OUR PROCESS is simple. First, we listen to hear where you are, financially speaking as well as personally and professionally.  Then, we ask you where you’d like to be in life, now and into the future.

This frames our discussion with YOUR real life events; which then serves as the foundation from which we can branch into any number of discussions about comprehensive financial planning, estate planning, income tax planning, and/or investment management AS THEY RELATE TO YOU, NOW!  We mutually agree upon whatever direction and/or service(s) may be prudent, both in the short-term, and in the medium-to-longer-term and we take the next step, together, in professional partnership with you.

Financial Planning Examples from Debra L. Morrison on Vimeo.

For FINANCIAL PLANNING, we use a process called Design, Build & Protect:


Much like an architect drafting plans for the structure about to be built, we draft a blueprint for your success.  We then assess what assets you have that we can incorporate into the building process, and determine what additional assets, if any, may be needed in order to custom build your dream life.  After we've built the financial plan that will fit with your objectives, we'll put safeguards in place to protect the plan and your dreamsClick here to dive deeper into our Design, Build & Protect process:

For INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT we use a nifty tool called the Portfolio Gap Analysis, which details the expenses, returns, asset allocations and turnover rates of your current portfolio, in an easy-to-read report.  I LOVE analogies if you haven't discovered that yet.  So I like to think of my prospective clients, sitting in their own proverbial 'life boat'.  A happy thought indeed, until someone notices that the boat is taking on water, and unless the hole that is letting in the water is found and repaired quickly, depending upon the size of the hole, that 'life' boat will soon sink.  When the 'life boat' hole is identified as improper investments, we can repair that improper investments hole with the Portfolio Gap Analysis tool.

Click Here to See a Sample Report

We then discuss investment risk by:

  • educating you as to the types of risk that you want in your portfolio—because these risks add significantly to your potential for enhanced return, and conversely we'll
  • teaching you which risks simply are NOT worth taking with your hard-earned money, and
  • identifying which risks you'll want to eliminate from your portfolio, right here, right now.

I’ve seldom met individuals or couples who understand the MYRIAD TYPES OF RISK; rather, people tend to focus in on one specific risk to the exclusion of other, often-more-deadly- risks.  The December 4th, 2006 edition of Time magazine stated, "We pride ourselves on being the only species that understands the concept of risk, yet we have a confounding habit of worrying about mere possibilities while ignoring probabilities, building barricades against perceived dangers while leaving ourselves exposed to real ones."  Based upon my 34+ years' experience advising people about their money, I fully agree.

I prefer to start with life’s probabilities and plan strategies to manage those, and then put back-up strategies in place to manage the unforeseen risks.  In this way we can act prudently, while conserving resources—time, money and energy—on aspects of life that we simply can’t control.

We talk about what you CAN & must control as a successful investor.  You CAN control:

  • your spending, and
  • to some degree, your earnings, and
  • your savings, and
  • to some degree, your taxes, and
  • your trades within your portfolio, and
  • your portfolio expenses. 

You can’t control:

  • the direction of interest rates, or
  • the value of the yen (or any currency) relative to the dollar, or
  • the future price of gold, or stocks or bonds, or
  • whether the US will give us greater returns that other countries in the world or
  • when you will die, or
  • how your investments will perform every day or every week or every month, or
  • future income or estate tax rates.

So, how about we focus on the former things we can control, and manage the latter through constructing effectively diversified portfolios within an Asset Allocation that matches your goals.  That’s fancy language for saying, we determine how much of your portfolio should be invested in large stocks, tiny stocks, US stocks, and International stocks, and bonds of all types.  You've most likely seen an investment 'pie'--Asset Allocation is how the pie is sliced up--which types of investments we'll use, as well as the size of each 'pie' slice.

The final piece to this academically rooted arithmetic centric investment discipline is determining the particular percentage you will want to invest into each of the asset classes selected.  In other words, it’s not enough to state, “ok, we want to invest in both the US stock market and the International Stock Market.  We have to drill down and say, “historically, where have the excess returns come from in both the US Stock markets and in the International Stock markets.  And, WHY did the math turn out that way?  And are those reasons likely to carry forward into future analysis and probabilities?

We incorporate the wisdom and market pricing research of Nobel Laureatte Prize Winners in Economics including yet not limited to, Harry Markowitz—the Founder of Modern Portfolio Theory—Read More—and 1990 Nobel Prize Winner, as well as Eugene Fama, Founder of Dimensional Fund Advisors and 2013 Nobel Prize Winner in Economics.    These men have analyzed hundreds of thousands of pieces of data and price histories to prove that over time, something called Passive Investing BEATS Active Investing. 

Here's a chart showing the percentage of time that Active Investment Managers actually FAILED to beat their underlying index.  It's sobering isn't it?


At Empowered Retirement, Inc., we construct an effectively diversified portfolio utilizing Dimensional Fund Advisors’ Institutional Mutual Funds.  This recommended portfolio is then entered into Loring Ward's sophisticated Portfolio Gap Analysis and compared against your current portfolio to produce a series of ‘results’ pages that are readable by folks who don’t have any training in financial planning or asset management whatsoever.  Yes indeed, it's written in English! 

Investors read and see for themselves the stark differences that even trimming ½ of 1 % off their fees, for example, amount to over time.  And when our clients see and understand that the historical investment returns of active mutual funds have fallen woefully short of those of passive mutual funds, it’s a compelling story; one that catapults them into passive investing.

My experience is that investors much prefer to have choices as we age.  And guess what?  Enhanced returns buy more choices; it’s that simple.

REBALANCING -We engage in a process called Rebalancing, which, for once in the world of finance-eze, is exactly what it sounds like.  If we determine together that you would be best equipped to meet your short and long term goals with 60% of your portfolio invested in stocks and 40% invested into bonds, we create the initial portfolio and purchase the appropriate Institutional Mutual Funds. 

Invariably the very next day, the market prices change, and all of a sudden, or over a few weeks or months perhaps, you see that your portfolio is now 64% stocks and only 36% bonds, for example.  What to do?  Well, you have two choices, of course.  The first choice is that you do nothing, the second choice is that you sell off the extra 4% in this example; i.e., the excess of the current percentage allocation over that of the original 60% position, and invest it where?  Into the 36% bond position.  Granted the initial thought may seem incredulous, "What? Selling my winners to buy more losers?"  Well, yes, in the short term, we are recommending just that.

However, if you believe like we do, in the ongoing market cycles, of upward trends and downward trends, then you accept the fact that what goes up must come down and what is down will most likely go up—the only mystery is the timing for these market movements.  History has shown us that the mathematics of rebalancing adds value to investor’s portfolios; so that’s why we do it.

FINANCIAL PLANNING and/or CONSULTING SERVICES- Depending upon the complexity of your situation, we may suggest any number of planning or consulting services, if we feel strongly that we can add significant value to your life.  A separate fee is charged for these services, which vary depending upon individual circumstances.