money to retire. But a good financial plan
can help you get through tough times and
sort out your priorities.”
At times, the task might seem over-
whelming. But Kevin Tomlinson, regional
director at the Investors Group in Dart-
mouth, N.S., says it’s important for clients
to have a financial roadmap that sets out
their life goals and determines exactly
what they must do to get there.
A good financial plan, he says, maps
the steps that must be taken with respect
to issues like cash and debt management,
investments, taxes, estate planning, and
More importantly, though, he says the
plan should be updated regularly—and
especially after significant life events.
“I always call a plan a living document
because it’s not done just once. It should
be reviewed on a regular basis. A client
may tell me nothing has changed, but their
income changes over the years and their
debts change over the years so their situa-
According to Tomlinson, a good plan
should be regularly measured against
financial expectations, like targeted
rates of return.
“What’s the point of having a plan if you
don’t measure it and find out if it’s doing
what it’s supposed to do?”
When drafting a financial plan, Tomlin-
son usually makes assumptions for inflation
and rates of return based on the client’s
risk profile. It can be tough convincing
a client with a low-risk profile that they
should stick to a plan when a friend is mak-
ing more money in the markets.
“What you have to say to a client is that
if we’re going to change the goal, that’s fine
because it’s your life and not mine, but this is
what the impact is going to be. Planning is all
about giving people options and you can talk
about the pros and cons of each strategy.”
The rate of return is developed with sever-
al factors in mind like time horizon, risk pro-
file and investment knowledge of the client.
Tomlinson, who is a CGA and certified
financial planner, advises clients to stick
with their plan and avoid getting caught
up in the cycle of daily news.
“The news is typically the lows. Good
news doesn’t sell papers so you have to take
it with a grain of salt. I read the paper all the
time, but I read it in the context of under-
standing what’s going on and not what any
one individual has to say about an issue.”
or Tomlinson, considering the goals of
the client is the most important aspect
of a financial plan.
To get that information, planners must
ask a lot of questions and find out, for
example, when the client wants to retire,
what they want for their family, and what
kind of estate they want to leave.
“Ultimately we’re in a business of num-
bers and you have to have a number to
For accounting firms, offering financial
planning services could be a good way to
McLarty and Company, a mid-tier ac-
counting practice firm in Ottawa, brought
a financial planner into the fold as a prac-
While it takes guts to ride the highs
and lows of market turmoil, Tomlinson
says it’s easier to stomach when a client’s
financial plan is properly tailored to their
For example, through the market turmoil
of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, clients whose investment portfolios properly
matched their risk tolerance may have been
a little uncomfortable at times, but they likely
didn’t lose a lot of sleep at night, he says.
And, he notes, if those clients remained invested, they were likely able to
take some profits when the markets did
start to rise again.
tice development tool and as a way to retain existing clients.
“It makes sense because your probability of
maintaining a client over the long-term in-
creases dramatically the more services you’re
providing,” says Douglas McLarty, managing
director at the firm. “If you’re providing three
or four services, from a business development
perspective you’ve got a client for life.”
McLarty, who is a CFP and an FCA,
brought a fulltime financial planner into
the fold as part of the firm’s commitment to
provide a “one-stop shopping” experience
to existing clients.
A catalyst was the fact that the firm has
numerous physicians and dentists as clients
who have different accounts and complex
situations, and who needed of financial
A physician can now have a financial
plan drawn up as well as get accounting,
tax and wealth management work done
under the same roof.
“It is a very important part of our overall client offering,” says McLarty. “In our
case, it is a very important part of what
we do. Our target market is owner-managers and professionals.
“We start with financial planning and,
because the financial planner is resident
within our organization, he has access to,
with the permission of the client, the cli-
ent’s accounting and taxation information.
It allows him to do a much more sophisti-
cated financial plan.”
The setup, according to McLarty, makes
it easier for the client and brings in more
money for the firm.
If, for example, the firm is billing a client
for a single tax return at the end of the year
the client might be on the hook for up to
$600. If it’s a physician and the file is more
complex, the bill could be up to $5,000,
but if financial planning is offered it could
be more substantive.
McLarty says having a financial planner on board obviously costs money and it
might not be for every firm.
“It’s a barrier in the sense that you have
to make a financial commitment. Some
firms may not be prepared to do that. Some
are very focused on the bottom line and
their cash needs.”
Selecting the proper candidate for the
position is also critical, he says.
“If you don’t have the right financial
planner, of course, it doesn’t work as well.
You’ve got to get the right person.” END