What We Do

Making good financial decisions is challenging in today’s increasingly complex environment. Personalized planning allows you to make informed choices.  We will help you define steps to reach your life goals which, in turn, will simplify financial decision-making. 

Our planning process organizes your financial affairs and gives you the knowledge and guidance to make educated financial choices.  It’s custom-tailored to you, your long-term goals, and your values. 

We start by gathering and analyzing all aspects of your financial resources. You will work with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™ at Willow Creek in creating an initial “road map” clarifying the steps we recommend to reach your goals. And the planning process doesn’t stop there. We review the plan regularly, considering changes in your personal circumstances and the global economy. Applying discipline and strategy to a well thought out financial plan provides clarity that allows you to pursue your life and interests with confidence and peace of mind.

The Willow Creek Planning Process

Your plan is framed by a process based on the best practices laid out by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and is based on decades of experience by the nation’s leading personal financial planning professionals.

  • Your financial affairs will be organized.
  • Your needs and goals in life will be identified.
  • You’ll understand your assets and liabilities.
  • Your cash inflows and outflows will be analyzed.
  • Your employee benefits will be clarified.
  • You’ll have a plan to achieve your life goals and for a financially secure retirement.
  • You’ll have a strategy for funding your children’s education.
  • Your current assets and investments will be reviewed.
  • Your asset management recommendation will be synchronized with your financial plan.
  • Your tax situation will be analyzed and incorporated into your asset management, cash flow, and retirement plan recommendations.
  • Your current insurance coverage will be reviewed and your needs will be addressed.
  • Your estate plan will be reviewed.

Investment Management

Investing creates wealth. Unlike saving (a low-risk approach designed to protect your money with little concern for growth), or speculating (a high-risk attempt to make a lot of money quickly), investing is a thoughtful, prudent approach to money management. Investing not only involves taking the reasonable risks necessary in exchange for the opportunity to earn higher long-term returns, but also requires discipline and planning.

Our Investment Philosophy

Our philosophy is to design and manage portfolios utilizing a disciplined long- term strategy based on sound fundamentals proven to influence investment success. The foundation of our investment management philosophy is based on rigorous academic research and financial science, which shows that a properly diversified selection of uncorrelated asset classes, managed with a disciplined rebalancing methodology, is the best approach to provide investors the highest probability of attaining their financial goals. Diversification and Asset Allocation

An important component of successful investment management is reducing risks that do not generate additional expected portfolio return. The key to eliminating these risks is diversification, which is the formal name for the principle: You should not put all your eggs in one basket.

An additional risk affecting security returns that is non-diversifiable is called systematic (Market) risk. A number of empirical studies have proven asset allocation or asset class selection – choice of riskier assets (e.g. stocks) vs. less risky assets (e.g. bonds or cash equivalents), for instance – is what matters most in determining the risk and return of a portfolio. We work extensively with each client to establish a portfolio mix that meets their individual risk/reward profile after a careful assessment of financial goals, short and long-term cash flow needs, investment time horizon, and tolerance for market volatility.

Size and Value Factors

While diversification is necessary to minimize unnecessary risks, another key function of successful asset management includes capturing the highest expected return, given a specific level of risk. Numerous academic studies illustrate that value stocks (or stocks trading at low multiples of their book value per share) and smaller company stocks have historically offered higher returns. Since the early 1990’s, Willow Creek has been recommending institutional mutual funds from Dimensional Fund Advisors, an investment firm which pioneered the advantages of passively-managed, small company and value investing

Opportunistic Rebalancing – “Buy Low, Sell High”

We introduced a proprietary rebalancing program over a decade ago that captures unpredictable, sporadic market movements. Our rebalancing strategy has helped our clients significantly in volatile markets. Rebalancing, if pursued with discipline and without emotion, is one of the best ways to systematically reinforce the practice of buying low and selling high.

Tax Management

Willow Creek places a strong emphasis on after-tax total return through our ongoing portfolio tax management program, which focuses on capital gains management, tax loss harvesting, asset location, and other tax savings strategies unique to your particular circumstances.

Investment Costs

While future returns to any individual investment or asset class cannot be controlled, we can exert control over the degree to which those returns are reduced by ongoing fees and expenses. Investments with low ongoing expense ratios should be favored over investments with higher expenses. A guiding principle of the Willow Creek discipline is keeping investment expenses transparent, straightforward, competitive and low, which proportionately increases net returns.

Retirement Plan Distributions Management
Many clients have questions about how to move from the accumulation stage to the distribution stage in retirement. Willow Creek will advise you on the most sensible and tax-efficient ways to take money out of your retirement accounts to make it last. Rollover strategies, periodic distributions, and the the prioritization of account withdrawals can be creatively managed to provide you with income for today and growth for tomorrow.

Qualified Plan Consulting

Willow Creek reviews all qualified and tax advantaged plans including your 401(k), 403b and deferred compensation plans, and recommends how to coordinate them with the rest of your portfolio. Many pension plans offer you a choice between “a little-at-a-time” lifetime annuity payments or a lump-sum payout of your entire balance. When the time comes to make that decision, we will help you determine the best option.

If you are self-employed or own a business, your unique needs and resources will be evaluated to help you choose the most suitable type of retirement plan. And for those clients with large retirement versus taxable accounts, we will also run an analysis on the appropriateness of a Roth IRA conversion.

Social Security Planning

One of the most important retirement decisions you will make is when and how to claim your Social Security benefits. The age at which you claim Social Security can have a dramatic effect on your monthly benefits and, if married, those of your spouse. The Social Security program provides choices when it comes time to claim your benefit. We can help you choose the best strategy for your unique situation as it relates to the rest of your plan

Personal Retirement Planning Service
  • Helps you define your ideal retirement.
  • Helps you identify your goals in later life.
  • Quantifies resources needed to fund those goals.
  • Finds the best vehicles to fund your goals.
  • Makes realistic projections about your future.

Tax planning strategies require comprehensive, year-round attention. They cannot wait until April 15 each year.

We can work with your tax advisor to find ways to reduce your tax bill and/or increase your after-tax portfolio return.

We will help you with:

  • Tax-efficient portfolio construction and management.
  • Qualified retirement plan analysis and recommendations.
  • Roth IRA Conversion analysis.
  • Mortgage refinancing.
  • Debt restructuring to maximize allowable interest deductions.
  • Planned giving strategies and charitable contributions.
  • Tax-smart planning for stock options.
  • Income shifting and deductible expense planning.
  • Real estate strategies (tax-deferred exchanges, installment sales, etc.)

Real Estate Consulting
We can analyze ownership and financing options involving your primary residence, a vacation home, or investment properties in conjunction with your financial plan and overall investment goals.

Business Planning
We can provide recommendations on cash flow management, financing alternatives, creation of a retirement plan and succession planning for your small business, professional corporation or sole proprietorship.

Stock Option Analysis
We can provide clarity about the rules and best timing to exercise stock options including the tax ramifications involved and subsequent reinvestment choices.

Socially Responsible (SRI) & Green Investing
We consider your political, religious and moral concerns carefully when crafting your portfolio. We can suggest several effective options for SRI and “green” investing for all or part of your portfolio.

Estate Planning
We can integrate your estate plan with your financial plan to protect your loved ones after you are gone. We will work with your attorney to ensure your plans are properly established and periodically reviewed as your financial and family circumstances change.

Divorce Planning
We can assist our clients and their attorneys during a divorce to ensure joint financial concerns and their long-term ramifications are understood and addressed during this often difficult process.

Elder Care
Aging parents create difficulties for many families. We can help you make the best, most compassionate decisions regarding your parents’ real estate and investment assets when they can no longer decide for themselves.

We all have personal reasons for giving to charity, but at the core of our intention is a common desire to share our good fortune with others. You may have the capacity and desire to give, but may need help in determining the most effective way to leave a lasting legacy. We can help you customize a giving program to meet your goals.

Effective Giving Techniques
  • Personal and family foundations are a popular tool to responsibly and effectively transfer wealth from your estate to the charities you select. Foundations can be established to enable you and your family to give strategically over the years, building a lifelong commitment to philanthropy.
  • A charitable remainder trust is another alternative that lets you defer capital gains taxes on highly appreciated assets, such as stocks and real estate. Planned gifts through a charitable remainder trust can reduce your estate taxes, provide an immediate charitable income tax deduction, increase your spendable income, and protect your family’s financial future.
  • Planned giving strategies can help you transfer substantial assets over a period of years without triggering the federal gift tax. Lifetime gifts can also be one of the most effective ways of minimizing estate taxes.
  • Charitable giving not only benefits those in need, but also brings you and your family personal satisfaction. Good deeds endure long after financial benefits are realized.