Our Expertise
Our Expertise

Wealth Management

COMPREHENSIVE WEALTH MANAGEMENT

0% sales agenda = 100% objectivity

 

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RETIREMENT PLANNING

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Many people just invest for growth and retire when they can afford to. At FirsTrust, our clients have a plan to retire when they want to.

Many retirees just invest for income and live the lifestyle they can afford. At FirsTrust, our clients have a plan to afford the lifestyle they want to live

We don't just make retirement plans.

We make retirement plans happen.

It all begins with an experienced, Fee-Only retirement planner who can help you avoid pitfalls and evaluate options that many people never knew existed.   

  • Do you know how to access your retirement funds at any age without a penalty?
  • Did you know a portion of your company's retirement plan may qualify for capital gains tax treatment - but NOT if you just roll it over to an IRA?
  • Did you know you can have penalty-free access your 401(k) funds at age 55, but not until age 59 1/2 with an IRA?
  • Did you know the penalty for failing to take a required minimum distribution from your retirement accounts at age 72 is 50%?
  • Do you know there are exemptions from the minimum distribution requirements with a 401(k) plan?
  • Did you know 401(k) accounts are "asset protected" under federal law, while IRAs are only protected if a provision exists under state law?

As a Florida-based firm, retirement planning complexities like this have become our specialty, and anyone whose primary objective is to attain and maintain a comfortable retirement should be very cautious about the "advice" that will be thrown your way. 

Beware of financial advisors who are eager to roll-over

your 401(k) plan without evaluating all your opportunities

Florida is swamped with senior citizens whose retirement years are less than golden because they relied on bad advice and oversold products.

It is absolutely critical that the decisions you make while planning for retirement, approaching retirement, and during retirement are made with a  NAPFA Registered Financial Advisor whose guidance is never driven by sales incentives or third party influences.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT

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Every client's investment portfolio is supervised by our Chief Investment Officer Christopher Cannon, CFA; a Chartered Financial Analyst whose decades of competence and experience are baked into every portfolio we manage.

1:   ASSESS GOALS AND RISKS

The journey to reach your specific financial objectives is like taking a road trip.

If you choose the wrong vehicle, take the wrong road or drive the wrong speed, you'll be significantly less likely to arrive where you want to be - when you want to be there.  

                                                      

Optimize Your Vehicle        Optimize Your Route         Optimize Your Speed

Using a scientific framework that won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, we are able to engineer a portfolio to fit your unique risk preferences and meet your investment expectations with a 95% mathematical confidence.

2:   CREATE YOUR INVESTMENT POLICY STATEMENT (IPS)

Next, we will document the process of achieving your investment objectives with a written Investment Policy Statement.

With your input and goals in mind, we will draft your IPS to spell out how investment decisions will be made for your portfolio including return expectations, income requirements, risk tolerances, and time horizons, all tempered with any other criteria important to you as we set out to achieve your financial objectives. This process is ongoing and evolves as your circumstances change.

Clients often come to us with relatively suitable investments but a disproportionate exposure to risk. In these cases, we seek to realign the portfolio without selling everything, paying the taxes and starting all over again.

3:   TAX-EFFICIENTLY STRUCTURE AND MANAGE YOUR PORTFOLIO

Large institutions will often scale their operations by generalizing consumers into model portfolios. This may allow them to become large and profitable with minimal effort, but we don't believe it delivers much value.

At FirsTrust, each portfolio is different, depending upon the client's personal objectives and the existing components of their investment accounts. With a hierarchy of your goals, respective timelines and risk tolerances, we have the framework for selecting investments and allocating capital to each objective.

As truly independent wealth managers, we can evaluate and select investments from anywhere -  not just a menu of choices that favor the shareholders of a financial institution.

As true fiduciaries, we can guarantee the impartiality and objectivity of our investment opinions. We know the widest selection of the world's best performing investments is rarely ever found at the local bank or brokerage. As a truly independent firm, we are free to evaluate investments across the globe to find the most appropriate components for each client's portfolio.

We know many financial products are burdened with ambiguous fees and unnecessary expenses buried in the fine print of confusing disclaimers. Reducing or eliminating these costs is another effective way to save our clients money.

We also know that taxes can be a tremendous drag on a portfolio's total return, and employing strategies to reduce them can produce better net returns without incurring additional risk.

Once your portfolio’s asset allocation is determined, we seek to improve its tax-efficiency by optimizing the “asset location”: holding more of the income-producing investments inside of retirement accounts to defer the annual income tax bite, and holding growth-oriented investments in taxable accounts where capital-gains tax rates may be timed and managed. This asset-location strategy also considers taxes on your future spending and any portfolio transitions. By strategically evaluating the "big picture," we can often add significant value without taking additional risk simply by strategically placing assets where various tax drags can be reduced.

4:   MONITOR & REPORT

Comprehensive, accurate data leads to more fully informed decision-making, and collaborating with clients with real-time data on a regular basis is the only way we know how to do it right.

We routinely meet and/or teleconference with clients every quarter, provide consolidated quarterly reports, review progress toward meeting your goals, and evaluate risk levels. 

One important analytical calculation we perform on a regular basis is called a STRESS TEST; a present-value vs. future-value assessment of your investments given various what-if scenarios. 

FirsTrust also employs the eMONEY WEALTH MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: cutting-edge technologies that collect data from all of your investment holdings, wherever they may be held, aggregate that data into one centralized management system, and provide you with 24/7 access from a single web-dashboard.

  • Account Aggregation
  • Prioritized Goal Setting
  • Financial Statements
  • Account Balances
  • Investment Tracker
  • Position Details
  • Performance Analytics
  • Estate Data Organizer
  • Secured Document Vault
  • 24/7 Web & Mobile Access
  • Collaborative Data Sharing

5:   REVIEW & ADJUST PORTFOLIO

FirsTrust's investment experts provide on-going supervision and management of your portfolio to keep it aligned with your written Investment Policy Statement and strategically positioned for tax and market efficiency.

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ESTATE PLANNING

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Thirty years of experience taught us how to do it right.

Before, During and After

1.   GET IT DONE BEFORE YOU NEED IT.

We realize nobody wants to think about his own death. Just know that the plans you make today can impact multiple generations of your loved ones hereafter. Let our experience be your guide to custom-designing an estate plan that can fulfil your legacy goals without unnecessary complexity, cost or conflict of interest.

  • Avoid unnecessary legal fees, court costs and time delays.
  • Provide income for a surviving spouse.
  • Control the use of estate assets over multiple generations.
  • Create incentives for college education.
  • Mitigate spendthrift tendencies.
  • Reduce or eliminate estate taxes.
  • Dispose of or retain family business interests.
  • Protect estate assets from creditors, lawsuits and divorcing spouses.
  • Provide lasting care for a loved one with special needs
  • Establish a charitable foundation that makes a lasting difference.

2.   MAINTAIN IT DURING YOUR LIFETIME:

Once the Will or Trust is signed, it often ends up in a drawer somewhere - out of sight and out of mind. But life goes on; and we know from first-hand experience that having an outdated estate plan can be worse than having no plan at all.

  • Deaths, marriages, divorces and births can change everything. Review your plan periodically to make sure an ex-spouse doesn’t inadvertently inherit property that was intended for a child or grandchild.
  • Manage the legal title of your assets as they are acquired.
  • Remember, a Last Will & Testament should not be used to control jointly held accounts, the family home, IRAs, life insurance, annuities, and 401(k) or other retirement plan funds.
  • Remember, a Trust will not control the inheritance of anything unless it is properly transferred into the Trust first.
  • Update your legal documents after relocating to another state or upon relevant changes in federal and state laws.
  • Your power of attorney and health care documents must keep pace with changes in state and federal laws for your family to avoid being denied access to your financial accounts and medical information during a medical emergency.
  • Don’t forget about Guardianship provisions for young children.

3.   WE WILL BE THERE AFTER YOU’RE GONE

(at your advance request - and at no charge).

Emotions and vulnerability collide when a loved one dies. Grieving family members are often scrambling to locate assets and decipher legal documents while everyone around them is offering conflicting advice about what to do next.

The firm you trusted to help create your estate plan during your lifetime will be available to help your family members in your absence - and we will do it at NO charge at your advance request.

  • Avoid unnecessary delays, expenses and sales pitches during your estate administration.
  • Assist per your instructions to establish trust accounts for your survivors.
  • Strategically and tax efficiently roll-over IRAs and retirement funds to your beneficiaries.
  • Oversee the expedient payout of life insurance proceeds.
  • Advise on implementing provisions in your documents as necessary to mitigate taxes.
  • Help alleviate family confusion over “who gets what” or “what he intended”.

One of the most valuable tools your heirs can have at this time is access to your Personal Financial Website and Document Vault. This is the web-based financial dashboard that we utilized during your lifetime to monitor all of your accounts, illustrate your financial plan, review your investment performance and organize your important documents.

If anything happens to you, your appointed family members will have immediate, 24/7 access to see everything you own, wherever it may be located, held or invested, all on one easy-to-navigate dashboard, with updated values and transaction histories.

Your private document vault has a secure, unlimited storage capacity for you to maintain copies of everything your family members need to get ahold of at a moment’s notice.

  • Medical directives
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Living Will / Do Not Resuscitate
  • Last Will & Testament
  • Financial Plan
  • Bank and brokerage statements
  • Investment Policy Statement
  • Tax returns
  • Social Security information
  • Property deeds
  • Driver’s license
  • Passports
  • Birth Certificates
  • Confidential memorandums

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TAX PLANNING

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It’s not just about how much you make… it’s about how much you keep.

An after-tax return of 6% in one bracket might be superior to a 7% in another bracket; so tax evaluations need to take place continuously throughout the year as we strive to maximize investment returns and minimize risk.

Tax planning is the on-going process of asking

what-if questions and evaluating various options

  • Will the purchase or sale of an investment trigger the net investment income tax?
  • Should you consider tax-free fixed income as an asset? 
  • Are there carry-forward capital losses? 
  • Should you capture some tax losses currently?
  • Would you have a window where capital gains escape tax?
  • Are you on the cusp of jumping into or out of a higher marginal bracket? 
  • How is your target retirement date affected by taxes? 
  • Should you strategically keep your retirement funds in the company plan?
  • Is it better for you to spend after-tax portfolio assets or retirement plan assets?
  • Is your social security impacted if you continue working part time?
  • How do taxes affect potential Social Security claiming strategies? 
  • Would an IRA ROTH conversion today produce a lower tax in retirement?
  • What will the tax liability likely be if no IRA withdrawals are taken until after 72? 
  • Should you claim the “still working” exemption?
  • Do additional current retirement contributions make sense? 
  • Would after-tax Roth contributions improve the retirement cash flows?
  • Did you catch all tax deductions for the current reporting year?
  • Are there missing 1099s or were any numbers missed on the return?
  • Was your tax basis reported correctly?
  • Was withholding sufficient to avoid penalties and interest?
  • How did new tax laws affect your decisions?
  • Are there trusts or other business entities that might help in shifting tax liability?
  • Should you sell real property or rent it out?

 

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RISK MANAGEMENT

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The conversation about "risk" at many financial companies results in an insurance policy or annuity. A FirsTrust Certified Financial Planner® sees risk as an actual issue, not a sales opportunity, and lends an unbiased evaluation and professional perspective to the subject from many critical angles:

  • premature death
  • falling interest rates during retirement
  • loss of employment
  • an extended period of low investment returns
  • losing a primary asset such as your home or business
  • higher than expected future tax rates
  • exposure to an economic disruption
  • threat to the continuity of the family business
  • unexpectedly erosive inflation during retirement
  • inner-family conflicts over inherited property
  • losing creditworthiness to lenders
  • unwittingly creating trust-fund babies
  • illiquidity during a cash requirement
  • extended illness or disability
  • having all of your assets in one basket
  • loss to divorcing spouse or in-law
  • a frivolous, intrusive or expensive legal battle
  • a hack into or breach of your electronic records and financial data

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CASH MANAGEMENT

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Our clients tell us some of their greatest concerns pertain to cash management.

First and foremost, they want to make sure their money doesn’t run out before they do; so we generate a variety of what-if scenarios to project income, and stress-test the ability of their resources to generate cash flow under multiple scenarios and over different periods of time.

Additionally, they want a reliable and consistent “flow” of cash, which is achieved by creating a sustainable process for moving cash and funding their accounts on regular intervals.

Our clients also want to be tax efficient, so we also focus on “sourcing” their spendable income from their accounts in a manner that generates the least amount of tax burden. For many retired clients, this involves an ongoing efficiency analysis. Should your income come from investments that produce dividends and interest, or is there a more tax efficient way to generate cash flow? Should you defer withdrawals from your IRA or retirement account? Can your income be derived from capital gains at a lower tax rate?

At FirsTrust, our expert wealth managers discuss all of your tax planning needs with you to ensure your mind is put at ease.

 

These are important conversations to have with an experienced, unbiased, Fee-Only Certified Financial Planner® at FirsTrust.

 

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