The financial services industry loves acronyms—as an example, I am a CFP1 that works at an RIA2 which makes me an IAR3—yeesh!   At Meridian we try to strip all of the jargon and opaque phrases from our conversations, as we want to help people truly understand their money and what it can do for them and their families.  But, a recent article in the May 2017 Journal of Financial Planning4 about a shift in jargon caught my eye.

Many times in financial planning, conversations default to an ROI—or “return on investment”—conversation.  Questions like “am I earning enough on my investments?” or “do I have enough?” often drive the fear that makes us anxious about managing our money.  However, Steve Sanduski, author of the Journal article, states that these ROI questions are off track.

Sanduski asserts that questions surrounding ROL—“return on life”—are far more important.  These questions sound more like “am I using my money in a way that is improving my life?” or “are my assets moving forward to create freedom to live the life I want?”

At Meridian, we could not agree more—and the following “planks of belief” that Sanduski outlines (his words are in italics below) are part of our core:

  1. Money is not an end.  We believe that money is a utility—unless it is being used, then it has no intrinsic meaning.  Money is merely a tool to express our values, share with those we love, and ultimately support and secure our families.
  2. Comparative measures are neither helpful nor necessary in making progress. While comparing progress to benchmarks has a place, ultimately true success is defined by what is critically important to each individual client.
  3. Progress must be personalized. Progress is best measured against each individual client’s own goals.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ happy ending!
  4. How we are compensated is a matter of absolute transparency before our clients. If we are serious about helping our clients have their best possible life with the resources that they have, then how we are compensated is a matter of integrity and transparency.  We do not accept commissions or other hidden fees to recommend products to our clients.  The only entity paying us is our clients, and our fees are fully disclosed on each statement.
  5. We are stewards of wealth. Ultimately, since you can’t take your wealth with you after you pass, all assets end up in the hands of others—how they arrive and how they are allocated are squarely in the control of our clients.  We want to help our clients make good decisions and shepherd their resources carefully.
  6. We will not entrust our clients’ well-being to anyone who does not put the clients’ interests ahead of their own. As part of our responsibility to act in our clients’ best interests, we often need to pull in additional professionals such as attorneys or accountants to assist our clients.  When we do invite other professionals to join the team that is serving our clients, we will not use any professional that does not demonstrate actively putting clients’ needs first.

While we do love discussing ROI and the intricate details of investment strategies and planning techniques, we do understand that the reason that we employ these techniques is ultimately to help our clients achieve the ROL that they desire.  If you are interested in discussing what you are trying to accomplish in your life and how your money can help support that vision, we look forward to talking to you soon…


2Registered Investment Advisor
3Investment Advisor Representative
4”Transforming from ROI-Centric Planning to Return on Life Planning”, Mitch Anthony and Steve Sanduski, Journal of Financial Planning, May 2017

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