Liana Poodiack, CFP, is managing director of Poodiack Wealth Management Group at Steward Partners, a family-led practice based in Keene, New Hampshire, offering individuals and families sound long-term yet flexible strategies for whatever life brings their way.
Russ Alan Prince: What are examples of life milestones that you often help clients navigate through?
Liana Poodiack: Because we work with clients of many different ages, often within the same family, it’s safe to say that we help them navigate all of life’s significant moments. It could be something as ordinary as changing jobs and helping them roll over their 401(k) or the birth of a child or grandchild leading to starting a 529 account. And, of course, we’re also there to help them through the difficulties that go along with divorce, or the death of a spouse or parent, and the things people don’t like to discuss, such as estate planning.
Whatever we do is aimed at helping clients prepare for a bright financial future, so obviously, we spend a lot of time on retirement planning. We could be working with a person who is in their 50s and woke up one morning and realized they don’t know how well-prepared they are or someone who started thinking about it and saving when they got their first job. Each of those individuals would require a different action plan, but both want our help to ensure they are on the right track.
Prince: What key lessons should the next generation remember when planning for their financial futures?
Poodiack: Our next generation of clients are often the children and grandchildren of long-time clients. Something we try to educate our young clients on is the importance of debt management and participating in retirement plans early. We stress the importance of properly managing credit card debt and establishing a good credit rating at a young age. Too many young people, even with good salaries, simply live paycheck to paycheck, so we emphasize the importance of participating in the 401(k) plan where they work and making sure they are contributing enough to get the maximum company matching. I tell young people to think of their 401(k) as a bill they are paying now for their future.
We had one case recently where my partner Travis, who is also my son, was working with a client’s granddaughter who had recently graduated from college. She was starting her first job and had considerable student loan debt. Her grandparents wanted to give her a gift to ease some of the student loan burden, and I suggested she talk to her employer about her student loan obligations because some companies now offer a student-loan benefit. It turned out she was able to obtain $200/month from her employer toward her student loans.
Prince: When working with widows or divorcees, how do you approach supporting them during this significant life change?
Poodiack: With all of our clients, we tailor the advice and solutions we offer to match that individual’s needs. That said, someone who has recently become widowed or divorced may need some extra attention and guidance, as they may or may not have handled their own finances and know exactly how much they need or have to live on.
With anyone in that situation, we go back to the basics. We start with finding out how much they already know and then build on that knowledge. They may only need help figuring out where everything is, how much they have and if they have enough. Or it might be more extensive and go into cash flow, household budgeting, investment management and other fine points. Either way, we’ll provide whatever help and financial education they need in that situation.
Prince: How do you establish meaningful relationships with your clients, fostering a sense of familiarity and trust?
Poodiack: I think the secret to building meaningful relationships is taking an interest in clients’ lives and demonstrating that you care about them. That’s what I’ve done throughout my career. It’s important for them to understand that you are there for one reason only, to help them manage their financial lives in the most successful way possible.
That’s why I never rush my client meetings. I want to make sure there is enough time to cover everything the client needs to talk about. It may seem like we spend a lot of the time on small talk, but that allows me to catch up on what’s been happening with the family. It’s in those conversations that you can gain some real insight into what is important to your clients. Once you’ve made that kind of connection, they are going to be more willing to open up about what’s really bothering them and what the money piece really means to them. So, we spend a great deal of time just getting to know our clients and making sure that they feel comfortable before we get into offering any advice. That approach has served us well over the years and has allowed us to maintain relationships that span two and three generations.
Russ Alan Prince is the executive director of Private Wealth magazine and chief content officer for High-Net-Worth Genius. He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs and select professionals.