Holistic Approach to Planning Brings Better Results

Getting the whole picture

Longevity in business speaks well to the long-term success of any business, and financial advisory services are no exception.

Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund, founded in 1944, is one of the largest CPA-led business advisory and consulting firms in the Southeast, with four offices in Florida and one in Tennessee. Many Saltmarsh clients are business owners and professionals who have spent their entire economic lives with the firm – some for its entire 77-year history.

Back in 1995, at the request of clients, the firm created Saltmarsh Financial Advisors, LLC, to provide additional planning services for its clients. Saltmarsh Financial Advisors takes a holistic view of the client’s balance sheet. The team executes an integrated plan by leveraging in-house services and firm expertise in tax, estate and trust, financial planning, business succession planning, and wealth management.

Saltmarsh Financial Advisors has been highly successful with its integrated approach to planning, according to Christina Doss, AAMS®. Doss is a shareholder of Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund and is managing director of Saltmarsh Financial Advisors, LLC.

marsh149x186“We work closely with our firm’s tax, trust and estate partners to bring a more holistic approach to wealth management “Given that every investment decision is also a tax decision, we are in the unique position to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome while reducing the stress and work of managing communications across multiple advisory relationships.” Doss said.

Saltmarsh pursues a team-centric approach to serving its clients. The Saltmarsh Financial Services team is supported by other Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund professionals, ranging from accounting and taxation to consulting and investment management. The team approach is based on the firm’s mission statement: “Achieving Success by Contributing to the Success of Others.”

Taking a holistic approach to financial planning and wealth management has been shown to produce better results for clients and their advisors. Such planning goes beyond a traditional monetary-only focus to consider additional factors in clients’ lives, such as family, personal beliefs, and lifetime goals.

Only one out of five financial advisors practice holistic planning, according to a 2020 study by Fidelity Investments. However, the study found holistic advisors reported 47 percent greater growth in assets under management and 67 percent higher increases in their number of clients.

“Many times our wealth management clients come to us from our trust and estate partners, or from our tax clients who have expressed dissatisfaction with advice they’re receiving elsewhere,” Doss said. “They may not understand what fees they are paying or how their assets are being managed. Most people are trying to answer questions such as, ‘When can I retire? How much do I need to comfortably live on in retirement? How much risk do I need to take?’ Sometimes these questions are not being answered for them.”

Doss said Saltmarsh believes every wealth management relationship should begin with a cash-flow based financial plan as a foundation for multi-year tax planning decisions and implementation.

“Cash-flow based planning is an invaluable resource that becomes the cornerstone of our ongoing dialogue throughout the relationship and ensures a customized plan for each client,” she added. “The output is only as good as the input, so clients have to be invested in the process.”

Doss noted the financial plan is an ongoing living document. For some, advisors may revisit the plan with clients at multiple times during a year. Others may review it once every two to three years, depending upon a client’s life events or stage of life.

Financial education is also central to the firm’s client service philosophy. Saltmarsh strives to take the emotion out of investing, helping clients stay focused on what they can control versus what they cannot control.

“Everyone – regardless of age, gender, income or wealth – can benefit from financial education. Imagine the benefits to our society if the dialogue were to shift to a more practical approach to planning and investing for one's future.”

She added, “It is unfortunate that a focus on financial literacy is not an inherent part of our educational system, given the proven benefits to individuals and society as a whole. Instead, there is an over-reliance on the financial media, which tends to focus on stock picking, get-rich quick schemes, and creating a culture of envy. Rarely is there a mention of the money that has been lost on the latest trends in investing.”

“For over 25 years,” Doss said, “Saltmarsh has successfully created broadly diversified, tax-efficient and low-cost portfolios. A common-sense dialogue about the importance of having an investment philosophy you can stick with through good and bad markets won't make the cover of financial magazines or drive network ratings, but it has for generations of our clients.”

Operating as a fiduciary firm is another important consideration. Doss was a broker for major firms for 20 years before joining Saltmarsh eight years ago.

“I spent much of my time in the brokerage world in a management capacity, ensuring that we provide appropriate oversight on conflicts of interest. There is a lot of confusion within the industry, so understanding that difference between a fiduciary and a broker is more important than ever for clients.”

“A licensed fiduciary, like Saltmarsh Financial Advisors, has a specific legal obligation to put their clients’ best interest ahead of their own.” Doss explained. “A broker is held to the lesser standard of making recommendations that are simply suitable. Dual-registered advisors can switch between both roles, depending upon which products or services they are presenting. Often, the products or funds which are best for the broker have higher costs for the investor.”

“The true fiduciary, such as Saltmarsh, believes in transparency and does not sell products or receive any compensation from the funds we recommend,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure we are always acting in the best interest of our clients. Having worked and lived in the brokerage world where there is so much gray area, I came to Saltmarsh because I wanted to have the ability to sit on the same side of the table as the client and truly have their best interest at heart.”

For more information on Saltmarsh Financial Advisors, LLC, visit


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