Why was the firm named “Total Alignment”?

As the company was being formed, the seemingly impossible concept of advisors being in “total alignment” with clients kept repeating itself as an underlying theme. With clients now in a starting position of control as to what the ideal family wealth advisor’s structure would entail, concepts of full transparency, independent oversight, comprehensive viewpoint, reciprocal support, superior intelligence, avoidance of common conflicts of interests and a strict prohibition on commission-based sales all started circulating around this “total alignment” theme. After much diligence and design, the founding clients and advisors set about to achieve the otherwise unattainable and resolved to name the company “Total Alignment Wealth Advisors” (or sometimes affectionately referred to as just “TAWA”).

What is different about your firm?

Much of what is different ties back to our firm being founded by clients and being owned and controlled exclusively by clients and advisors. If we had been founded and controlled by unrelated third party profit-seekers, we do not believe that the same independent fee-only transparency and pro-client safeguards would have been incorporated in our structure. In addition to the unusual degree of independence that our business model allows, the fact that we focus our entire business on financial organization, scenario analysis, independent oversight and research services is unique for the financial services industry.

Why do clients typically hire you?

Clients hire us when they are looking for legitimately independent and product-free analysis, consolidated reporting and/or single-source coordination with their existing advisors.  Clients who engage us for a one-time financial review or for periodic financial reviews often do so because a life event has just occurred – such as a divorce, retirement, disability, home purchase, birth of a child, sale of a business, death or employment changes or even a change in a key advisor.  For those clients, we help to organize their new financial situations and evaluate their various financial alternatives going forward – taking them through each viable scenario and revealing the end impact of each decision choice.  Clients who engage us for continuous service through our Personal CFO service or Private Family Office do so because they hold assets at multiple institutions, work with multiple advisors with varying incentives and do not have the time to continuously evaluate their situation from a truly objective and comprehensive viewpoint.  For these clients, we serve as an independent generalist advisor to help organize their financial situations, triage and prioritize issues with an unbiased eye and then coordinate with their existing specialist advisors for implementation.  These clients often appreciate their existing accountant, attorney, investment manager or insurance representative – and aren’t interested in working with yet another advisor who will present a conflict with their existing advisors’ roles.  Regardless of the exact reason, our primary value is to empower our clients to make informed financial decisions that take into account all areas of their financial lives and that will likely save them time, money and worry into their futures.

What does “Fee-Only” mean?

“Fee-only” means that we are only paid by our clients and not by third parties. This also means that what we are paid is fully transparent to you at all times, and that the advice we provide to you is based on maximizing the chances of you achieving your financial objectives.  Receiving commissions or selling any financial products to an existing client is strictly prohibited by our company’s operating agreement, and is reinforced by a termination “for cause” provision for any of our advisors so doing. We have no flexibility to change this structure without our founding clients’ approval.

What are some of the areas on which you advise clients?

We advise on any and all areas that can impact our clients’ financial lives. This includes, but is not limited to: taxes, estate planning, insurance and personal risk management, privacy matters, college planning, executive compensation, business succession planning, advisor evaluations, retirement planning, charitable giving strategies, investments, marriage planning, divorce planning, exercising stock options, buying or selling real estate, cash flow planning and financing and credit matters.

What services do you not provide?

In order to avoid conflicts with our clients’ existing specialist advisors, we do not provide services that most of our clients’ existing specialist advisors already provide.  This includes active discretionary investment management services, complex legal document drafting, contentious matter legal representation, insurance placement or tax return preparation services. We believe that most of our clients either already have advisors to provide these services or are able to quickly source them.  To the extent that a client requests our assistance in sourcing new advisors or in evaluating existing advisors for these services, we will provide defensible, merit-based evaluations and referrals to such advisors and we will not accept additional monetary fees from any party in so doing.  For particular situations where a client’s active investment manager is not able to deliver value in excess of that manager’s fees and applicable index benchmark(s), or where a client’s investment manager is unable to provide sufficient charitable expertise to deliver value on the management of charitable assets, or where a client simply needs to have an investment management solution during some limited period of transition, that client may elect to have assets managed on a cost-effective, passive basis in one of a set of low-cost, model exchange-trade fund (ETF) portfolios or to have charitable assets managed for impact purposes through TAWA’s subsidiary investment entity, TA Capital Management, LLC (“TA Capital”).   For rare situations where a client believes that our subsidiary’s offering of passive, charitable and transitional investment management services at TA Capital diminishes our ability to evaluate that client’s active investment manager on an independent basis, that client may completely eradicate any perceived conflict by electing into our Analytics and Consolidated Reporting (“ACR”) platform.  Our ACR platform assesses a low fee on the entire portfolio base in exchange for consolidated performance reporting, comparative analytics, certain private alternative investment reviews and the ability to manage any, all or no assets at TA Capital for no additional fee to TAWA or to TA Capital.  Because TA Capital and TAWA does not benefit any more or any less if assets are placed at TA Capital, we believe our independence and ability to provide objective evaluations continues to be preserved.

Aren’t my existing advisors able to offer the same services?

Simply put, no. We acknowledge that advisors who serve as private bankers, investment managers, accountants, insurance representatives or attorneys provide valuable services, and for that reason we encourage our clients to keep advisors in those roles.  However, we have found that in most cases those advisors are compensated differently – for example, for attaining assets under management, selling an insurance policy, lending money, drafting a will or preparing a tax return. Rarely if ever are these advisors specifically compensated for reviewing your entire financial situation, preparing scenario analysis and identifying opportunities or issues where those advisors would also not stand to directly benefit from whether or not you moved forward with that advisor’s recommendation.  In addition, we have found that typically none of those advisors are able to see your “big picture” at any given time. For example, typically none of those advisors could tell you with any precision what your total net worth was as of yesterday, or what your expected cash flows will be 10 years into the future assuming you made certain decisions. This inability to consider all aspects of your financial life can present problems, particularly since changes that you make in one area of your financial life can have a significant impact to another area of your financial life. This integrated, holistic approach by independent wealth advisors who are trained in identifying issues in these various areas is the core value that we provide. And when you consider the wealth advisor’s ability to identify savings in taxes, insurance costs, fees and portfolio risk/return inefficiencies, combined with the time savings, independent viewpoint and overall peace of mind achieved, delivery of value well in excess of our fees has not been a challenge for us.

Which services provide Consolidated Monthly Reporting?

Our Private Family Office platform provides monthly overview reports that show clients various financial reports that are important to them.  This may include, for example, relevant progress on action items for the month, upcoming reminders, categorized cash inflows and outflows for the month, net worth as of the end of the month, changes in net worth that occurred during the month and the causes of those changes in net worth broken down by cash flow changes versus market value changes.  Analytics and Consolidated Reporting is a corollary service that provides more in-depth analysis on investments – including consolidated monthly performance reports, quarterly comparative fee and performance insights and certain private alternative investment reviews.

Is your aggregation technology secure?

Yes. Our technology is a non-transactional aggregation system that pulls in information that is already online. It uses 256-bit encryption and secured socket layer protection, among other security features. For a full review of the security measures in place, please see our 2-minute security video here.

What are key similarities and differences between the Personal CFO and Private Family Office?

The similarities are that both platforms begin with financial organization, an independent evaluation and a Comprehensive Wealth Review. For both platforms, we will retrieve, review and synthesize all of your documents and financial information – including your tax returns, wills and trust documents, insurance policies, statements and employment documents.  The resulting Comprehensive Wealth Review will reveal financial strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats along with conclusions on recommended strategies moving forward.

The differences become relevant after the Comprehensive Wealth Review is delivered and the resulting action items list is created. At that point, the Personal CFO service will continue for an entire year and our wealth advisors and strategists will make themselves available for monthly update calls or meetings. In contrast, the more involved Private Family Office service will continue on a quarterly basis and our wealth advisors and strategists will make themselves available on a weekly update calls or meetings. The Private Family Office includes a host of other services not included in the Personal CFO service – such as a maximum 20-to-1 client-to-advisor ratio, customized monthly aggregated reporting, outside advisor evaluations and benchmarking, and inclusion of lineal family members.

Overall, the differences between the Personal CFO and the Private Family Office relate to the level of involvement that your financial situation requires. That level of involvement is often correlated with net worth levels, but may also include other factors – such as financial sophistication, amount of complexity, job demands, amount of free time and interest in being involved in financial matters and coordinating with advisors.  As an example, a client who runs a local business with ten employees, owns two homes, has a spouse and two young kids, has one or two investment managers, set up one trust and has a middle to high six-digit income may be an appropriate fit for our Personal CFO service. In contrast, a client who serves as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, owns five homes, has four investment managers, holds several accounts overseas, pays alimony to an ex-wife and child support for four adult kids, has three trusts, has four LLCs and has a seven or eight-digit income will likely be a more appropriate fit for our Private Family Office service.

How much of my time do you need before completing a Comprehensive Wealth Review?

You may provide as little time as you are able and willing to provide that still will allow your goals to be accomplished. For example, after the initial consultation meeting to determine how we might be able to assist you, you might determine that the fastest way for us to retrieve needed documents such as tax returns, wills, insurance policies and other documents would be to request such documents from your other advisors. This is common and we have a general letter of authorization form that you may sign in order to effectuate that process. After we retrieve such documents from your outside advisors (who may or may not reach out to you to verify your authorization), we will then schedule a 30-minute confirmation call with you to show you the financial reports we constructed based upon the documentation retrieved. So the time commitments from you before the Comprehensive Wealth Review altogether amounts to approximately 30 minutes in this situation plus whatever amount of time was required for the consultation meeting. As for the Comprehensive Wealth Review itself, that meeting will require anywhere from two to five hours of meeting time, depending on complexity. Since it involves a discussion of all aspects of your financial life, it is typically the longest single meeting we will have.

How much of my time do you need after the Comprehensive Wealth Review?

After the Comprehensive Wealth Review meeting, the amount of time required by you will depend on what ongoing service was elected. For the annual Personal CFO, our wealth advisors and strategists commit to making themselves available for scheduled monthly update calls or meetings, with more as possible by us and warranted by a given situation. Those calls or meetings will last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, and aims to review progress towards completing action items. For our more involved Private Family Office service, our wealth advisors and strategists commit to making themselves available for 30-minute scheduled weekly update calls or meetings if such frequency is desired.

How long does it take you to retrieve and synthesize my information?

This process can take anywhere from three to five weeks. The greater the extent of assets and information, the longer the process typically takes.

What happens after you retrieve and synthesize my information?

Once financial documents and information are retrieved and organized, we schedule a 30-minute confirmation call with you to show you the information and documentation we were able to retrieve. Once that information and document is discussed and appears to have been synthesized properly, we ask questions related to your risk tolerance and overall financial planning objectives. Once this information is received, we will begin to analyze your situation – including constructing various “what if” scenarios, researching opportunities and writing our recommendations. The Comprehensive Wealth Review is typically delivered two to three weeks thereafter.

Do you have a minimum net worth size?

We do not have a minimum net worth size; however, our Comprehensive Wealth Review and Personal CFO service begins to make sense around three million in net worth and our ongoing Private Family Office and Analytics services begin to make sense around thirty million in net worth.

Do you service clients nationwide?

Yes. We currently have clients in several states across the United States – from the east coast to the west coast. We travel frequently.

I am interested in exploring whether Total Alignment would be a good fit for me.  What is next?

We are pleased that you are interested in exploring a relationship with us. As a next step, we encourage you to call us at 212-913-9110 to set up an appointment to speak with us. You may also e-mail us at info@totalalignmentwealth.com.