Our Process

You’ve worked to earn your retirement. Here’s your chance to learn it. And live it. We Can Help.

Our process starts with open knowledge and the sharing of information. Then, after a serious investment of time devoted to the details, the plan starts to go only one way: your way. We are here to help guide you in that direction with our unique financial relationship.


We want to help each of our clients understand more about the retirement journey they are about to take. We offer retirement education courses at most major university campuses in Michigan and online throughout the year. They are taught by our established, experienced instructors, ready to address the key financial topics of retirement with energy and full engagement to your questions. Every new client we work with comes through this eight-hour course and is further informed on every strategy we will present to them.

Time & Detail

We devote a minimum of 50 hours to the initial design of your retirement plan. This is not a cursory glance at your situation or a half-day’s work. This is a dedicated, fully detailed analysis of proposed options, strategies, risk factors and potential outcomes. We look at everything you’ve learned about in our retirement education course: Income Planning, Investment Planning, Health Care Planning, Tax Planning and Estate Planning. Our deep dive into your plan will address all of these major pieces and how they can apply to your retirement goals. We believe this investment of time and work is of essential value to our clients.

Continued Guidance

With your new knowledge and understanding of retirement concepts — combined with our own education, skills and industry experience — we can move forward together on your plan with more confidence and wisdom. We help you implement every piece of your detailed plan, hold periodic reviews to make sure you’re still on track, and adjust as needed. It’s part of a growing long-term relationship that will stay by your side.

The Four Buckets

The key to having independence and financial security is having a well-disciplined plan that addresses four essential areas in retirement. In order to help our clients navigate retirement, we have developed a holistic approach using a four-bucket asset allocation strategy. Each bucket has a distinct purpose that contributes to long-lasting financial security.

Click on "+" to learn more about each asset-allocation strategy.

If at some point you have an emergency and need money, and if that emergency happens during a bear market, as long as you have sufficient liquidity, you will not have to sell your investments to create the cash you need.

This is the most important bucket in our plan that provides contractually guaranteed lifetime income.*

Depending on the interest rate environment and market conditions, a conservative bond portfolio made up of investment-grade, shorter-duration bonds can be part of the plan. However, with the fluctuating interest rate environment and market conditions, we have found some annuities to be highly effective in creating guaranteed lifetime income.* In fact, the Wharton School of Business conducted a study** in which researchers determined that the best way to preserve your retirement income is through the appropriate use of income-generating annuities. One of the additional benefits of some types of annuities is that they also provide for long-term care without paying exorbitant premiums. If you are 65 and married, there is a 50% chance that one of you will need long-term care. Long-term care needs cannot be overlooked, and if you are looking for long-term care insurance, be prepared to pay very high premiums from which you may never actually reap the benefits. There are many different options available, so it is important to work with someone who has experience working with these extremely complex products (not just an insurance salesman). There are a number of different ways to structure this bucket by using different products at different stages of your retirement years. Remember that as we get older, the letters “ROI” have less to do with “return on investment” and more to do with “reliability of income.”

The purpose of this bucket is to help you grow your wealth without risking your quality of life. While this bucket carries some potential risk, as long as we have developed a sound plan that provides sufficient, lifetime income, our clients should not be forced by need or fear to sell market assets at the worst time and lock in losses. This approach removes the emotions that often occur with many investors when making market decisions, and it helps to avoid the subsequent mistakes.

It is important to understand that through Strategic Investment Advisors, an independent RIA, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our clients. In contrast to a broker, who first represents the firm’s needs, then the shareholder’s needs, and finally the client’s needs, as a fiduciary, we have to disclose all fees or any conflicts of interest and represent the client’s needs first. Another significant advantage to our firm is that our clients have access to an institutional approach, on an institutional platform, with institutional investment options, which is often not the case with a major brokerage firm.

Why do you care? While retail products such as mutual funds allow the public to access financial markets, there are significant costs that are often hidden to the client. For example, when purchasing a mutual fund, you often pay distribution and marketing costs, internal trading commissions and brokers’ commissions. All of these costs are built into these funds in order to make large brokerage firms more profitable. As an institutional advisor, we are often able to bypass these additional costs.

Many of us would like to leave a legacy to those we love, but we also want the freedom to thoroughly enjoy our retirement years. Creating a fixed financial legacy for your beneficiaries from life insurance can give you a “permission slip” to spend more of your own hard-earned money in retirement, knowing that you will still be leaving a financial blessing for your loved ones after you are gone. In addition, proper planning of IRA distributions (Stretch IRAs) is another way to provide a legacy for your beneficiaries.

Incorrect designation of beneficiaries is a mistake we often see, in which clients have accidentally and unknowingly disinherited their children. Making sure your legacy is correctly bequeathed is a critical part of our planning process. Some of our clients also hope to leave a legacy to charities, and we have a number of different methods to accomplish this goal. Some of these are through life insurance, endowments set aside in the will or a charitable annuity trust. A charitable annuity trust is a legacy that can be established while you are alive, and it allows you to receive income as well as tax advantages.

While this process may appear simple, our holistic approach requires discipline and strategy. It’s important to know how to allocate the right assets to each bucket at the most beneficial times, in order to create the most tax-efficient income in retirement and find the most tax-efficient way to pass your assets to your beneficiaries. For the best and most secure results, this process requires an advisor with specific knowledge, experience, and expertise in retirement planning.

Are you working with the right specialist?

Whether you realize it or not, the advisor or firm you choose to work with plays an integral part in determining whether or not you are on track for the retirement you desire. There are many different types of financial professionals in today’s marketplace. Does your advisor operate under the “suitability standard,” or is he/she a “fiduciary”? Are you working with an accumulation-and-growth-at-all-cost advisor, or someone who specializes in preservation and income distribution? Are you on a retail platform or on an institutional platform? Check out more in the Our Process tab to learn more about Finding and Hiring the RIGHT Advisor!

*Guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing company, and may be subject to restrictions, limitations or early withdrawal fees. Annuities are not FDIC-insured.

**Wharton Financial Institutions Center, Personal Finance, Real World Index Annuity Returns, Revised Version, March 4, 2010

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