Special to California Business Journal.
Todd Halterman, one of the most influential independent private-wealth advisors in the country, has managed more than $400 million in financial assets — along with the hopes and dreams of the clients he serves – and he says he owes it all to his grandmother – actually, to both of his grandmothers.
“I got in the business 25 years ago because my grandmothers both lost their husbands,” Halterman says. “One grandfather died after an eight-year battle with Alzheimer’s. My other grandfather died early and his pension died with him. I was totally stunned that the systems that should have been protecting them did nothing of the sort. I volunteered to help them figure out what they were going to do with their lives now that they didn’t have their lifelong confidantes.”
As Halterman navigated the ‘wheeling and dealing’ with lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, stockbrokers and bankers, he learned a lot about what “not to do.”
“I learned how lazy some people in my industry can be,” he says. “They all have an objective in mind and it’s usually not solving the right problem. I got mad. I started volunteering my time in the business to advocate for families — to make sure they had a life plan and that everybody was talking to each other before somebody died, not after.”
As he grew his practice, Halterman witnessed the plight of more seniors like his grandmother who was left in a “vulnerable situation” when her spouse died.
“When the casserole’s done being served and the meatloaf is gone and all the family has gone back home and it’s quiet, the widows and widowers are sitting there, paralyzed with fear,” he says. “I see everything they go through alone, and I stay there to help them sort it out.”
Halterman learned through the years that most seniors “aren’t just worried about outliving their money — they’re worried about outliving their pets. I can’t tell you how many animals I’ve taken to the shelter over the years because the plan that their owners wanted didn’t get followed after they were gone — nobody really cares about their animal as much as they do.”
So Halterman created a program called Our Forever Friends, a solution designed to help guarantee the foster and adoption of the ‘beloved’ pets. Supported by his legion of senior volunteers, “their trusted companions will be cared for and their welfare guarded for the life of the animal.” he explains.
“The plan allows families to save on taxes, protect their pets and leave a lasting gift that will help other people save their animals. Our clients are remembered for their values not their checkbooks. Their name will be synonymous with protecting all of our community’s animals while sustaining the charities that care for them – like Benton-Franklin Humane Society.”
He has seen the debilitating effects of loneliness and isolation in seniors so he also founded Active4Life, which provides social activities and education for seniors, through wine tastings, lunches, museum tours and painting classes.
“Seniors often feel isolated after losing a spouse or retiring – their habits are disrupted,” Halterman says. “We help them develop new habits – we host fun events in the community to meet new people and just enjoy being retired and living on purpose.”
The group has grown from 28 people to 200 in less than a year in his home community in Washington.
Halterman has an overarching goal for all his clients – what he calls “disinheriting the IRS.” He lays it out straight: “When you die, there are three organizations you can leave your assets to. You have to pick two by law. One is charities, one is loved ones, and the other is the IRS. I’ve never in 25 years had any family tell me they wanted the IRS to inherit their assets.”
He starts by identifying the charities his client is interested in. “Resources that would have gone to the IRS now go to a charitable mission in the name of the family. That’s how buildings get built, that’s how ministries get set up and established in sustainable ways.”
Halterman has come up with a blueprint for families to minimize taxes and grow and protect their wealth for a lifetime. He calls it the:
Six Pillars of Financial Empowerment.
PILLAR 1: Map out a life plan.
Write down a clear vision of how you and your family wish to live and play during your lifetime, building your dreams and hopes into everyday life.
PILLAR 2: Establish an income plan.
Once a clearly defined path is created, figure out your number for income. It’s a customized solution to getting the paychecks you need every day and the play checks you want for life.
PILLAR 3: Carve out a tax plan.
Taxes are necessary. Building a tax plan can help to mitigate liabilities, increase income and maximize profit while not giving too much away to the IRS.
PILLAR 4: Create a legal plan.
Life happens. You need to shield your assets through a well-rounded estate and personal succession plan to protect your estate from lawsuits and accidents.
PILLAR 5: Manage your risk.
You can transfer risk from your checkbook to insurance companies or employ other legal strategies. Risks that are improperly priced will derail most retirement plans.
PILLAR 6: Choose the right investments.
Decide what investments work for you to provide the income and growth for confidence and clarity in your life. It’s easy when you determine how you want to live, and how you want to be remembered when you die.
Halterman successfully implements this plan to teach, coach and counsel individual families. “I don’t just build wealth,” he says. “I want people to understand that money is just a way of keeping track. It’s really about values and how people live their life and want to be remembered.”