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Benefit Consulting Group (BCG) is a full-service investment advisory firm offering you highly customized and sophisticated financial advice, investment solutions and brokerage services to help you meet your financial goals and objectives.
Why Do Comprehensive Financial Planning?
Having a well-designed financial plan helps you to take control over your financial future now. It helps to secure a more comfortable and stress-free life for you and your family. A solid, comprehensive financial plan ensures that you will have adequate resources to meet your retirement needs. Once retired, it helps you to know that you won’t outlive your savings. Finally, it provides for your family after your death and assists in transferring assets in the most advantageous way during your lifetime or at your death.
Why Consider a Professional Fee-Based Financial Planner?
A qualified financial planner can provide you with objective advice, free from the bias and emotion we face when we manage our own money. A skillful financial planner will design a plan that considers your goals, objectives and tolerance for risk, and will help you stay on course during good times and bad times alike. An experienced financial planner will provide valuable insight and innovative solutions that you might otherwise miss out on—opportunities that could make an enormous difference your retirement lifestyle.
Grace B. Ghezzi, CPA/PFS, CFP®, CFE, AEP, Vice President of Financial Planning for BCG, is one of the most accomplished fee-based financial planners in the country. She works with a prominent list of clientele and assists hundreds of individuals in building and maintaining winning financial plans.
Meet Grace Ghezzi
Vice President of Financial Planning
CPA/PFS/CFF, CFP®, CFE, AEP®
Grace Ghezzi, a Vice President with Benefit Consulting Group, oversees the financial planning division of the firm. Grace advises clients on a fee-only basis, and her focus is on comprehensive financial planning. Her areas of practice also include estate and retirement planning, income tax planning and fraud examination.
Prior to her position with BCG, Grace was a partner at Grimaldi & Nelkin, CPAs, P.L.L.C. She served as an adjunct professor of Federal Income Tax Accounting at Le Moyne College. Grace has taught over 250 eight-hour Continuing Professional Education courses for Surgent McCoy, CPE, LLC and has consistently ranked in the top 25% of national discussion leaders in technical expertise.
Grace appeared regularly on TV’s "Financial Fitness" for twenty years and currently appears on WSTM’s "Financial 411" which she has done for five years. She has given hundreds of presentations to groups, including more than thirty-five State CPA Societies (including the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants), the International Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the Financial Planning Association, the Canadian Association for Financial Planning, the New York State Bar Association, the Institute of Internal Auditors, the Estate Planning Council, and the Institute of Management Accountants.
She was the recipient of the 2007 Frank Fernandez Le Moyne College Business Leader of the Year Award; the 2004 American Red Cross, Onondaga-Oswego County Chapter, Clara Barton Award for Volunteer Leadership; the 2002 Central New York Women in Business Award; and the 1999 Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Distinguished Achievement Award.
Anatomy of a Financial Plan
Many people don’t know what a financial planner does, or what a financial plan looks like. This is with good reason, since every financial planner I know does things differently. Let’s set the record straight! A comprehensive financial plan can truly be a roadmap to assist an individual in taking total control of his or her financial future. Certified financial planners are required to use a specific process in performing financial planning services. Here are those steps:
There are also certain areas typically addressed in a financial plan. Those broad categories are:
Each financial plan is unique. If you have millions of dollars, I would expect the plan to address estate taxes and the many techniques that may be appropriate to minimize its exposure. Perhaps life insurance in an irrevocable trust should be considered to pay estate tax. An irrevocable trust structured and administered properly can keep the death benefit free of estate tax. This is critical, otherwise the very assets being used to pay the tax are themselves subject to the tax. For illiquid estates with substantial real estate holdings or closely held businesses, life insurance may be of primary importance, otherwise the assets may have to be sold to pay the tax. Our federal estate tax exemption is a moving target, so flexible strategies should be implemented, since we know neither when we will die nor what the laws will be at that time. Currently, we have a two million dollar federal exemption and a one million dollar New York State exemption. The federal exemption is increasing to three and a half million dollars in 2009, unlimited in 2010, and decreasing to one million in 2011. If the fair market value of your assets exceeds these limits, you will be subject to estate tax. There is also a partial loss of stepped up basis in 2010, which means there may be a capital gains tax at death.
Investment planning has a significant impact on your readiness to be able to meet your financial goals. Do you have the right investment mix to meet your needs of growth, income, or a combination of the two? Can you sleep at night with what you have? This is what risk tolerance is all about. Have you established an appropriate emergency fund? Can you retire when you want to with the income stream you desire?
Retirement planning is critical. If you are unable to meet your goal based on your current strategy, you have three main alternatives: you can work longer, spend less after retirement, or save more prior to retirement. Perhaps you will work part-time once you retire.
What other goals do you have? Can you educate your children? What if a parent dies at a young age or needs a skilled nursing facility? What if your home was destroyed by a natural disaster or the stock market experienced a 10% correction? What is your plan of recovery? Even if you have sufficient income the year you retire, what impact will inflation have on your purchasing power, especially if you have a defined benefit pension with no cost of living increases? How will you pay for the rising cost of health care?
We haven’t talked much about insurances yet. My mantra is to insure what you cannot afford. If there is insufficient liquidity or assets at death to cover final expenses, pay lump sums such as your mortgage or estate tax, or fund income needs for your survivors, then life insurance is for you. Do you want to leave an inheritance for your children? Is there a pension that may disappear partially or in full at your death? Life insurance is the only way I know to add instant cash at a critical time. If you become disabled, where would your future income come from? Do you have adequate coverages on your homes and vehicles? Is there an umbrella policy in place to cover remaining gaps? Don’t forget about professional liabilities or director positions you may hold. Adequate protection is important in all of these situations.
Let us not forget about income taxes. You may need your investments at retirement to generate a specific dollar amount, net of expenses and taxes. How about those required minimum distributions once you turn age 70½? Do you know the rules and are you prepared to deal with them?
Okay, enough question for now. I could go on and on. As you can see, there is tremendous coordination required among the various areas of financial planning, which is what makes this comprehensive process so incredible. Every financial plan is different because every client is unique. Needs also change at various times throughout your lifetime. When should you begin? Is there a particular age or event that should prompt financial planning? Well, today is the best day to start. You are never too young or too old to begin the process. So quick, sharpen your pencil, get yourself a financial planner and get to work. Most people don’t have plans that fail --- they fail to plan. [back to top]
Open Letter to Prospective Clients
Dear Financial Planning Prospective Client:
I’m looking forward to meeting with you in regard to personal financial planning. I have enclosed a questionnaire for you to complete and bring to our meeting. Also, please bring the following information with you:
The information we will provide you with generally includes recommendations for a course of activity, or specific action, to be taken by you. This may include referring you to an attorney, broker, insurance agent, or other professional, to provide services that are not offered by our Firm. We may assist in the implementation of recommendations, and may also review your situation periodically and suggest revisions. Our Firm assumes no responsibility for the actions of other professionals that may assist in this process.
In performing financial planning services, we will be relying on the accuracy and reliability of financial data provided to us by you and other professionals. We will not audit or review this financial information and will not express an opinion or any other form of assurance on it. In the area of investments, we take no responsibility for the achievability of investment performance, and you may encounter substantial risks which are inherent in investment of financial assets. Our engagement cannot be relied upon to disclose errors, irregularities, or illegal acts, including fraud or defalcation that may exist.
The goals, objectives, recommendations, and implementation plans that we may suggest will be based on key assumptions about the future, and changes in these assumptions or similar unforeseeable events could modify our suggestion and/or the information presented to you. We do not assume responsibility for updating our suggestions or information for such events or circumstances that may occur subsequent to the performance of our engagement.
Our fees will be based on our Financial Planning Fee Schedule, which is enclosed. This engagement will be performed under my direction, Grace B. Ghezzi, CPA/PFS, CFP®, CFE and my profile is enclosed for your examination. Our fees are payable on presentation of our invoice to you.
Please call me to set an appointment. Feel free to call me with any questions. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you in assisting you to meet your financial goals and objectives.
Very truly yours,
BENEFIT CONSULTING GROUP, INC.
Grace B. Ghezzi, CPA/PFS, CFP®, CFE, AEP
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FINANCIAL PLANNING FEE SCHEDULE, 2014
A Comprehensive Financial Plan Considers Every Aspect of Your Financial Life
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