Getting Ready for the Future

 Getting Ready for the Future

We spoke to financial experts Jason Katz and John VanWeelden, who shared tips and advice for 2020Ginny McCabe As we start a new year and begin a decade, investors often reflect on their financial future. Factors like the economy, the election and the stock market are a few of the issues that often first come to mind when we think about investing, but other aspects like spending, saving, establishing goals, the ability to earn or connecting with a trusted financial advisor are key when it comes to building wealth.

One goal might be purchasing a new car. Other goals might include buying a home, saving for a child’s education or retirement. However, it can be critical to balance one’s current lifestyle expenses with future needs. Investors need to consider all the different factors that will come into play.

With each new year there are always questions about the financial landscape and when it comes to investments and financial planning experts say one of the biggest questions they get asked is “Will I have enough?” Another common concern they hear is “I don’t want to lose what I’ve worked so hard to build.”

Another thing that investors frequently overlook is inflation. Regardless of the various concerns, qualified help from a financial planner or adviser can help individuals and families balance their lifestyles, needs and goals so they can best allocate dollars and ensure a bright financial future.

Looking to the year ahead, industry experts expect some growth and generally there’s a positive outlook. Returns have been strong the last few years, although, some still fear a recession. Long-term, many also advise that economic volatility is a fact of life. A financial plan can protect and help to build one’s wealth.

We talked to Jason Katz, wealth adviser and principal of Bartlett Wealth Management ( and John VanWeelden, founder and principal of VanWeelden Financial Group ( in a Q&A to find out some tips and advice for the Guide to Wealth Management in 2020.

Here’s some of the advice Jason Katz has to share:

Q: What guidance would you offer about coming up with a financial plan and setting goals?

Katz: You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you simply write them down. A comprehensive financial plan not only documents your goals, but also lays out the pathway to achieve those goals. We believe that a comprehensive financial plan is essential to a wealth management service. The financial plan is customized to each person and it should inform the way that your investments are managed.

Q: What are some of the factors that are most important when it comes to financial success?

A: Financial success requires good habits, a goals-oriented mindset and intentionality. Putting together a plan that details your goals and a pathway to achieving those goals is the most intentional thing you can do to create financial success. Most people, left to their own devices, will not achieve success because our society is built around consumption and not saving. Another huge factor in people who achieve financial success is having a trusted adviser who is not only knowledgeable and competent, but also holds you accountable.

Q: How do you see the overall economic landscape in the U.S.? How are things like the economy and trade issues impacting investors?

A: The U.S. economy is still growing, albeit at a very modest rate, and is outpacing many of its foreign counterparts. However, we live in a global economy, so things like economic growth abroad and trade issues do affect companies and portfolios. Partnering with a wealth adviser who understands the global economy and can build a financial plan and investment program that aligns with your goals and risk tolerance is key.

Q: What are some of the biggest questions people have about investing?

A: People ask us a lot about how the election will affect the stock market and their portfolios. We also get asked a lot about the intricate rules around taxation and the most tax efficient ways to invest and achieve goals. No one has a crystal ball that will tell us what the future holds in the markets, but there are advisers who understand rules and strategies to help people achieve their goals.

Q: What tips or advice would you offer to investors?

A: My tip for investors would be to seek out the most credible news sources and only focus on the facts that are presented, as opposed to the many opinions and sensationalistic headlines that are blasted out each day. We try to block out any other lenses by which news is communicated and focus on the data that can help us make good financial decisions.

Q: When it comes to managing wealth, what are some of the mistakes people make?

A: One of the biggest mistakes people make when managing their wealth is making emotional decisions in their portfolio. This could look like selling out of the market when it drops a lot or even changing their strategy drastically based on a headline or news story. These “behavioral penalties” are real and can lead to sub-par results.

Q: What is your strategy or approach when it comes to advising clients about their own financial picture and wealth management?

A: Our approach is to sit down with the client with a blank piece of paper and actively listening to their situation, goals, dreams and fears. We work to understand them as individuals first, and then we craft a financial plan to capture and address all of these things. We present this financial plan to them each year, adjusting for life’s changes and we let this plan inform the management of their investments. Each financial planning client has two advisers: a Certified Financial Planner adviser and an investment-focused adviser. These two advisors work together to execute on the strategies we present in the financial plan and the investments in the portfolio. We don’t work solely with the individual client, but take a look at the family unit as a whole. We want to understand all family members and how we can assist each in a unique way.

John VanWeelden offers these important key tips:

Q: What are some of the factors that are most important when it comes to financial success?

VanWeelden: I’m pretty old fashioned when it comes to the keys to financial success. I believe they are: Live well within your means (cashflow is king); Minimize debt (debt is overhead); Invest tax efficiently for tomorrow versus today (It’s why we love Roths versus traditional, tax-deferred plans) and Focus on managing volatility versus maximizing return (the math here is real).

Q: How do you see the overall economic landscape in the U.S.? How are things like the economy and trade issues impacting investors?

A: The U.S. economy and investment markets, generally speaking, are on a roll. However, that can change in a moment’s notice. Economic volatility is a fact of life. It always has been and always will be. So rather than try to predict it, we believe the most prudent investment strategies are those that presume volatility will occur and are designed to mitigate it when it does.

Q: What lifestyle factors should investors consider when they are trying to build wealth?

A: Managing expenses, debt and taxes are always critical. However, I think lifestyle factors are even more of a factor when transitioning into retirement—the wealth preservation and distribution phase of life. The challenge becomes how to maintain one’s lifestyle, or even improve upon it, without neglecting prudent tax, health care, survivorship and estate planning.

Q: What are some of the biggest questions people have about investing?

A: Most people don’t know what they don’t know. So for us, there are two types of investors; those who are willing to learn and those who tend to believe and rely on what they think they know. We find the best investors are those who are willing to learn. We love to teach.

Q: What tips or advice would you offer to investors?

A: As important as traditional asset allocation and diversification are, we believe they are not sufficient in-and-of themselves—especially when transitioning into the retirement years. Markets have become too volatile and unpredictable. Witness the fact that the broad U.S. equity market has twice lost over 50% of its value in the past two decades alone. This can be disastrous to long-term investment success. You may eventually recover from such losses if you are young and still aggressively saving, but not if you’ve entered your retirement years. So make sure you have additional loss mitigation strategies in place to help protect your principle from unnecessary volatility.

Q: Are there any new federal laws in 2020 or beyond that will impact investors?

A: One big change that’s likely coming soon is the elimination of the stretch IRA, which currently allows beneficiaries of Traditional IRAs to stretch the payments out over their lifetimes. The other biggest factor is the possible phase out in 2025 of many of the recent changes to the tax code. Even if that doesn’t occur in 2025, we’re not likely to see such favorable tax laws down the road. It just isn’t sustainable. We’re working hard with all our clients to take advantage of the current tax environment before it goes away.

Q: How frequently should a client/investor review their portfolio mix?

A: On a strategic level, I would not re-evaluate asset allocation and diversification more frequently than annually. Otherwise, you run the risk of “chasing markets/returns,” which is a sure way to fail. If working with an adviser, that should be an integral part of your annual review. From a tactical perspective, your investment manager, (which should be directed by, but not the same as, your financial adviser), should be evaluating your mix constantly.