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How to effectively illustrate HELOC scenarios for your clients

 

 

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is a revolving line of credit secured by your clients’ home. In Canada, your clients can access up to 65% of the value of their home through a home equity line of credit.

There are many reasons why your clients may want to consider HELOC and why you may want to have an easy illustration of HELOC in your financial planning software.

Why HELOC illustrations are important?

HELOC is an attractive option to access additional cash to fund retirement lifestyle or to cover unexpected expenses, typically at a much lower interest rate than a traditional line of credit.

In markets with elevated real estate prices, for example in Vancouver or Toronto, HELOC offers a solid alternative to downsizing, which which may not always be practical and carries additional costs.

How to effectively illustrate HELOC for your clients?

Here are a few useful tips on illustrating HELOC scenarios for your clients.

Illustrating HELOC can be accomplished in three easy steps. You can use Excel or your financial planning software. We are going to use Snap Projections financial & retirement planning software in this example.

Step 1 – Add a new loan named HELOC with a $0 balance and the interest rate.

Step 2 – Enter the amount the client withdraws every year on the main scenario page. The amounts can be the same or they can be different for every year (or annually indexed at a specified percentage, e.g. at inflation).

Step 3 – Click Run Scenario. The withdrawals from HELOC are added to your client’s cash flow and can be used to cover retirement lifestyle or other expenses.

The Net Worth chart clearly illustrates client’s liabilities that are partially offset by increasing value of their home. Additionally, it is helpful to see the net worth line to visually evaluate the practicality of HELOC in each situation.

If you would like to learn more about illustrating HELOC scenarios for your clients and how to effectively incorporate them into your financial planning process, click here to book a short online demo with us and we’ll show you how to do that.

We hope these tips will help you better serve your clients with clarity and ease.

Introducing Fully Automated Pension Income Splitting

 

 

Pension income splitting is an important mechanism, and should be a feature in any Canadian financial planning software, that allows to transfer the taxable eligible pension income from one spouse to another for the purpose of decreasing their joint tax liability.

The pensioner is the individual who receives eligible pension income and who elects to allocate part of that income to his or her spouse or common-law partner called the pension transferee.

Automated Pension Income Splitting

We just rolled out a powerful new feature that allows you to automatically perform pension income splitting for your clients, so you no longer have to go through the process manually. That’s the advantage of a financial planning software – it fully automates the tedious parts of planning for you!

If you turn on Automated Pension Income Splitting in your scenario, Snap will calculate the optimal amount of taxable income to be shifted from one spouse to the other, up to the allowable maximum in each year.

Defined Benefit pension income, RRIF income, and LIF income are all eligible for splitting.

This way, with just one click you can help your clients minimize their total tax liability. This leads to instant savings for your clients.

To enable this feature in Snap, click Settings on the client’s main scenario page and select Scenario.


 

Under Advanced Settings, check the “Enable Pension Income Splitting” box.


 

Once automated Pension Income Splitting is turned on, you will see the exact amount being split for each year as a negative value in a client’s scenario page, and a corresponding positive value in the same column on the spouse’s scenario.


 

If you would like to learn more about automated income splitting feature in Snap Projections financial projections software, click here to book a demo call with us.

We are very excited about this new feature and we hope it will help you develop better projections for your clients in less time.

Key Takeaways from the IAFP Symposium

key-takeaways-from-the-iafp-symposium

 

Recently I attended the IAFP Symposium in Vancouver, BC. It is one of the top conferences for Canadian financial planners and was, as always, packed with valuable content. I wanted to share with you the key takeaways from the conference, so you are aware of the current developments, trends and opportunities in the Canadian financial planning industry that you can hopefully use for the benefit of your own practice.

There are two things that I think the Institute of Advanced Financial Planners (IAFP) nailed when it comes to structuring the conference.

First, there is a realistic case shared with all participants before the conference that presenters can refer to in their presentations (this year’s case was about a moderately dysfunctional family and their family businesses). Although fictitious, the case was realistic enough to provide an arena to exercise different financial planning strategies and approaches. Since the attendees have the chance to review the case before the conference, they are generally familiar with it, and the presenters can go straight into addressing the challenges in the case without spending additional time describing the problem. This ends up being a massive time saver and makes knowledge sharing more efficient.

Second, the symposium offers an optional Advanced Education Day before the actual conference. If you want to get more proficient at your craft, you can come a day earlier and learn more.

In terms of industry trends, there was no single overarching theme at the conference this year. It seems CRM2 (not applicable to a large portion of the attendees) is old news and everyone has gotten used to robo-advisors co-existing in the market.

Potentially worth emphasizing though is a more subtle underlying trend towards goal-based planning and investing that transpired in several sessions. I wouldn’t even call it a trend, per se. It’s more of an evolution or natural progression in well-functioning wealth management practices. It seems goal-based planning will play an increasingly important role as the industry evolves and especially after the CRM2 is fully implemented, primarily because it is very client-focused and therefore tends to better address client needs.

My Top 5 Most Remarkable Presentations

I‘ve cherry-picked 5 sessions from the symposium that I felt were particularly important and valuable:

Gregg Filmon, President of Value Partners Investments, drew a parallel between the financial advice industry and the medical industry, suggesting that the former could learn much from the latter as the medical industry is deeply process-driven. He unveiled the process he applied at his company: it starts with clearly defined goals that are client-focused (not advisor-focused) and involves proven battle-tested methodology offering clear benefits and results to clients. It also includes managing client expectations by educating them about possible outcomes and enlisting their support via mutual accountability. The approach he outlined is simple, effective and powerful.

Sam Sivarajan, Managing Director, Head of Manulife Private Wealth, brought an interesting perspective to inter-generational wealth transfer by focusing on behavioural finance aspects that affect investor decision making. There are many cognitive biases that cost investors, including the anchoring effect, the IKEA effect, the overconfidence bias and the action bias. The role of an advisor is to be aware of these biases and help properly manage them for clients.

Sam made an interesting remark about risk questionnaires that is worth mentioning. Although required by regulators, he pointed out that the questionnaires are generally not very useful at determining different cognitive biases, and their overall value might be limited in a goal-based investing approach.

Tom Bradley, President of Steadyhand, offered a useful perspective on portfolio construction in a near-zero interest rate world. After 35 years of declining interest rates and excellent bond returns, he claimed investors need to shift gears. His presentation focused on the role of fixed income in portfolio design; he discussed the return expectations for fixed income and argued that the 2016 FPSC guidelines of 4% as the rate of return for fixed income are overly optimistic.

Fixed income traditionally constituted a large portion of portfolios and played an important role in diversification and protecting the downside. If fixed income may not qualify for the job anymore, what are the alternatives and can they do a better job? If so, how do they fit into overall portfolio design? Tom went on to describe alternatives, giving scores for various investment instruments like GICs, mortgage funds, high yield bonds, dividend stocks and multi-strategy hedge funds. He rated them based on three components: expected return, diversification and downside. Overall, this was a valuable session and I highly recommend reviewing his slides if this interest you.

Josh Schmidt, tax lawyer at Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP, defined the three most pressing tax issues facing the family in the fictitious case. The issues were around selling the business to their employees (which may require significant tax considerations), important tax elements to a divorce and tax issues surrounding estate freezes. He highlighted these key issues and individually discussed the purpose, considerations and mechanics when applying any of these strategies to other similar cases.

John Burns, Senior Financial Planner with the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, presented one of the most engaging ethics sessions I had the pleasure of attending. The brilliance of this session relied on a comparison of the IAFP and FPSC codes and standards for its professional members. For those who are unfamiliar, the IAFP administers the Registered Financial Planner (RFP) designation, and the FPSC is a professional standards-setting and certification body that certifies Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professionals and FPSC Level 1 Certificants.

While certain professional standards revealed close similarities, (For example, “IAFP Canon 1 – act in the best interest of the client” and “FPSC Principle 1 – A CFP shall always place the client’s interest first”), other standards differed, where the wording chosen by the IAFP seemed clearer and stricter (For example, “IAFP Canon 3 – disclose all sources of compensation relating to client relative to recommendations made and services provided (…)” and “FPSC Rule of Conduct #8 – When doing financial planning – A CFP shall disclose in writing – an accurate and understandable description of the compensation arrangements being offered (…)”).

I found this comparison very interesting, especially in light of FPSC lobbying to regulate financial planners and to establish a single harmonized set of standards for individuals who can call themselves financial planners.

Best Practices in the Canadian Retirement Planning Project

What makes financial planning particularly hard is the fact that it operates at the confluence of three large disciplines: economics, accounting & tax, and law. Client cases may require an individual to have deep knowledge in all of these areas, while achieving proficiency in any of these individual disciplines may take years of practice.

To help planners, especially younger and less experienced ones, maintain high standards and keep track of different planning strategies and approaches, we decided to start gathering a set of best practices. This is one of the reasons behind the Best Practices in Canadian Retirement Planning Project, which Snap Projections launched earlier this year. This project is intended to gather best practices in retirement planning among Canadian financial planners and freely share these practices with the rest of the industry.

We recognize that no matter what tools you use to create retirement projections for your clients, there is value in having a set of best practices and guidelines that is technology agnostic, meaning that you can apply them using any technology, even an Excel spreadsheet.

If you would like to participate in this project, please let me know by contacting me at this email. We’ll arrange an interview with you to document the principles and strategies you use when helping your clients plan for retirement.

What Kind Of Advice Are Investors Looking For?

what kind of advice

 
Savvy financial advisors know that the key ingredient of their success is knowing what their clients and prospects truly want.

This makes perfect sense because if you know what is on your prospect’s mind, it is much easier to start a conversation with her, build trust and instantly deliver value.

So, what kind of advice are investors looking for?

I found some useful information on this topic at one of the sessions during the CIFP’s 14th Annual National Conference.

Peter Bowen, CPA, CA, Vice-President of Tax and Retirement Research at Fidelity Investments Canada shared some of their internal research on this matter (please see the photo I snapped at the conference).

According to Fidelity’s research, there has been a lot more interest in retirement planning and retirement income planning. Retirement planning and retirement income planning is by far the most desired service among the consumers (nearly 70% of all respondents).

Tax planning, other savings goals and estate planning were the remaining services that placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively with approximately 20% – 30% of respondents indicating their interest in these services. The remaining categories included health care related services and insurance.

How should we interpret this research?

I always try to be cautious when interpreting industry surveys. Mostly because there can be some confirmation bias at play. Also, we typically don’t get much insight into the methodology behind the survey, the data collection and pre-processing, types of questions asked, population size or its structure.

Nonetheless, these results intuitively make sense to me. First, because a vast majority of consumers are likely to be familiar with only one aspect of financial planning (i.e. retirement planning). They may be less familiar with estate, tax planning or financial management.

Second, I am not surprised that the majority of the respondents seek retirement planning advice. There are 13.6 million people in Canada 50 years old and older. That’s about 37% of the Canadian population. This large segment of the Canadian population is going to be predominantly focused on planning for their retirement.

How does this research help you?

As an advisor, I would consider these results as an opportunity to structure your practice around what the market currently needs, and try to fulfill that need.

Retirement planning is a great start of a meaningful conversation with a new prospect. It facilitates understanding of their needs and goals.

A set of retirement projections provides great insight into their current situation and helps to quickly pinpoint any potential issues regarding insurance, investment planning, estate or cash flow & debt issues.

Also, a retirement planning service is a great way to demonstrate the value of your services to your clients. It helps you build and maintain a relationship with clients by educating them on how to make better financial decisions.

Interested in seeing how Snap Projections helps your clients make better retirement financial decisions? Click here to book a demo and we’ll show you how.

Interactive Financial Planning – A Game Changer In The Client-Advisor Relationship

Interactive Financial Planning

 

Last week I got a call from Kevin, a financial advisor who told me that he presented a financial plan to his clients in real time, which was apparently a huge success. I appreciated the update and got back to work.

It wasn’t until I received several other very similar calls that I started paying closer attention. I realized this wasn’t just a fad — it was a trend. When I looked back at the last 12 months, I noticed the most successful advisors all follow a particular pattern.

Instead of doing planning the traditional way, they adopted a new way to converse with clients by presenting their financial plans interactively. This new trend is a true game changer in the client-advisor relationship. The best part is that it takes almost no time to implement in your practice.

We call this new trend interactive financial planning because it’s based on a real time client-advisor interaction.

Why does presenting projections to your clients interactively matter?

The standard approach in the industry is as follows: you gather the client’s data, develop a plan, print a 50-page report, and walk the client through the report during the meeting.

While it may work for some clients, this approach is limited and not very effective.

Here’s what’s wrong with it:

  • It fails to discover all client goals. Essentially, it assumes the advisor and client are already perfectly clear on the client’s retirement goals and needs. In reality, the client’s goals may change; the client may not even be aware of some of their goals or may not be confident in knowing their needs. An advisor may simply miss the mark and fail to uncover previously undiscovered goals.
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  • It starts the conversation in a negative way by focusing the client on a large shortfall required to funding their retirement. While this gets the point across quickly, a better way of approaching this is simply pointing out how long their money will last given their current spending or determining their maximum after-tax spending in retirement. This approach puts the client in the driver’s seat regarding their spending/saving decisions and increases their commitment to those decisions.
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  • It wastes time. If a client decides to modify their goals or even make some small but meaningful changes to their plan, the whole effort of creating the plan needs to be repeated, often leading to follow-up meetings. Since any such updates may take a long time time, client engagement and satisfaction suffers.
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  • It intimidates the client and makes them feel unintelligent. Most clients feel overwhelmed by long reports and complex plans, even though they may not say it. The truth is they don’t understand 50-page reports. Have you seen the way their eyes glaze over? They’re not trained to consume complex financial reports — that’s your job. They need something simple and meaningful, containing just the right level of detail that makes sense to them.
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  • It doesn’t motivate the client to enter into a relationship with you, especially at the prospecting stage. Instead, it forces them to do a lot of work up front without seeing the immediate reward. Often just looking at the financial planning questionnaire is enough to scare prospects away.
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  • It’s not interactive, so it’s not engaging. Printed reports are static. You can’t just increase your client’s spending by $3,000 a year in the printed report and show them how their money suddenly runs out at age 84. You can’t impress upon them the value of making even a $500/month contribution to their RRSP or TFSA and the positive impact on their asset growth. Low engagement reduces their ability to understand what really drives their projections, which leads to very bad financial decisions — the kinds of decisions from which they can’t recover.

Kevin and other successful advisors have figured out how to present financial plans in a way that completely engages the client.

Here’s an approach successful advisors have adopted in their practices:

  • While still prospecting, and even before asking clients to share their financial information, they show a sample set of projections. They point out the tradeoffs between contributing to an RRSP vs. a TFSA vs. non-registered assets, discuss taking CPP early or deferring it, and show the OAS clawback and talk about how to avoid it. They review estate taxes and bring up common issues, like not having sufficient insurance coverage to address a potential tax liability. Through this process they educate clients, show them the value of financial planning, and illustrate their own value as an advisor. At that point, the clients can’t wait to see projections with their own numbers. They have a huge incentive to work with you as an advisor, and it becomes easy for you to land new clients.
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  • After the client engages them as their financial advisor, the advisor prepares baseline projections with possibly one or two alternative scenarios to get the conversation going. Once the projections are complete, they walk clients through their numbers. They confirm income, assets, and debt, making sure all the numbers are correct. This helps to reduce mistakes and clarify omissions.
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  • When they show the projections to the client (often using a large screen in their office or a projector in the conference room), they don’t stop there. They modify numbers, re-run projections, and show the client the differences in real time. This is the moment when client engagement goes through the roof. Often, this leads to new information from a client or reveals interest in another set of goals. As an added benefit, after you explore the options together, there is a lot less need for them to play with the numbers on their own. Overall, clients feel more confident in the direction and become a lot more invested in the process.
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  • Presenting clients their projections interactively is game changing. It allows you, the advisor, to have a much deeper, much more meaningful conversation with your clients. It also orients the clients on their financial goals rather than on market factors you can’t control, like the rates of return of particular stocks or funds in their portfolio. Instead, this approach focuses the conversation on what clients can control, like spending, saving, and building useful habits around their finances.

Working with a great advisor is one of the best decisions most Canadian consumers can make. At least that’s our view here at Snap Projections. A great advisor is someone who can help clients proactively address issues and help them achieve the most daunting financial goals, like a successful retirement.

Overall, this new approach does wonders for the client-advisor relationship. It allows you to build stronger relationships with your clients. Client satisfaction goes up with each meeting, so it’s no wonder that client’s share of wallet, and not to mention referrals, increase as well. Ultimately, this approach helps great advisors get an edge and differentiate themselves in the market.

Still not convinced?

You may want to read Diane’s story.

In less than 10 months, Diane managed to increase her client retention by 100% and boost referrals by 10%, all while saving a ton of time. She used the exact approach I talk about here. Diane is a veteran of the industry. She has developed over 8,000 plans in her career and she knows what works well. Here’s a link to her story.

Running Retirement Projections with Clients

 

Over the last 2 years, I had the privilege of speaking with over 1,000 Financial Planners, Investment Managers and Financial Advisors at large, medium and small organizations all across Canada.

1,000 people. Think about that. It’s a big number. It’s 1,000 unique points of view!

These different views have given me a fascinating perspective on how each person runs their practice. I learned about their favourite tools, what works well for them and about their day-to-day challenges. I have to admit, it’s been an illuminating process.

Running Retirement Projections with Your Clients

I would like to share what I learned about running projections with clients in interactively (You could also do the same thing online, via a screen sharing software).

Running financial projections with your clients interactively is at times a contested topic. Some advisors swear they will never do it, but the ones who have tried insist they can’t imagine their practice without it. Here are their best tips and insights, so that you can introduce, improve or perfect, this practice with your own clients.

Let me first clarify that running projections with your clients doesn’t mean literally developing projections from scratch while your clients sit and watch. It means that you’ve already developed a set of draft projections with a few different scenarios, and then you can show different options to your clients when you meet with them. For example, you can change current or maximum level of their spending, illustrate downsizing, or show the impact of delaying CPP & OAS, etc.

But let’s take it a step further than just showing the above alternatives. You can also make small modifications, for example by changing the spending level by $2,000 a year or reducing the rates of return by 1%. Showing differences like these to clients is key because you get to educate them on the sensitivity of different parameters. They often have an “Aha!” moment when they finally understand how their projections work. Then, you don’t need to convince them to review and update their projections next year, they’ll ask you for it!

This also helps to catch errors and inconsistencies. Some clients just slap their numbers together. This happens not because they don’t care. They just don’t understand how important is to use accurate spending numbers. When they see the impact of small changes on their projections, they instantly understand the value of using accurate numbers and do their homework properly.

On the flip side, you wouldn’t believe how many times clients overstate, double up or leave things off intentionally. A good practice is to go over their income, assets, debt, etc. with them to make sure we have the right numbers. You can make them more comfortable with “re-stating” their numbers by saying “when we look at a lot of numbers all at once, sometimes we miss things”. This way the client is validating our inputs to make sure all numbers are correct.

The mere act of sitting next to your client and showing what-if scenarios right in front of their eyes creates a powerful bonding moment. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder like this establishes you as working together, which increases trust. Clients also tend to better appreciate the service that you provide if they truly understand what you do for them. Finally, the effect of educating someone is a lot more powerful and long-lasting than mere persuasion. Obviously, all of this leads to better client retention.

This is, however, only part of the story. Satisfied clients are then more likely to refer their colleagues, friends and family to you. Have you ever wondered why this happens? It’s quite straightforward. When your client’s financial future is uncertain, they are faced with an unknown, painful situation. When you help them solve it, and they gain clarity around their retirement, they’re compelled to share their story and help others overcome the same problem. This is how referrals work on the most basic level of the limbic system in our brains.

Should I Run Projections with My Clients?

There’s no clear answer, but why not give it a try? You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Now, how can you ensure that this endeavour is successful?

First, you need to make sure the tool you use to run and update projections can run the scenarios quickly. If you want to know more about what elements to pay attention to when it comes to evaluation of software tools, you may want to read What makes financial planning software fast?

From a privacy perspective, you also want to be able to hide other clients’ information before you open up the software in front of your client or prospect. In Snap Projections, there is a convenient “Show all Clients” checkbox on the Clients page. By unchecking it, you hide all your client data, leaving only the “New Client Scenario” button and the search fields that you can use to locate your client’s file.

This his how this page looks like with the checkbox unchecked:

Show all clients - off

If you want to see all your clients again, just click the “Show all Clients” checkbox, and you’ll see your full list of clients:

Show all clients - on

Finally, if you’re showing the projections to your clients online (remotely), you’ll want to use a good screen sharing software. We wrote about some tools advisors use in 9 Software Programs to Help You Grow Your Financial Planning Practice. Check it out if you’d like to learn from other advisors like you.

If you haven’t seen Snap Projections in action yet, go ahead and watch a 5-minute Snap Projections Video. If you’ve already seen the video and you want to request access to Snap, you can book a demo here.

What makes financial planning software fast?

 

Since one of the key frustrations for a Canadian financial planner is the excessive time it takes to create a new set of retirement projections, we knew the software had to be fast (you can read about all other reasons why we developed Snap Projections here).

But, what does it mean for the software to be fast?

We had to break down the experience of a financial planner using the software and consider this question from many angles. We looked at the speed of data entry, the speed of calculations, the quickness of the user interface and how the overall software design can make a planner more efficient.

Speed of Data Entry

A well-designed user interface can dramatically speed up the data entry process. We knew the user interface had to be intuitive, easy to understand and simple to follow. It also needed a minimal number of required data fields to enter before you can create client’s projections.

That’s why we don’t ask you to enter a lot of client data in Snap Projections. For example, you don’t need to enter a client’s address or SIN as they are not material to creating projections. You only need their income, assets, debt and a few parameters around their retirement, for example their retirement age and the after tax spending they need in retirement, to run your first scenario.

new client

Speed of Calculations

How quickly the software runs its calculations is critical for the planner as well. We’ve made great strides in this area. Any individual runs (i.e. Run Scenario) used to take a few seconds. Now, they run in just under 1 second and may take another one to display the results (depending on the speed of your internet connection).

By far the largest gains were made on Sustainable Scenario that allows you to calculate the maximum level of after tax spending for the client, without the risk of them running out of money. The sustainable scenario runs, crunching hundreds of thousands of numbers, previously took up over a minute and now run in seconds.

And, since the calculations are running in the cloud, they don’t depend on your computer. They run equally quickly on a fast desktop or an older laptop. You don’t need to constantly reinvest in your hardware to maintain the optimal speed of calculations. Rather, you can focus on what matters the most – helping your clients make better financial decisions.

Quickness of User Interface

This aspect was a bit tougher to address as many Web-based applications seem, and sometimes are, slower than their counterparts written for a particular operating system.

We circumvented this problem by focusing our full attention on the area of the application where the planner spends the most of her time – the main scenario screen (see below). All updates on this screen are done instantly without the need to reload the page. This way the user experience is exceptional as the update speed is incredibly fast so the user doesn’t have to wait at all for the software to respond.

main page

Good Design Makes You More Efficient

We tried to design the software in a way that lets you create projections fast so you can see the results quickly. But if you want to get deeper and change some variables under the hood, you can.

This way you can instantly become productive. Straightforward projections take little time while you still have an option to override the default settings and make more client-specific decisions – if you need to.

From all of the optimizations above, this one is perhaps the most profound. Why? Because it fundamentally makes you a more efficient and a more productive planner.

If you haven’t seen Snap Projections in action, you can watch a 5-min Video of Snap Projections to see how it can make you a more efficient and a more productive planner. Here’s the link.

9 Software Programs to Help You Grow Your Financial Planning Practice

 

How can software help me scale my business?

Here are some of the most popular software applications that can massively improve how you run your business from managing your client communication and data to collaboration among your team and your clients.

Close.io – “CRM that saves you time on data entry”

Do you hate data entry? Then Close.io is for you! Their tagline “Close More Deals. Make More Sales.” indicates that they are focused on sales and that’s true – it’s a CRM software. However, the trick here is to do that by dramatically cutting down time salespeople spend on manually entering information into the CRM. As a result, it is a CRM that allows you to communicate with clients more effectively and save more time.

The software, available for both Mac and Windows, allows you to make calls over VOIP, send emails, and automatically track all activity on how you engage with your clients. It does this all within one easy to use window.

closeio

Here is the link for Close.io.

Slack – “Be less busy”

Is your inbox filled with email? Are you having too many meetings? Need to improve team communication? Slack may be right for you!

Slack is a messaging software where you can create various private or public channels for you and your team members. You can even create Channels where certain topics can be discussed such as marketing or sales and even share files over Slack.

We at Snap Projections love using Slack as it allows us to communicate among the team members in a quick, easy, and efficient way.

slack

Here is the link for Slack (available for various browsers, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android).

join.me – “Better meetings for all”

Need to make meetings easier? With join.me, you can do that!

join.me is a screen sharing and video conferencing client that has a simple interface. join.me allows you to even add annotations while sharing your screen with clients. Need to keep a recording of the meeting? join.me will even let you save the recording in the cloud!

The feature I like about join.me the most is the ability to just email a link to your client and they can view your screen without the need to install any software on their end.

joinme

Here is the link for join.me (available for Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Windows RT, and Amazon).

Wistia – “Business Smarts Meets Video Smarts”

Need to host a video of your business on the website? Wistia is what you’re looking for!

Wistia is a professional video hosting service that will host your video with no ads. They offer differently priced packages (from free to enterprise accounts) based on how many videos you need hosted. Using its Customize feature, you can change the color of the controls, add a social bar, add captions, and even add an email sign-up to be put at any point during the video so you can get new leads directly to your email.

wistia

The feature that I particularly like are the heatmaps. You can view a heatmap on how the viewers interacted with your video. Perfect to see which sections of your video your viewers are especially interested in or if they watched your video all the way to the end.

wistia2

Here is the link for Wistia.

Dropbox – “Works the way you do”

Need to collaborate on files and share them with your clients on any device regardless of where you are? Dropbox is the solution!

Dropbox allows you to save files on your computer and in the cloud to access them anywhere. You can save any kind of file which will then be synced across multiple devices. It even allows offline access when you are offline. Dropbox allows you to even share large files such as videos with a simple link. You can work on the same file with multiple coworkers in a shared folder.

dropbox

Here is the link for Dropbox.

Squarespace – “Build it beautiful”

Need to make a website but don’t know any programming? Squarespace is the answer.

Squarespace is a Content Management System (CMS) to help build your website without any knowledge of programming. Squarespace uses a “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) editor. This WYSIWYG editor allows you to make changes to one of the many templates provided just by clicking and dragging items around.

Design your website with a modern look and feel without the need to hire a programmer. The websites will automatically work on mobile phones as well. Squarespace will even host your domain for you.

squarespace

Squarespace also uses analytics to allow you to view the traffic and behaviour of users visiting your site in real-time.

squarespace2

Here is the link for Squarespace.

1password – “Simple, Convenient Security”

Security is very important for businesses and passwords are one area that can be troublesome. With all these new accounts created for all your software applications, it’s going to be hard to remember all your passwords. You shouldn’t use the same password for everything in order to prevent hackers from getting into every account. But if you have hundreds of passwords, where do you store them in order to be safe? That’s where 1password comes in.

1password is a program that encrypts and stores all your passwords, logins, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and even notes locally on your computer.

1 password

Don’t trust yourself to create hard to crack passwords? Using a birthday as password? 1password can create long, difficult passwords that it will remember. All you need to remember is one password to unlock everything. No more post-it notes scattered across your desk!

To access your passwords anywhere you are, 1password has browser extensions as well as mobile apps. You can even share your passwords on Dropbox as well! This way wherever you are, you can access your passwords.

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Here is the link for 1password (available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android).

Wufoo – “Online Forms Made Easy”

Want to have an online form without any of the hassle of hiring a programmer to make one? Wufoo can make it easy for you!

Wufoo is a form designer tool that can help you create forms for the many facets of your business. With Wufoo, you can add custom branding, add data validation, collect payments from clients (such as PayPal or Google Checkout), and receive notifications when data comes in. Don’t want to design the form yourself? No problem. Wufoo has hundreds of pre-made templates at your disposal.

One very important feature that may be of interest to you is the ability for files to be uploaded through the form. You can have clients upload documents, photos, and various other file types through the Wufoo form rather than have them email every document to you. This way, if you need an important file from a client, Wufoo can help accept and store those files for you straight from the form.

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With Wufoo, you can even view the analytics on how your Wufoo form has been interacted with.

Here is the link for Wufoo.

With all these programs at your disposal, we at Snap Projections firmly believe that you will have a leg-up on your competition by making your business run more smoothly, more efficiently, and you can get back to what matters most to you – advising clients and building satisfying client relationships.

Do you want to see how we at Snap Projections leverage technology to help you develop better retirement projections for your clients in less time? Watch a 5-min Snap Projections Video to see how the software can save you time and help you build a thriving financial planning practice. Here’s the link.

What makes financial planning software good?

 

If you’re like me when you evaluate new software, you’re looking for specific outcomes. You wonder: “How will this software take care of X? Can it help me with Y?”.

Before you even try it, you want to know right away: “Is this software going to solve my problem?” Or, in other words, “If I use this software, will my problem go away?”.

When we set out to develop modern financial and retirement planning software, we didn’t know what would make it good. So, we asked our customers.

We asked over a thousand Canadian financial advisors, planners and investment managers what they found the most challenging when developing financial and retirement projections for their clients. Here’s what we learned.

What makes financial planning software good?

“All that data entry takes me too long.”

We found out that no matter what financial planning software advisors were using, the data entry process was both frustrating and time-consuming. They wanted to spend less time entering data and more time helping clients.

“It takes me hours to develop financial projections”

Why should it take so long to develop projections? Existing software was either cumbersome, too complex and not user-friendly, or it was too simplistic and not flexible enough. Advisors said it felt like a black hole sucking up all their time.

Some attempted to develop their own solutions (for example in Excel). While such solutions are more flexible, they are very error-prone. It’s easy to accidentally make a change in a spreadsheet, putting you at risk of dramatically impacting clients’ projections without even noticing. Catching such mistakes is hard. It’s also difficult to train new staff on these home-grown solutions and maintain them over time to make sure they adhere to the current tax law.

Advisors should be able to instantly develop simple projections and have the flexibility to make more precise changes if warranted. For example, the year when a client leaves their job and retires is a year that needs to be modelled with higher precision than others. This is to properly reflect the amount of employment income, pension or other benefits received in that year to avoid misrepresenting or doubling up the amounts.

We found transparent software design is critical to success. Advisors need to know that everything is accounted for and there are no mistakes. Financial planning is not rocket science, but there are a lot of moving parts, each impacting the other. For example, a simple change like delaying CPP impacts cash flow, which may mean a client will need to make additional withdrawals from other assets, which may impact their tax position, income splitting and even OAS clawback, and so on.

To maintain transparency, it’s useful to see everything on one page and have the software assist and alert you if any issues arise.

“Clients don’t understand 50-page reports… their eyes glaze over.”

Advisors often complained of spending considerable time preparing and formatting client reports. However, the reports generated by most programs are designed for advisors, not consumers. They’re too complex for clients to understand, making them useless in client presentations.

We found that simpler reports (or interactive presentations) are best suited to convey information to clients without overwhelming them. We asked consumers what they wanted to see in their financial plan and then designed a report template laid out exactly in the format they asked for.

It turns out a visually appealing, easy-to-navigate report that you can easily update, enter comments into and use to instantly create a client report works much better than a long, complex 50-page report that is rarely read and almost never updated. Fundamentally, it’s not about the plans, but it is all about planning. This is also one of the reasons that we see so much success with interactive financial planning.

“I can’t run quick what-if scenarios with a client in my office.”

Often an advisor prepares two or three different plans for a client. However, sometimes a client will request a few modifications to a selected plan. They may want to know: “If I take a year-long sabbatical when I’m 55, will I outlive my savings?” or “What lifestyle will I have if I sell my business in 10 years for $2.5 million?”.

Creating what-if scenarios is immensely useful. Not only do they show the short-term impact of a client’s decisions, but they help the client understand the consequences of these decisions to their lifestyle in retirement. Often, these scenarios can also uncover previously unknown and undiscovered client goals.

If you cannot efficiently run what-if scenarios with a client, you set yourself back in time spent in back-office preparing plans and on additional client meetings; client satisfaction also suffers.

Conversely, if you can easily demonstrate what-if scenarios to your clients during the meeting, you’ll quickly notice the following:

  • Clients love seeing what-if scenarios in real time; instead of feeling helpless and detached, they become fully engaged in the planning process.
  • As a result, client meetings are easier to conduct, run more smoothly and are more enjoyable.
  • Clients tend to be more satisfied with the planning process as they gain understanding and clarity about their financial matters.
  • Thus, clients gain a lot more appreciation for the work you are doing for them, which positively impacts referrals.

Did you notice the recurring theme?

Time.

At Snap Projections, time spent is not something we get a lot of complaints about. That’s because we believe no matter the function of the software, it must bring you closer to your end goal. It must make your life easier as the whole point of using technology is leverage. Doing more with less.

Do you agree? Do you want to spend less time and do more for your clients?

Watch the Full Power of Snap Projections in 5 minutes to see how Snap Projections can help you better serve your clients while saving time. Here’s a link.