From the October 2004 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Using Custom Tools

This talk about custom-tailoring solutions is all well and good, but an obvious objection may be forming in your head. It all sounds great, you might say, but what is it going to cost? As it turns out, not as much as you might think.

The resource that will be taxed the most in solving client problems will be your time. But when it comes to actual expenses, in our practice we've found that, much like a country doctor who makes house calls, a little black bag with all of our tools--things that we pay for one time--can be used over and over again in diagnosing and treating the financial health of our clients.

Probably the most commonly used gizmo in our bag is a piece of software that calculates the return distribution for a given asset allocation. There are lots of commercially available solutions out there, most of which use Monte Carlo simulation to determine a range of likely outcomes given a client portfolio's stock and bond mix, but in the end we wrote our own.

For example, a fair number of our prospects are professionals who are making the transition from earning income to withdrawing capital from retirement accounts. By getting information on the client's spending habits, total assets, and a proposed portfolio mix, a Monte Carlo simulator can show a wide range of potential outcomes for that mix.

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