The Pinnacle Planning Experience: Planning done right.

No matter how technically competent a financial planner may be, if he or she creates a miserable experience for the client, that planner has failed. That’s why we’ve worked so hard to make sure Pinnacle’s financial planning process is efficient, non-intimidating, and client friendly.

The status quo approach to the financial planning process can be a tedious and unpleasant experience. Too many advisors treat their clients as if they're little more than walking numbers... or risk profiles... or tax-deduction candidates...

They forget that you are a person, with goals and dreams for the future. You cannot be reduced to an equation. If planning is to be truly effective, it must begin with that understanding.

After growing frustrated with the tedium of the status quo approach, Michael Kitces (Director of Wealth Management) decided to create something better. The result was the Pinnacle Planning Experience -- an enjoyable but thorough three-step process to help you build the future you want.

The Planning Experience is broken up into three distinct conversations or sessions: Dream, Plan, and Extend. Each session lasts about 90 minutes, and addresses a specific question related to your life and goals. If you become a Pinnacle client, a Client Relationship Specialist will help you prepare for each session, so you're able to spend your time focused on the conversation, and not trying to dig up some old piece of financial information.

While every case is different, on average,the planning process takes about four months, from beginning to end. By the time you've completed it, you'll not only have a picture of the future you want, but you'll also know exactly what you need to do to get there.

Session 1: DREAM

Who are you and what kind of life do you want for yourself?

Every financial plan begins with a person and his or her dreams. That's why the first session of the Pinnacle Planning Experience is focused on finding out exactly what those dreams are.

Your Wealth Manager will lead you through a series of questions and exercises designed to identify your goals, dreams, fears, and priorities.

You'll cover questions like:

  • Putting financial matters to the side: If you could do anything you wanted and didn't have to worry about a paycheck, what would you do?
  • Close your eyes and imagine a random day in the future, when you're retired. You wake up in the morning, and what do you see? Where are you? How do you spend the day, and with whom?
  • Imagine a sudden change in your financial health (either good or bad). Name all the people or parties who would be affected by it.
  • You're lying awake in your bed in the middle of the night, staring at the ceiling. You can't get to sleep, because you're worried. What are you worrying about?
  • If you found out you have one year to live, how would you spend it? What would you regret?

By using questions and scenarios like this, our Wealth Managers will learn a great deal about your passions, hopes, and fears. As they do, they will create a mind map to visualize your relationships, interests, and priorities. If you're unfamiliar with the term, a mind map is a kind of diagram that is used to present complex, multi-layered information in a straightforward way. Once finished, your mind map will be like a window into your head and heart, and you'll be surprised how much you'll learn about yourself in the process. Clients routinely identify it as one of the more fascinating elements of the Pinnacle Planning Experience.

By the end of the first session, you'll have a list of life goals -- both big and small -- and a better understanding of yourself and your priorities. Now that you know what kind of life you want for yourself, you have to figure out how to obtain it.

That's the subject of the next session.

Session 2: PLAN

What do you need to do to achieve the life you want?

Now that you've identified and prioritized the dreams you have for the future, you have to figure out how to achieve them. The second session, building on the first, will help you do that. Your Wealth Manager will look at your assets and match them up with your goals.

In this second session, you'll cover questions like:

  • Will I be able to reach the goals I've identified in the Dream Session? Are they realistic?
  • How should I allocate my resources to my various goals?
  • How will my life be changed as a result of this process?

In the course of your conversation, your Wealth Manager will plug your numbers into a sophisticated but client-friendly piece of planning software that lets you visualize your financial plan and see how small tweaks and changes effect the outcome. (As a Pinnacle client, you'll have access to the online version of the app so you can "experiment" with your plan any time you like.)

By the end of the Plan Session, you'll know which aspects of your ideal future are possible and which are more challenging (though not impossible). But more than that, you'll know exactly what you have to do to live the life you want.

Session 3: EXTEND

How can you share that life with the people and causes that matter most to you?

No-one exists in isolation. We all have people or causes that we care deeply about, and we often hope to share with them the good things we've achieved. That's the subject of Session 3: Extend. In this final session, you and your Wealth Manager will talk about how to both protect and extend the goals you've achieved.

You'll cover:

  • How to protect your accomplishments from being wiped out due to misfortune or poor health. Your Wealth Manager will walk you through a series of worst-case scenarios so you can be sure your financial plan will sustain them. This part isn't fun, but it's vital for the success of your plan and for your own peace of mind.

  • How to ensure that the fruit of your hard work is shared with the people and causes you care about. Through careful estate planning, you can continue to exercise a positive influence beyond your lifetime.

A good financial plan will tell you not only how to achieve your life's goals, but also how to protect and share them. By the end of the third session, you'll know exactly how to do that.

What would you like to know about?