This week marks the unofficial end of summer. The kids are back to school, the pools have been closed and a familiar routine is ready to set in once again. Your clients, who may have missed a meeting or two with you this summer, are now probably filling up your date book with appointments to see you after a lax “off-season.” The next few weeks may provide the perfect opportunity for meetings to discuss fourth-quarter strategies and preparations for a successful year’s end.
Advisors agree that the summer months, especially August, tend to be marked by disinterest among clients regarding financial planning. It’s understandable. After all, who wants to discuss mutual fund fees or rates of return when there are just a few months of summer sun to soak up? Roger Kruse, senior partner at FFP Wealth Management in Coon Rapids, Minn., says appointments tend to be broken during the summer more than any other season. In fact, after analyzing “missed appointments” at his firm over a four-year period, Kruse found about a 50 percent fall-off rate during the summer. “People are less interested in pursuing their financial goals during this time,” he says with a chuckle. But he adds that his calendar is always full towards the end of September and through December.
One of the subjects Kruse says he will discuss during these post-vacation meetings is the newly enacted Pension Protection Plan of 2006. The law, which was signed by President George Bush on Aug. 17, includes several provisions that could affect your clients, including one that allows individuals over the age of 70 1/2 to gift up to $100,000 to qualifying charities tax-free directly from a traditional or Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA). But clients and advisors will only have one year to take advantage of the provision, as it is scheduled to expire come January 2008—one year after the Pension Protection Act will have been enacted. “Now you’ll have to discuss the form in which the client wants to donate to charity: cash, stock or through distributions from the retirement plan,” Kruse says.
The Pension Act also plays into the hands of advisors who in the past could not advise clients on their 401(k) investment decisions. The new law allows Series 7-holders to provide advice to 401(k) plan participants and IRA holders. And, as Kruse points out, now is the time to discuss employee benefits as most corporations offer the chance to update benefits packages in October. “While some clients find it easy [to make decisions regarding benefits] most are not sure and we help them with the decision-making process,” Kruse says. To read the actual text of the Pension Protection Act or the specific provision relating to investment advice, click here.
Joey Feste, owner of KM Capital Management in Austin, Texas., is one advisor who doesn’t get a lot of face time with his clients. He specializes in offering financial advice to athletes, specifically football players, but also handles high-net-worth clients outside of the sports industry. As you might expect, his athlete clients are hardest to reach, particularly in July and August when they are in training camps and are, as he puts it, “untouchable.”
Like most advisors, he says the end of the year is the busiest. “Everyone cares about the fourth quarter and how it will all end,” he says. Nothing marks the end of the year like the beginning of tax season, so now may be the best time to initiate tax-planning talks. Advisors say one of the biggest issues is figuring out how to minimize the tax impacts of gains made earlier in the year. As one advisor puts it, “I can’t say it’s ever really too early to talk tax.”