Investor Values Shape Wealth Plans for Financial Independence

Everyone—including financial-planning clients—wants good news when it comes to our investments. We all want to hear that the markets keep going up, our investments are growing in leaps and bounds, and we’ll be able to retire in complete comfort. However, the markets and investments don’t always behave as expected, and investors don’t always get the results they desire.

Some clients also have unrealistic expectations for their retirement given how much they are saving and investing.

joelschaps300x200Joel Shaps, Managing Director of United Capital Silicon Valley, believes that baby boomers are not properly preparing financially for their futures. It’s one key reason why he got into wealth management and financial planning. He focuses on preparing clients for retirement and helping them to achieve the lives that they want to live. It begins with helping clients to identify what is important to them through an exercise called Honest Conversations®. HonestConversations is a proprietary, gamified tool which involves clients discovering their deeper motivations, priorities, and goals that influence their decisions about money.

Shaps has been involved in wealth management and financial planning since 2001, when he purchased Bedrock Capital Management. He brought in a professional team to help him turn the company into a full-service, comprehensive wealth management firm. In December 2015, Bedrock became the Silicon Valley office for United Capital Financial Advisers. Shaps is also a professional member of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and Investment Management Consultants Associations (IMCA).

Not long after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, Shaps became a Vice President at Neiman Marcus. In 1990, he started The Shaps Group, which specialized in purchasing and accounts payable auditing for high-tech firms. In 1996 and 1997, it was named one of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the U.S. In 1997, he sold the company to the Profit Recovery Group and became Division President.

United Capital Silicon Valley provides comprehensive, personalized wealth management services for high-net-worth individuals and families. The fee-based advisory and fiduciary firm delivers independent, objective guidance. It also offers a service called Financial Life Management, which includes tax management, cash flow modeling, employee benefits recommendations, and risk and insurance evaluation and solutions. Rather than focusing only on retirement, Shaps takes the approach of positioning clients to achieve financial independence.

“We define financial independence as being able to do what they want to do when they want to do it,” said Shaps. “This may mean continuing to work at different levels, contributing to society in other ways, or moving to the next phase of life to fulfill their goals and dreams. Our job is to develop a detailed wealth plan that guides them into the future.”

United Capital’s high-net-worth clients have experienced financial success throughout their lives and are smart with respect to investing and their finances. However, they often lack the time, temperament, or training to make educated investment decisions on a regular basis. Some people are emotional investors, which can get in the way of making logical investment decisions. Shaps brings objectivity to clients’ decisions, as well as honesty in providing answers to their questions.

“The real questions our clients want answered include: Are they on track now? Should they be doing anything differently? Will they ultimately be able to accomplish what is most important to them?” explained Shaps.

Even when clients have financial success, retirement will still be on their minds. A common driver is the fear of outliving their resources, since people are commonly living into their 90s.

Longevity risk can have a significant impact on a portfolio and can make clients concerned about their long-term financial health. Shaps addresses these concerns by creating detailed plans that go beyond a client’s normal life expectancy and that address various contingencies in their financial life.

“The plan includes developing a long-term care plan, changes in lifestyle, health issues, market corrections, and economic disruptions,” said Shaps. “Based on the client’s plan, we show them how to make adjustment to the things they can control to better position them for success every time we meet. Our clients want to know they will never run out of money—no matter how long they live—and they’ll be able to leave whatever legacies are important to them.”

Clients will often allow the news (particularly what is happening on the political stage) to affect their financial decision-making. People will become more financially conservative or want to move money to other investment options based on the current administration’s decisions. Investors’ attitudes can swing wildly at times, which can cause clients to request unfounded changes in their portfolios.

It’s important for financial advisors to listen carefully to their clients, so that they can understand their values and goals. This includes dealing with their fears and worries for the future. Shaps has answered many clients’ questions over the last two years on how the current administration will affect their portfolio and the long-term success of their financial plan. His firm takes the position that markets are driven by economic factors and not various political decisions.

“Historically, the political environment has relatively little impact on the long-term performance of a client’s financial circumstances,” said Shaps. “If we develop a plan based on the client’s goals and values that makes sense for the client in the long run, then we feel they are positioned correctly.”

For more information on United Capital Silicon Valley, visit:


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