Graham Wickham and his team continue more than 40 years of meeting financial and insurance service needs in Cobb.
By Jennifer Morrell
Wickham Financial & Insurance Services is more than your typical firm offering a menu of generalized services. Forged by his parents before him, President and CEO Graham S. Wickham is a second-generation owner of Wickham Financial, and he continues the family’s proud tradition of serving others by offering insurance products. He has expanded the family of companies to include financial planning products and strategies to address broader financial needs. The Wickham family’s abiding approach to business and life is expressed in a simple, but powerful, business philosophy: Seek to understand, then to be understood.
For more than 40 years, the Wickham Financial & Insurance Services companies have been a part of the Marietta business community, serving the financial and insurance needs of thousands of individuals, families, and business owners. Most of Wickham’s 1,900 clients are in the state of Georgia, many in Cobb County. However, the firm does have clients nationwide.
“What makes us unique is we’re broken up into teams of experts,” Wickham says. “So, when a client enters or wants to speak to [an expert], whether it’s personal lines or commercial lines of insurance, financial, or legal, when they come through our door, they are being approached with a consultant attitude. Then, we can bridge off that and collaborate with the other teams that need to be involved to accomplish that client’s goals and objectives.”
Wickham and his skilled team of 12 insurance and financial professionals work hard to develop trust and focus on helping clients understand that their goals are obtainable. “Many clients feel that in order to achieve goals, there is this complicated web of strategies,” he says. “We help break things down into their simplest form, explaining complex financial matters in an easy-to-understand way.”
Wickham Financial is an active and engrained part of the Cobb community. The company is a member of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, where Graham is a member of the CEO Roundtable. The firm also is involved with the Marietta Business Association, the Smyrna Business Association, and Kiwanis. Wickham and his team support local charities, such as Center For Family Resources and MUST Ministries, here in Cobb County, and are proud sponsors of the Marietta Blue Devils.
“In keeping with our philosophy of leadership through education, we host multi-day adult education classes with a focus on retirement planning at Marietta Community Schools and Chattahoochee Technical College,” Wickham adds.
Who Needs Financial Planning?
Wickham Financial & Insurance Services takes a detailed, customized approach to managing wealth for clients. Rather than a “jacks of all trades and masters of none” company philosophy, Wickham follows a methodology of listening to their clients, more than speaking. This personalized approach to the financial services offered allows the team to focus on helping their clients solve any financial challenges they may face, now or in the future.
Some may assume that financial planning is only for the affluent. Wickham asserts that people do not need to be wealthy to seek out financial planning and management. “It’s not a measure of wealth,” he says. “It’s about how much control they want over what they’ve worked so hard for. And who do they want it to go to when they can no longer make those decisions, either before they pass or after they pass away?”
Financial planning also affords the client an opportunity to thrive in retirement, if that is the goal and objective, instead of living in a minimal, basic way, he says.
5 Elements of Wealth Management
What makes Wickham different from other financial planning firms is its Total Wealth Management approach. Not all financial advisors talk to their clients about legal matters or tax and accounting strategies, or about risk management strategies from the standpoint of insurance, says Wickham. Many financial advisors choose to focus their conversations with their clients on opening accounts and making investments, and allocations of those investments, because that is their area of expertise.
“What makes our firm stand out is that we do have a team of experts in each of the five areas of wealth management who can assist clients with not only their investments and retirement planning, but their tax strategies, estate planning, and risk management or insurance needs, as well,” he says. “This is what we mean by a ‘Total Approach to Wealth Management.’ It’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario, but a custom approach to each client’s needs.
Those five elements (investments, tax strategies, retirement planning, estate planning, and risk management) encompass a comprehensive tactic to managing what is important to Wickham’s clients, looking at all aspects of their financial lives, through all the stages of their lives, from earning to distributing wealth to passing it on. In the earning stage, the client is working, and his investments are growing. In the distributing stage, the client has retired and is distributing the investment money to himself. And in the final stage, the money and assets he has worked for is distributed to the people and things he cares about most, after he has passed away.
Investing is about defining what you’re trying to accomplish. Is it growth? Is it income? Is it growth and income? Wickham also wants each client to think about how he wants to position those investments to bring the result needed to achieve a goal, and for as long as is needed to achieve it.
Growth essentially means the client is letting his assets increase in value without distribution. Income, however, is when the client may still want his assets to grow, but he also is looking to receive distributions at the same time.
The next component in Total Wealth Management is tax strategies. While it is one’s legal obligation to pay taxes, there are strategies to ensure that one does not overpay taxes, keeping more of what you have worked so hard to achieve. A good, general first step is to look at tax exemptions, deductions, and any credits of which you can take advantage. Next, employer-sponsored retirement plans would be considered. Then one might look at opening individual retirement plans that are not through an employer, such as a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA.
Retirement planning is the part of Total Wealth Management that requires thinking about that next stage of one’s life, Wickham says. Everyone has a unique vision of retirement. Without a clear vision, how can one plan for it? Wickham Financial always encourages its clients — and the attendees of its financial planning classes — to take a moment to sit back, close their eyes, and envision how their retirement looks for them. “It’s important when thinking about retirement planning to consider how much income you need, your expenses, your distributions, and the length of time you anticipate needing them,” Wickham says. “Prior to retiring, it never hurts to do a ‘trial run’ with a budget to inspect what you expect.”
Wickham believes estate planning is one of the most important topics that clients need to think about when considering a wealth management plan. The client basically is stating how he wants what he has worked so hard for to be controlled and distributed while he’s alive, and after he has passed. Ensuring that beneficiaries on insurance policies and retirement accounts are accurate and up to date is a good example.
The next step could be adding some additional legal documentation to clarify and customize the client’s wishes. A will is designed to document those wishes while the client is alive and goes into effect after he has passed. Trusts could be added to be even more definitive and restrictive regarding who receives a client’s assets and how and when they receive them.
The final component that makes up Total Wealth Management is risk management. When thinking about risk management, remember that everything has risks. So, the client must define how much risk he is comfortable taking, compared to how much he wants to pass on to other resources. When thinking about risk and investments (stocks and bonds), think about market risk, company risk, inflation risk, liquidity risk, opportunity risk, etc., Wickham says.
“You need to define that risk and make sure you’re comfortable with it, based on your goals, objectives, and time horizon,” he says. “Another risk management mitigation tool is insurance. Insurance is meant to indemnify or make us whole. Whether it’s auto, homeowner’s, business coverage, life or health, you want to make sure that each of those policies accurately covers the loss you’re trying to mitigate. It’s essential to understand how much risk you are willing and capable of absorbing compared to how much you want to pass on.”
Wickham Financial Group, Inc. is a Registered Investment Adviser. This article is solely for informational purposes. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Wickham Financial Group, Inc. and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Wickham Financial Group, Inc. unless a client service agreement is in place.
Retirement Planning Classes
Retirement Planning classes from Wickham Financial & Insurance Services are scheduled for Tuesdays, January 25 and February 1 and Saturdays, January 29 and February 4. They will take place at the Marietta Campus of Chattahoochee Technical College.
Call 770.424.8711 for more information.