The holiday season is upon us. And contrary to what you might think, advisors are anything but cheerful about this time of year. Yes, there’s the fiscal cliff and all the hassles associated with planning for rising tax rates and cuts to government spending.
But there’s something else that troubles advisors come the last six or so weeks of each and every year.
Clients, say advisors, go into hibernation. And that makes it hard to for advisors to do what they need to do before the end of the year.
“The greatest challenge is client procrastination,” says Rick Cross, managing director of American Portfolios. “’After the holidays’ has become a mantra for most (clients) who would prefer not to address financial decisions.”
The procrastinating clients would prefer the Washington political strategy of kicking the can down the road, according to Cross, who has 34 years of experience in the insurance, investment and tax preparation industry.
Cross says he’s able to get his client’s procrastination by talking tax planning. “No one wants to miss the boat on achieving a higher refund next year,” he says. “With that in mind, I start with the tax discussion and once the clients are emotionally involved, getting them to take action on investment and insurance advice is more achievable.”
Cross is not alone. Getting clients to “find the time” or “create the urgency” do some year-end financial planning is the biggest challenge Louis Barajas, MBA, CFP of Louis Barajas, LLC faces this time of year.
And Tanya Shaw Steinhofer, CFA, CFP, of Redwood Grove Wealth Management, says her biggest challenge during the holiday season is keeping clients focused on completing things that need to be done by year-end, such as Roth conversions, charitable giving, and the like. “It’s also a challenge to schedule meetings as people get so busy this time of year and have so many demands on their time,” she says.
Other advisors also say that making sure all RMDs and Roth conversions are complete is the biggest challenge they face this time of the year. For his part, Bud Kahn, CPA, CFP of Wealth Management Strategies, addresses that challenge by setting Dec. 1 as the required completion date.
To be sure, the possibility of the fiscal cliff is causing more than its share of headaches. “Our biggest challenge is addressing all the potential tax changes that will or may come into effect next year,” says Joe McCabe III, CPA, CFP, president of Vestpointe Wealth Management. “We are analyzing portfolios and reviewing our clients’ tax situations to try to plan for the uncertainty with future tax laws.”
McCabe says some clients are considering making large gifts to take advantage of the current gift and estate tax laws, while others are looking to shift income and/or deductions into the appropriate year.
What' are the biggest challenges that you and your firm face as we head into the holiday season, and what do you do to address those challenges? Let us know in the comment section below.