Client Experiences

Client Experiences

SHWM believes strongly that affluent individuals, families and institutions deserve objective advice. We partner with you to tackle all your financial challenges and goals – serving as a trusted advisor you can depend on for timely, objective advice that always has your best interests at heart. Because we do not sell products, we are able to provide unbiased options and recommendations. Following are some stories of ways we have worked with our clients to help them solve problems or achieve their goals.


Special Needs Trust Empowers Caregiver and Spouse

A married couple were long-time clients of the firm. From the beginning of our relationship with them, the husband (John) worked and his wife (Jane) was disabled due to a progressive disease. As the husband began to approach retirement age, they came to us to discuss retirement planning as well as planning for Jane’s care in the event John predeceased her. John knew that often, the demands of being a caregiver increase the likelihood that the special needs individual will outlive the caregiver.

John had been personally taking care of many of Jane’s needs over the years and while it had been important to him to do so, it took a physical and emotional toll on him as well. The progression of her disease required increasing attention and presence, which meant that he was spending less time taking care of himself and no longer enjoying many of the outside activities he had taken part in in the past.

John and Jane had received some advice from an attorney and a physician that they were unsure of and as part of our conversation, they sought our input on that advice.

We assembled an extended team of SHWM and Smith & Howard professionals as well as two outside providers: an attorney that specializes in special needs trusts and an advisor on aging life care. The team reviewed the situation, developed a recommendation and plan for the couple. The overall plan included addressing insurance coverage, estate planning, charitable giving and an overall financial plan for their current and future needs.

SHWM, in concert with the tax professionals of Smith & Howard, the attorney and the aging life care advisor set up a special needs trust for Jane and a third-party special needs trust for John.

Part of John and Jane’s overall goals were to include charitable giving in their current and estate planning. We included this in our discussion and final plan with them. We were also able to help them determine eligibility for government benefits.

We worked with the aging life care advisor to develop and ensure funds were available for a plan for Jane’s care that would enable John to take some time to himself and enjoy his outside activities. He is now able to spend time biking and take a long weekend with friends on trails or in the mountains and Jane has ongoing care that is carefully monitored to ensure that her needs are met as her medical condition changes.

Without addressing this issue proactively and with transparency among all parties, John would have been left on his own to care for his wife’s needs. The complexity of her medical care requires constant attention and substantial resources. This would have worn on his physical and mental state and could potentially create an even more dire circumstance for his wife were he to predecease her. Additionally, John would likely have worked longer to maintain his benefits and salary, had he not had a plan that allows him to retire at a reasonable age without substantial negative impact.

With a plan in place, the needs of both Jane and John are now being met, they have peace of mind about their physical and financial situation and are able to spend less time worrying and more time enjoying their time together (and apart).


After a Divorce: A Matter of Trust

Margaret came to Smith & Howard Wealth Management shortly after a divorce.

Throughout their long marriage, her then-husband had controlled their finances, so once divorced, Margaret was uncertain and anxious about managing her new financial situation. She wanted to make sure that she managed her relatively modest settlement wisely, but knew very little about the ins and outs of financial planning and investments. To add to the already-difficult situation, she had four children who each brought emotional and financial demands to the situation.

Like many newly divorced people, Margaret was reticent about trusting others to give her sound advice – especially on financial matters. At the same time, she recognized that she needed to act quickly. While our work with Margaret involved education on investments, financial planning, estate and retirement planning, it also extended to providing a certain level of emotional support.

Margaret experienced anxiety about the lack of income, the limited time period in which she would receive alimony, and her ability to meet the emotional and financial needs of her children all with a relatively small settlement in relation to her ex-husband’s net worth. She had to change her lifestyle, which required working with us on a financial plan that identified a sustainable level of withdrawals from her portfolio.

We also coordinated with her estate attorney when drafting trust documents so that we could educate her on the purpose of the trusts and the most appropriate assets with which to fund the trusts.

Being able to trust us on both a financial and emotional level brought Margaret peace of mind and a growing sense of confidence that, although things are difficult now, she is on the right track for a brighter future.


Retirement Plan Consulting Services for Businesses



XYZ Company was referred to us for 401(k) consulting. Their issues: they had an existing 401(k) plan, but interaction and communication was all online with no input or guidance from an advisor. As a result, communication (to the participants and to the executive team) was poor, investment choices were limited, participation was low and the plan seemed to be designed for someone else.



Smith & Howard Wealth Management’s 401(k) advisors created a strategy to review both the plan design and the investment provider. This began with introducing a local Third Party Administrator (TPA) to oversee the design and administration of the plan. The TPA provided a plan solution that was customized, allowing the client to achieve their goals in a more effective manner than the cookie-cutter plan they had. Also, the client now benefited from direct communication with a dedicated administrator. At the same time, SHWM prepared a Request for Proposal from several qualified plan providers (including the existing provider). We collected and reviewed the proposal responses, which included evaluating the available services from the providers and reviewing the investment choices as well as the fees. We provided the client with a recommendation and reasons for that recommendation. Once a change was made by XYZ Company, SHWM held education meetings with the employees, a first for the company and its participants.  The entire process resulted in a much better understanding of the value of the new plan and ultimately in increased participation. An additional benefit is that the employer now has an attractive plan in place that also serves as a recruiting tool.


SHWM was able to customize and improve the current plan while keeping the fees about the same.


Helping a Local Nonprofit with $2M Foundation



$2 million is a lot of money, but for Wall Street firms, it is not. A lack of attention because of a perceived small investment coupled with high turnover of investment managers created frustration for a local nonprofit board.



Smith & Howard Wealth Management’s nonprofit group stepped in to work with the board and provide the level of service they had been lacking. Nonprofits tell us that they enjoy being served by a team that’s been together for years, including an owner of the business.  An added bonus is our affiliation with Smith & Howard, a nationally recognized CPA firm that houses an extensive nonprofit practice. This partnership with Smith & Howard brings the benefit to nonprofits of a blend of wealth management and accounting consulting assistance on an as-needed basis, expertise on the IRS Form 990, board governance advice and invitations to our popular quarterly nonprofit workshops.


For more about our services to nonprofits, visit this page.


Divorce Highlights Need for Financial Advisor



Recently, a woman in the early stages of a divorce was referred to us by her attorney. The couple had been married almost 20 years and had amassed significant wealth, possessions and some debt. Although she had worked after their children went to college, her employment was not the primary source of income for the couple. She had not been involved in the family’s financial planning or investment decisions and was unsure of next steps. She needed advice and guidance from her entire team of advisors to ensure that she received a fair settlement that would provide a secure income for her.



The advisors at SHWM worked closely with our new client and her attorneys to determine all sources of income, investments and insurance and gain a clear picture of the couple’s debt. We also had several conversations about her future goals – her work plans, desires for a residence, alimony versus settlement and more. Although in the midst of the emotions and legal workings of a divorce it can be difficult, it’s important to begin the process of considering the future. We helped her lay the tentative groundwork for the next phase of her life.


Armed with a full understanding of the income and investments available to her, as well as an outline of expenses that can blindside some newly divorced clients, such as health insurance costs, life insurance, home purchase costs and more, our clients was equipped to begin working on a settlement plan.  With our ongoing support and ability to quickly adjust projections as negotiations progressed, she and her legal team were able to secure a settlement that provided a secure future for her.  We were able to help her start her new life with a structured plan to ensure a secure future.


Although we can help anyone at any stage of a divorce, engaging a SHWM investment advisor early in the process can save significant time and increase your ability to secure a final divorce settlement that provides the security you seek.