Financial advice that
      helps you do and
            protect what you love

Overview of Services

The Advisory Group is a leading financial advisor and financial advocate to fiduciaries and wealthy individuals. For over 30 years, our expertise and tireless dedication to objectivity and client goals has created successful client outcomes and trusted relationships. With a personal touch and deep resources, our team simplifies and improves fiduciary, personal wealth and plan participant decisions in a complex world.


Individuals

Fiduciaries

Impacting lives with wealth & life strategy

Highly accomplished people don’t leave their goals to chance. To live a dream requires a plan and uncommon guidance… artistry in not only how to achieve your goals, but an understanding of who you are and which goals are most important to you and why. The right advice also requires expertise, insight, objectivity, commitment and unwavering integrity.

Managing financial complexity = your simplicity and success

Our Wealth & Life Strategy team and process helps you articulate your life goals and develop comprehensive financial strategies to achieve and protect them. People and process matter.

A Proven Process

  • The 5 Wealth & Life Strategy planning areas: Goal definition, financial independence, risk management, efficient wealth transfer, special needs
  • 5 Requirements of Financial Effectiveness: Resources, knowledge, time, desire, discipline
  • Ongoing Education: Improve comfort and reduce anxiety through knowledge, including investor behavior coaching
  • 5-Step Investment Management Process: Analyze, design, formalize, implement, monitor
  • Hierarchy of Decisions: Prioritize by the factors that matter most
  • Expert Teams: A formal approach developing “best thinking” for your needs
  • Transparency: Conflict-free advice through a fee-only structure
  • Tax-efficiency: Smart designs improve your after-tax returns
  • Best-of-breed: Open-architecture investment & provider structures

Client-Centered

  • You come first: We accept fiduciary status in writing
  • Cost-effective: Improved access and negotiation on your behalf
  • Documentation: Investment Policy, Investment Philosophy, other
  • Status reports: Envision and track your success
  • Coordination: With your accountant, attorney, insurance provider

Education

  • Ongoing education webinars, programs and communications
  • Investor behavior guidance and pitfall avoidance
  • Wealth transfer strategies and child education

Help for family members

  • Our WealthStep.com program is our simplified on-line planning and investing service for family and friends of clients and other up-and-comers with <$1m, who can’t otherwise access a fiduciary advisor. Clients requested this and we delivered.

It is your financial journey. Get there. Stay there.

Get a Financial Wealthcare Check-up

Here are key questions that individuals should ask their providers and themselves, to ensure alignment of interests, minimize fiduciary liability, avoid pitfalls, and improve beneficiary outcomes. If your responses indicate red flags, contact us for a second opinion, complimentary for qualified individuals.

Ask Yourself

  1. Key Elements – Do you have the “5 Requirements” necessary to be a successful investor (Resources, Knowledge, Time, Desire, and Discipline)?
  2. Simplicity & Confidence – Does your advisor make your life easier and increase your chance of success?
  3. Quarterback – Does your advisor provide comprehensive oversight, coordinating with other providers?
  4. Planning – Are your Investment, Personal Risk Management, Estate, College Savings, Special Needs and other planning areas, all current and appropriate for your situation and life goals, and guided by experts?
  5. On Target – Are you on track vs. your goals and is your investment portfolio designed and evolving accordingly?
  6. Goal definition – Are you clear about the level of assets you need to start and experience retirement successfully? Have you quantified your likelihood of success?
  7. Risk suitability – Are you confident your advisor understands your investment risk tolerance?
  8. Level of control – Are you involved in financial and risk decision-making at the level you desire?
  9. Progress reports – Are you sufficiently informed regarding the progress of your portfolio(s)?
  10. Documentation – Do you have a written Investment Policy Statement that defines the portfolio’s objectives, risk, and asset allocation strategy?
  11. Cost Effectiveness – Do you know your structure’s “total cost”, and is it cost-effective?
  12. Price vs. Cost – Are you “doing it yourself” or using a “free” advisor, under the belief that the “price” is lower, while experiencing hidden costs and the much greater “cost” of not achieving your goals?
  13. Family Fit – Do you trust that your surviving spouse or children will be best served by your advisor?
  14. Referral Test – Does the relationship orientation, responsiveness and expertise of your advisor lead you to confidently refer your advisor to other people?

Ask Advisors

  1. Conflicts of Interest – Do you accept fiduciary status, legally in writing, to act only in my best interest?
  2. Level of Bias – Are you fee-only (not fee-based) and entirely process-oriented (vs. selling product), fully independent, with no financial ties or incentives to use certain brokerage firms or investment products?
  3. Process – Do you have a written investment philosophy outlining the tenets of your process?
  4. Investment Planning & Monitoring – Do you regularly analyze the statistical probability of client goal achievement, and make strategic recommendations and adjustments accordingly?
  5. Risk Monitoring – Are investment risks properly evaluated and controlled?
  6. Asset Allocation – Are all asset class opportunities being explored?
  7. Transparency – Is your fee and all components of the investment structure 100% transparent, communicated to clients clearly in writing, and fully aligned with clients’ best interests?
  8. Tax Efficiency – Do taxable portfolios have systematic tax minimization strategies and technology?
  9. SEC Registration – While it does not imply an endorsement by the government or a certain business model, are you an SEC or state registered advisor, which requires a higher level of disclosure?
  10. Security – Is an appropriate independent custodian and other safeguards in place to protect client investment assets against fraud and entity risk?
  11. Estate Planning & Tax – Are client investments coordinated with their long-term estate plans and yearly tax planning?
  12. Substance vs. Sizzle – What percentage of your time is focused on clients vs. sales and marketing?

Ask your Broker

Investors deserve full-transparency and a fiduciary standard of care. Require written responses to the below from brokerage or investment product firms. Unlike an independent advisor acting in a fiduciary capacity, “brokers” are not legally required to act in your best interests, and are not required to make on-going recommendations to you, nor maintain fee transparency or notify you of all payment incentives he/she may benefit from, related to your account. Also, brokers are not required to disclose disciplinary records or qualifications unless you request it. Note: The “Fiduciary Rule” of 2016 helps some retirement plans and IRA account holders minimize broker conflicts-of-interest, but has loopholes that allow impurities to occur, and doesn’t help other account-holder types.

  1. By law, there are important differences in the level and type of obligation that brokers have to customers, depending on the type of account a customer has. Is the account that you are offering an “advisory account” or is it a “brokerage account” exempt from investment advisor registration?
  2. Are you also a registered investment advisor? If so, how are you going to tell us when you are acting as a sales agent of the brokerage firm and when you are acting as an investment adviser?
  3. Regarding any brokerage account that we may open, what are the potential conflicts of interest that you have when recommending certain products for sale to us, and how will you disclose these conflicts to us prior to any purchase, including any special cash payments or non-cash incentives that you receive? Please provide a comprehensive list of all incentive or sales rewards have you received in the past.
  4. Please provide us with a written disclosure detailing a complete disciplinary history of you and your firm.

Helping make life more enjoyable

The Advisory Group understands how busy your day to day life can be. With the peace of mind that comes with The Advisory Group’s help overseeing your financial/investment structure, qualified clients are also provided with a life-simplifying Personal Concierge service as a perk.

Your Personal Assistant

Short on time? The concierge can help with:

  • Dinner reservations
  • Flowers
  • Gifts and gift ideas, including hard-to-find items.
  • Tickets & special access to concerts, promotional events
  • Private club arrangements
  • Customized private tours/lectures/tastings
  • Golf tee times
  • Tennis court access
  • Spa appointments
  • Information from the internet if you lose access
  • Transportation & travel planning
  • Event planning (Large and more complex events are handled by a special group devoted exclusively to meeting and event planning).

Impactful 401(k) & Endowment Fiduciary Guidance

The primary duty of most financial stewards is to manage a prudent investment process. We help you understand and fulfill your fiduciary responsibility, simplify your job and improve outcomes for  beneficiaries and stakeholders. Our institutional-quality, proven process applies industry best practices and uncommon insight, so you can focus on your core mission or business.

Process + expertise + integrity = better decisions

  • 5-Step Prudent Investment Management Decision Process
  • Acceptance of fiduciary status in writing
  • Fiduciary assessment, process management & education
  • The best of boutique & big (our team/process plus Callan resources)
  • Creative fiduciary problem solving
  • Investment policy development & documentation
  • Fiduciary dashboard
  • Decision documentation
  • Institutional-quality peer group & index performance reports
  • Committee governance & minutes guidance
  • Investment menu/portfolio Gap Analysis
  • Qualitative & quantitative investment due diligence
  • Provider search & coordination
  • Asset allocation modeling
  • Investment manager structure & search
  • Best-of-breed, open-architecture portfolios
  • Highly diversified, low-cost portfolios
  • Behavioral finance insight & pitfall avoidance
  • Research/white-papers/articles
  • Actionable “Insight Series” articles
  • Quarterly Context webinars

401(k)/Retirement Plans

  • 3(38) and 3(21) Fiduciary services
  • Custom 401(k) Target Date & Target Allocation funds
  • WealthStep.com 401(k) advice platform
  • 401(k) participant advice: saving, planning, investing, spending
  • Improved 401(k) participation, contribution rates and morale
  • 401(k) Effectiveness Analysis (Fiduciary testing)
  • Plan design best practices
  • Plan transition management
  • Fiduciary & plan participant education
  • 401(k) participant webinars

Foundations/Endowments

  • Spending policy strategy
  • Investment policy consistent with spending policy
  • Fiduciary support for UPMIFA compliance

A process that meets highest standards of care

Uniform fiduciary standards of care (standards common to legislative acts of ERISA, UPIA and MPERS and UPMIFA):

  • Know standards, laws and trust provisions
  • Diversify assets to specific risk/return profile
  • Document Investment Policy
  • Use “prudent experts” in money management and document due diligence
  • Control and account for investment expenses
  • Avoid conflicts of interest and prohibited transactions

Fiduciary Check-up & 401(k) Effectiveness Analysis

Below are key questions fiduciaries should ask providers to ensure alignment of interests, minimize fiduciary liability, avoid pitfalls and improve beneficiary outcomes. If any of your answers are “no,” contact us for a second opinion, complimentary for qualified organizations.

Ask Yourself as fiduciary

  1. Key Elements – Does your advisor help you meet the “5 Requirements” necessary to be a successful fiduciary on behalf of your plan participants (Resources, Knowledge, Time, Desire, and Discipline)?
  2. Simplicity & Confidence – Does your advisor make your job as a fiduciary easier and more successful?
  3. Liability – Are you familiar with your fiduciary responsibilities and your level of personal or company liability?
  4. Quarterback – Does your advisor provide comprehensive oversight, coordinating with other providers?
  5. Behavior – Do self-directed plan participants exhibit successful savings and investing habits?
  6. Progress reports – Are you sufficiently informed regarding the progress in your portfolio(s)?
  7. Documentation – Do have an Investment Policy Statement that documents your decision process and defines the portfolio’s objectives, risk, and asset allocation strategy?
  8. Cost Effectiveness – Do you know your structure’s “total cost”, and is it cost-effective?
  9. Price vs. Cost – Are you “doing it yourself” or using a “free” advisor, under the belief that the “price” is lower, while experiencing hidden costs and increasing fiduciary liability?
  10. Referral Test – Does the relationship orientation, responsiveness and expertise of your advisor lead you to confidently refer your advisor to other people?

Ask Providers

To encourage the disclosure and review of more and better information about potential conflicts of interest, the US Department of Labor (DoL) and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) developed the following 10 questions to assist plan fiduciaries in selecting providers and evaluating the objectivity of the recommendations provided, or to be provided, by a retirement plan provider.

  1. Disclosures – Are you registered with the SEC or a state securities regulator as an investment adviser? If so, have you provided me with all the disclosures required under those laws (including Part II of Form ADV)?
  2. Level of Bias – Are you fee-only (not fee-based) and entirely process-oriented (vs. selling product), fully independent, with no financial ties or incentives to use certain brokerage firms or investment products?
  3. Conflicts – Do you or a related company have relationships with money managers that you recommend, consider for recommendation, or otherwise mention to the plan? If so, describe those relationships.
  4. Kickbacks – Do you or a related company receive any payments from money managers you recommend, consider for recommendation, or otherwise mention to the plan for our consideration? If so, how do these payments relate to your other income (revenue)?
  5. Procedures – Do you have any policies or procedures to address conflicts of interest or to prevent these payments or relationships from being a factor when you provide advice to your clients?
  6. Transparency – If you allow plans to pay your consulting fees using the plan’s brokerage commissions, do you monitor the amount of commissions paid and alert plans when consulting fees have been paid in full? If not, how can a plan make sure it does not over-pay its consulting fees?
  7. Best Execution – If you allow plans to pay your consulting fees using the plan’s brokerage commissions, what steps do you take to ensure that the plan receives best execution for its securities trades?
  8. Conflicts – Do you have any arrangements with broker-dealers under which you or a related company will benefit if money managers place trades for their clients with such broker-dealers?
  9. In Writing – If you are hired, will you acknowledge in writing that you have a fiduciary obligation as an investment advisor to the plan while providing the consulting services we are seeking?
  10. Fiduciary – Do you consider yourself a fiduciary under ERISA regarding recommendations made to the plan?
  11. Objectivity – What percentage of your plan clients utilize money managers, investment funds, brokerage services or other service providers from whom you receive fees?

Ask Brokers

The Advisory Group believes that all investors deserve full-transparency and a fiduciary standard of care. Plan fiduciaries should require written responses to the questions below, when working with or considering the services of brokerage or investment product firms. Unlike independent advisory firms acting in a fiduciary capacity, a person or firm acting as a “broker” is not legally required to act in the best interests of their clients. Brokers are not required to make on-going recommendations to clients, and are not required to maintain fee transparency or notify clients of all payment incentives he/she may benefit from, related to a client’s account. Additionally, brokers are not required to disclose disciplinary records or qualifications unless it is requested of them. Note: The “Fiduciary Rule” of 2016 helps some retirement plans and IRA account holders minimize broker conflicts-of-interest, but has loopholes that allow impurities to occur, and doesn’t help other account-holder types (e.g. Endowments or non-tax-qualified accounts).

By law, there are important differences in your level and type of obligation to us as a broker, depending on which type of account we have. Is the account that you are offering an “advisory account” or is it a “brokerage account” exempt from investment advisor registration?

Are you also a registered investment advisor? If so, how are you going to tell us when you are acting as a sales agent of the brokerage firm and when you are acting as an investment adviser?

Regarding any brokerage account that we may open, what are the potential conflicts of interest that you have when recommending certain products for sale to us, and how will you disclose these conflicts to us prior to any purchase, including any special cash payments or non-cash incentives that you receive? Please provide a comprehensive list of all incentive or sales rewards have you received in the past.

Please provide us with a written disclosure detailing a complete disciplinary history of you and your firm.

The only 401k with Custom Portfolios and Online Advice

The great work of many Fiduciaries is lost. You build a solid 401k plan, but plan participants still under-save and invest inappropriately. The result is a lack of retirement readiness and/or HCE testing problems, both of which hurt morale, productivity and retention.

Converting the problem into opportunity

Enter WealthStep, The Advisory Group’s innovative 401k program. Groundbreaking, because it integrates and simplifies the obvious…

Online retirement planning guidance:

  • How much to save each pay period
  • How much is needed to retire
  • Risk tolerance assessment
  • Life-stage driven investment advice
  • Retirement spending advice

Online education:

  • Simple, entertaining & impactful
  • Pitfall avoidance through knowledge
  • Behavioral finance orientation
  • Social media reminders & learning nuggets

Best-of-breed investments:

  • Custom Target Date and Target Allocation funds
  • High diversification and low cost

No other 401k program integrates custom portfolios and specific retirement planning advice. Plus, you receive all of our traditional strong support for fiduciaries.

WealthStep 401k: Participant advice made simple.

Contact us for a test-drive of WealthStep online 401k advice.

Resources for institutions, foundations and endowments

We hope that you will find these resources useful and helpful; we invite you to contact us with questions or suggestions. Please return to this page to check for new resources and join our mailing list to receive our updates.

Papers and Articles

Avoid the Top 5 Fiduciary Pitfalls

Prevent 401(k) Plan Surprises

Tools

Fiduciary Wealthcare check-up

Key Questions for Fiduciaries

Want to learn more?

Contact us