Wealth Management: Case Study

The Problem

Michael & Sarah are in their 50’s and the last of their three children just left the nest. Over their working career they’re surprised that they’ve accumulated a significant nest egg. Michael is a Senior Developer at a large tech employer and recently they had a massive workforce reduction that he survived. Sarah is a HR Manager at a quickly growing startup, but has recently had their own round of layoffs that Sarah had to implement. They both love their work, but the recent stresses have them daydreaming about retirement. 

The Solution

Being empty nesters, they are excited to spend more time getting to know each other again. They have a general understanding of how their investments work in principle, but consider themselves lucky to have built their assets without really knowing whether they were doing the right things. They prefer not to have to learn about building a portfolio for retirement and beyond, as well as, navigating their taxes and making sure their income lasts throughout their lifetime. After searching for a fee-only fiduciary financial planner, they saw that Level Up Financial Planning specializes in tech professionals and scheduled a meeting.

The Process

During their intro meeting, Michael and Sarah are initially surprised about the investments being the last part of their Level Up Strategy Guide Process, but appreciate that their investment portfolio will truly be customized after they are able to clarify their vision of the future. They can’t wait to get started and schedule a meeting for the next week.


In the values and possibilities meeting, Michael shares his vision for retirement including going out for brunch in the middle of the week, checking out new movies, and expanding their garden. Sarah is envisioning grandchildren running around and writing a book. Even though their children are now young adults, they are still a focal point of concern with their plans. They want to make sure they are okay, and clarify that they want to help with wedding costs and a down payment for their first homes.


In The Getting Organized Meeting, they realize that they’ve each accumulated a full house of retirement accounts from previous employers. They’re excited when they find out that they can consolidate many of their accounts. This is also the first time they actively looked at their social security benefit statement, which in the past always seemed so far away, but feels very relevant and timely now. They both agree that they’d like to retire at the same time when they turn 60 and mention that they really hope they’ve done enough to have that opportunity. They also add specific dollar amounts for goals of funding weddings and 1st home down payments. 


In the Strategy Guide 1.0 meeting, they reflect on the things that they are most excited about for their future. They laugh and comment at their net worth of $1.5 million in net worth, “would have never thought we’d see that number associated with us”. It’s no accident they built their wealth, they always lived within their means and didn’t chase status symbols that didn’t actively add real value to their lives. When reviewing their weaknesses, Lucas respectfully acknowledges the lack of an investment process because each of their accounts had very different portfolio structures. They both agreed that they didn’t have a process and just “randomly” chose based on their gut feelings after reviewing the historical returns. The big reveal of their current plan indicates that they have a 70% chance of success without making any changes. This is dramatically improved if they save an additional $400/month or if they delay retirement to age 62.

The Results


The Level Up Recommendations: They each have a substantial amount of vested employer stock that they do not have a desire to hold but were worried about taxes. Lucas recommends that they sell off a portion of their employer stock and use the proceeds to max out their retirement accounts, which will offset the taxable gains. They also have an expensive life insurance policy they were sold that they were paying $500/month to maintain. Another recommendation is that they obtain a 10-year term insurance policy that matches their current policies death benefit and once in place cancel their expensive whole life insurance policy. Regarding Social Security, Lucas explains how they can maximize their lifetime social security income.  They also identify that whether they retire at age 60 or 62, there will be a significant opportunity to implement Roth conversions and efficiently reduce their lifetime tax bill.  

Investment Strategy Guide Meeting: Michael and Sarah each share why they started investing with their first jobs because that’s what their managers told them to do. They review the Level Up Investment Process and have a better understanding of why their investments fluctuate over time and what to expect if a market recession occurs and what target return is needed to stay on track for retirement and their other goals. They agree to implement an investment strategy that consolidates their investments into less accounts and all coordinated with the same Level Up Investment Process. They are relieved that their investment portfolio is now intentional and lines up with their strategy guide of achieving their goals. They chose not to take any more risk than is necessary, which allowed them to reduce their risk exposure.


Following their initial strategy guide meetings, Michael and Sarah know that their retirement dreams are within their reach. So much of the uncertainty and hope has now been replaced with a new plan and actions that allowed them to speed up their ability to reach their goals. One big difference was the term-life insurance cost was $100 instead of $500, which allows them to protect the coverage they need for 10-years and invest the difference to help them meet their early retirement goal of age 60 with no adjustment to their lifestyle.