Financial Planning, Sailing and Stephen Covey: One Minute with John Yetman

What do sailing and financial planning have in common? Unless one of your financial goals is to buy a yacht, your answer is probably, “Nothing.” But John Yetman would disagree. “Financial planning is a lot like sailing,” he said. “You might have a plan to get from Point A to Point B, but you need to adjust to whatever weather comes your way.”

John has been a wealth manager almost his entire career. In this short interview, he shares insights into his approach, including how he helps business owners avoid the “red zone”.

Q: What is the biggest misconception about financial planning you run into?

A: People think putting together a financial plan is a one-time exercise, but it’s not. It is actually a living document that is regularly updated and takes into account the variables of a life: college savings plans, changes in tax rates, changes in rates of return, charitable giving, retirement savings, etc.

Q: You also help business owners with financial planning. How is it different from “personal” financial planning?

For business owners, their biggest asset is probably their company. Somewhere along the way, you have to turn that illiquid company into money. The closer you get to retirement, the more you need to reduce your risk. I call the five years before and the five years after retirement the red zone – you cannot mess anything up or you’ll be working ‘til you’re 80. I work very closely with business owners during that time to ensure they protect the value of their company.

Q: If you could offer business owners one piece of financial advice, what would it be?

Stephen Covey said: “Begin with the end in mind.” What are you trying to achieve and how do you get there? Study what other successful business owners have done and align yourself with people to help you achieve your goals.

Q: Why do business owners choose to work with you?

I understand financial, tax, estate and wealth planning – and I know a lot of people. I can look at a client’s situation from a strategic perspective and coordinate with other experts to put a plan into action.

Q: Did you choose this line of work, or did it choose you?

It chose me. I have an accounting degree, and I originally thought I would work for a big CPA firm. Instead, my first job out of college was as an auditor, and I figured out quickly it was all numbers and no people. I love working with people, so I didn’t last long in that job.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

I have two: I love connecting people, and I love seeing clients realize their dreams. It’s a very satisfying career.