Roger missed the NAPFA Fall conference due to theatre commitments back home in Texas, but his wife Natalie was there and was willing to share her experiences with us. Did she sugarcoat her review to avoid any awkwardness with conference chair Ben Birken? (Hint: No)
It's not easy coming up with a snappy, ironic title about employee benefits for government workers. So in the spirit of government service, we're not really going to try. Instead, we're going to let this episode's topic speak for itself.
Kevin Lozer, CFP(R) of ClearLogic Financial in Reston, VA joins Roger and Ben to talk about the workplace benefits and planning opportunities for federal government employees. In this episode, we cover:
- The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), including differences between the two, benefit calculations, and survivor benefits.
- The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP; the federal government's version of the 401(k)), including investment options, the awesome power of the G Fund investment option, and the quirky rules around withdrawals.
- The myriad of health plan options available to government workers
- The interplay between Medicare Part B and the Federal Employees Health Benefit program for retirees
- Long Term Care Insurance and Life Insurance benefits for retirees
The package of benefits is so good that we've both decided to sign up and become a forest rangers.
Links to Things We Talk About
Every 10 episodes or so, we take a moment to reflect on what we've learned doing this podcast. We call this meta-episode the Metasode. Our third installment of the Metasode series was particularly special, in that we were joined by members of our Zebra study group.
Take a peek behind the curtain to see how the sausage gets made...
ZebraSmash has deliberately shied away from practice management episodes, with the thought that there are plenty of other good podcasts that specialize in that area. But we made an exception on this episode, and we're glad we did. Chad Smith of Financial Symmetry in Raleigh, NC, joins us to talk about the successful multi-pronged marketing approach his firm has taken, and we've got a lot of great takeaways.
Chad and the folks at Financial Symmetry worked with a local marketing firm that didn't specialize in financial advisors, and came away with an approach targeting five categories:
- The Financial Symmetry website: the firm's face to the world. Check out their site to see a "Contact Us" section on every page.
- Advertising: not traditional commercials, but things like pay-per-click ads and Facebook ads that drive people to their website
- Developing a firm-wide podcast, starting first by just reading blog posts the firm's advisors were already publishing
- Leveraging current clients: do they belong to communities where the firm's message can resonate?
- Public relations: direct pitches to media, community involvement and guest blogging on other outlets
Chad talks about how the firm measures how well its marketing initiatives are working by using both Google Analytics and a website called SEM Rush. This nugget was worth the price of the podcast by itself.
Chad also mentions the upcoming FinCon Advisor Track conference, marketed as the first event dedicated to helping advisors grown their firms through social media, blogging, videos and podcast content. We'll be sure to ask Chad back on the show to give a recap.
ZebraSmash turns 30 (episodes)! And for our 30th, we've got a special treat: Carolyn McClanahan of Life Plan Partners walks Ben through Whealthcareplan.com, her new software program that helps advisors put together financial caretaking plans, assess financial decision making capacity, and build long-term care plans for clients.
Ben took all three assessments as if he was a client, so listen to Carolyn explain to Ben why his life expectancy is a mere 78 years old (spoiler: it's too much sitting!) and the things he should be doing to make life easier for a potential financial caretaker.
There's a lot here, but some neat takeways included:
- A FINRA requirement starting in 2018 will result in advisors needing to have Trusted Contact Information for clients
- The critical role advisors play in spotting financial fraud and abuse
- People without advanced directives spend $18,000 more at the end of life compared to those that do
- It bears repeating: Ben's life expectancy is just 78 years old.
Check out Whealthcareplan.com for a free trial. You can also follow Carolyn on Twitter (@CarolynMcC).
Astute listeners will note Roger's absence. He was busy saving orphaned puppies from multiple burning buildings. Don't worry, he'll be back in the next episode.
Stay tuned for more details on our first ever live ZebraSmash meetup at the NAPFA Fall National Conference in Orlando next month!
All three items mentioned in this episode's title are terrifying in their own way. And you'd better make sure you have some sort of business continuity plan in case your firm is impacted by any of them, especially the Rodents of Unusual Size. Compliance expert Cindi Hill of Hill Compliance Advisors walks us through some important considerations for business continuity and disaster recovery in light of Roger's recent experience with Hurricane Irma.
In this episode, we touch on:
- Establishing policies for when the office will close. Consider following the lead of a local institution, like a nearby university
- Regulatory requirements for business continuity and disaster recovery plans, including the death or disability of the owner or other key employees
- Important questions to cover in such plans, including:
- Who will wind down the business?
- Who will reimburse clients (if necessary)?
- How will clients be notified?
- How will your office be up and running within 48 hours of any shutdown?
- What supplies would you need to purchase to quickly put your office back together?
- What will you do if the US mail service isn't operating? No, really. This happened.
- Roger also explains the origins of the city of Houston. It's riveting.
Towards the end, Cindi mentions two programs that allow folks to set up up Virtual Private Networks, so that they can use free WI-FI networks without worrying about people snooping. We've listed links to both below:
Mac users: Cloak
PC users: Golden Frog
We've got another Investment News "40 Under 40" member on the show! Friend of the podcast Bethany Griffith from Abacus Planning Group in Columbia, SC, joins Roger and Ben to provide a recap of the 2017 Bob Veres Insider's Forum conference.
As with our other conference recap episodes, Bethany wasn't able to attend every session. But she took great notes and came away with some key insights from a number of sessions, including:
- Structuring Internal Equity Transitions (Roy Ballentine)
- Bob Veres peering into the future of the planning profession
- G2: Developing Your Firm's Next Generation Leaders (Philip Palaveev)
- Designing Processes for Growing your Firm (Cheryl Holland, Bethany Griffith and Scotty Scott, all from Abacus). This led to another ZebraSmash first - a conference recap from someone who actually presented at the conference.
- Creative & Effective Recruiting, Vetting & Hiring for your Human Talent (Luke Dean, Utah Valley University; Ginny Hudgens, The Strategic Implementer; Hunter Judson, Jr, The Judson Group)
- The Platform of the Future (Rich Cancro of AdvisorEngine)
We cover a lot of ground in this episode, some which will probably find its way to future ZebraSmash episode. We also talk about an incredibly old printing press, which Bethany swears was really cool.
Also: stay tuned for more details for the ZebraSmash LIVE event at the 2017 NAPFA National Conference in Orlando, FL. Live podcasts...does it get much better than that? We're truly living in a Golden Age.
Stephen Craffen of Stonegate Wealth Management in Oakland, NJ joins Roger and Ben to discuss Modern Portfolio Theory, from its humble origins as a scrappy idea cooked up in a back room at the University of Chicago through its ascendancy and eventual dominance on every CFP and CFA multiple choice exam. And you thought you were done with this stuff!
We touch on a number of critical concepts, including:
- The creation and important takeaways of Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT)
- Thenecessary assumptions that make MPT "work" and the limitations thereof
- Possible updates to Modern Portfolio Theory, including the Black-Litterman approach of portfolio allocation and making use of concepts like Conditional Value at Risk
- Fat tails, extreme events (like 2008) and the challenge of serial correlation
- Roger riffing on the Gaussian distribution
Links to Neat Things We Talk About
Stephen mentions the seminal work of Roger Ibbotsen and asset allocation. His regularly updated book on the returns of asset classes over time is a widely known, but did you know that the name of his current firm is Zebra Capital Management? How did we not know this! We're ZebraSmash!
Roger Lowenstein's When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management is another classic. It's always fun to read about how the economic system almost came crashing down.
We invited not one, but two academics in the field of financial planning to a panel discussion. Drs. Nathan Harness and Michael Guillemette joined us to talk about a paper Dr. Guillemette just finished up on the subject of aging clients. There's a lot of research on the subject of how client behavior changes as they reach more advanced years, and Michael took on the herculean task of trying to make sense of it all.
In this episode, we walk through the sections of the paper, with Ben and Roger offering up examples from everyday practice in the field of financial planning. Some elements of the research rung true, while other elements got a little pushback. That's right! This wasn't one of those panel discussions where everybody just agrees with each other.
If you're interested in checking out the paper we discussed, here is a copy. NOTE - This was not the final draft that went to print! We discussed a version that was not quite final.
(We'll link the final version of the paper once it's published.)
For more information on our panelists:
Bob Veres is one of the most easily recognized writers and commentators in the financial advisory world, and we were lucky to chat with him on the evolution, current state and (dare I say it?) future of financial journalism.
Bob tells us his story, from when he was a freelance writer in Atlanta known as the "writer of last resort," to his ascendancy to editing and resurrecting both Air Cargo and then The Financial Planner (known now as simply Financial Planning), and then finally to the creation of his Inside Information newsletter and other services.
Stay tuned to the end, when Bob Veres definitely says that Ben and Roger are, "...not doofuses." From your lips to God's ears, Bob!