financial Advisors. All advisory services offered through Dynamic Wealth Advisors. To learn more about Stephanie, read more here or connect with her on LinkedIn.