October is Financial Planning Month! Questions about charitable giving are asked quite often, especially around this time of year, and can easily be addressed in a personal financial plan.
Managing a foundation or endowment is an important yet challenging endeavor. It requires a balance of short and long term planning, daily operations and active investment oversight. To add greater complexity, all of the above must be done in a fiduciary compliant manner. No easy task, but that’s where hiring a fiduciary like Unified Trust can help. We have extensive knowledge of the issues facing nonprofit organizations today, as well as the critical importance of establishing effective procedures and prudent policies for investment management.
WHY UNIFIED TRUST?
Your mission is our mission
At Unified Trust being a fiduciary is the very cornerstone of our foundation. What that means for your institution is that you will always receive the highest standard of care in the industry. It means you can count on us to put your organization first by always doing what’s in your best interest. We are here to help you on the journey to achieve your mission.
Transparent and Free of Conflicts
We’ve been transparent from the beginning. Unified Trust was one of the first fee-based, full disclosure, discretionary investment managers in the country2. We have always practiced full disclosure of our costs and fees. We also use an open architecture platform, which allows access to over 20,000 investment options. This gives us the breadth to select investments and investment managers whose philosophies and values align best with the goals of your organization.
Certified for Fiduciary Excellence
In 2006, The Centre for Fiduciary Excellence (CEFEX) certified Unified Trust as meeting its highest standards of Fiduciary Practices for Investment Advisors. Unified Trust was among the first Investment Advisors globally to successfully complete the independent certification process and the first trust company certified in the United States. To maintain our CEFEX certification we submit to annual audits by the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence.
The United States Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) provides regulatory supervision of Unified Trust’s operations. The OCC conducts a thorough examination of our business practices every 18 months. In addition, we undergo five rigorous independent audits every year. These examinations provide reassurance that your institution's investments receive ongoing regulatory oversight.
A National Bank Trust Company
Most financial organizations will say they can be trusted, but at Unified Trust we believe actions speak louder than words. We believe that ‘trust’ needs to be the foundation for everything that we do, which is why we assume the role of a fiduciary and are structured as a national bank trust company.
Prudent Investment Process
Investment portfolios may change over time, but our core philosophies will always be present.
As a discretionary trustee, Unified Trust has a duty to be loyal and to always act in the best interest of the participants. For this reason, we’re fee-based and take a no-conflict-of-interest approach. We’re bound by revenue neutrality, which means that we cannot make any more or less money based on which investments are chosen.
Allocating your institution’s assets across many investment categories allows your organization to participate in a variety of areas – stocks, bonds and cash investments – within the global economy. This helps to spread risk and avoid being overly concentrated in one segment of the market.
We believe asset quality matters. We carefully screen investments on the basis of long-term performance, manager tenure, adherence to stated objectives and other factors which tend to drive outstanding results. Selecting investments with better historic track records can help the portfolio weather the ups and downs of the market.
Keeping costs under control can have a positive impact on long-term performance. We look for investment companies that work to keep expense ratios, management fees and other costs to a minimum, and investments with low turnover rates, stable management and other factors that serve your interests. After all, the lower the costs, the more return your organization retains to help achieve its mission.
We work with your institution to understand its risk tolerance and risk capacity as it relates to achieving short-term and long-term spending goals. Through our managerial oversight and disciplined investment review process, we help keep the portfolio on track during turbulent times.
Like any prudent decision, we take a balanced approach to selecting investments for our clients. Our investment process begins with a quantitative analysis using our Unified Fiduciary Monitoring Index (UFMI). This scoring system provides an evaluation of each investment relative to its peers.
EIGHT MINDS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
Trust Investment Committee
At many other investment firms, each advisor has their own investment philosophy. This can lead to inconsistent and less-than-desirable outcomes for institutions. At Unified Trust, we believe eight minds are better than one. Therefore, all investment strategies are established and overseen by our Trust Investment committee.
This committee is comprised of senior leaders and highly credentialed investment professionals across the company. The committee is responsible for evaluating macroeconomic factors and market conditions that influence our strategic investment decisions. You can rest easy knowing your institution's portfolio is being managed by experts according to prudent investment standards.
What's Your Fiduciary Grade?
Wondering how your board is handling its fiduciary responsibilities? Complete this questionnaire and our fiduciary investment advisors will review your responses, provide an assessment and recommendations for how to improve your fiduciary grade.
Fiduciary Best Practices
A process focused entirely on helping your mission achieve its goals.
Unified Trust uses the Global Standards and the Global Fiduciary Practices as the foundation for helping clients achieve their financial goals in a fiduciary compliant manner. Our fiduciary best practices includes a four-step process that we follow to provide clients with the highest level of fiduciary oversight.
Unified Trust first works with you to understand your institution's short-term and long-term investment goals. From there, our team of experts organize the investment approach, while identifying and documenting the responsibilities of all parties.
Next, we formalize the process through creation of a detailed Investment Policy Statement (IPS). Organizations such as yours often face the trade-off between the competing goals of supporting short-term operations and preserving long-term assets. Therefore, economic issues such as interest rates and inflation are important to consider. The IPS is customized to the unique needs of your organization and will set the criteria for the prudent selection and retention of investments.
The investment approach is then implemented in accordance with the IPS, its stated risk level and diversification parameters, including consistency with the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA).
The final step is the prudent and continuous monitoring of the portfolio and its investments. To assist your organization in being prudent in monitoring us, we provide a quarterly Unified Fiduciary Monitoring Report.
If you are over 70 ½ and have a traditional IRA or a qualified plan account like a 401(k), the tax rules require you to take withdrawals from your account annually. In most cases you pay income taxes on the RMD amount. But what you do with the distribution – the money itself – is your choice. Here are a few thoughts on what to do with your RMD.
While there are many fiduciary roles, the key concept to grasp is the difference between a discretionary trustee and a directed trustee. If you can understand this distinction, you should be able to help turn fiduciary confusion into fiduciary clarity. There are five things you need to know....
As a fiduciary, we at Unified Trust Company take pride in our goal-based planning approach. This is the game plan that helps clients achieve their goals by managing the downside risk and staying the course.
A recent survey asked foundations and endowments about how much risk they're willing to take to get their target return. Can you guess what the results found?
Like a complex recipe, planning for retirement can have a lot of ingredients with a lot of instructions. To enjoy a successful retirement, you need all the ingredients, in the right amounts and in the correct order.
On this date 75 years ago (June 6, 1944), the Allied Forces took on a task that some thought impossible – gaining a foothold in German occupied territory during WWII. In some ways, it feels as though investors and advisors alike are fearfully awaiting their own “D Day”. A day that we all know is eventually coming whether we like it or not - economic recession and bear market.
I can’t tell you how many times I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I can’t tell you all the ways people my age planned to spend their fortune when they became a superstar. I can tell you, however, that not one of those people ever mentioned saving for retirement. That was the last thing on any millennial child’s mind. But, we’re adults now.
What’s the difference between a market storm watch and a market storm warning? What factors are we looking at? On any given day you can look at the radar and see some storms brewing somewhere in the country.
I’ve resisted overanalyzing my spending patterns for years, primarily because I was afraid of what I might find. But I recently embarked on the quest to discover what it costs to be me. And if I can survive the journey then you can, too.
How did you feel during the fourth quarter of 2018 as the global stock markets swooned? The experience should still be fresh in your mind. Did you resist the urge to bail out when you saw the markets dropping like the Roadrunner’s anvil?
A car accident may only cost you about $775 out of pocket while a hurricane or tornado may be 10 times that amount. Your earnings may be more volatile and unpredictable. To safeguard against shortfall, you may need to stash well over six months worth of your income into savings for greater peace of mind.
How are your resolutions holding up? Still making time for the gym? Any luck losing weight? A study shows merely 8% of people actually achieve their New Year's goals. It’s your life and you have more than a chance to succeed at achieving your goals, whether it be financial or otherwise.
From a weather stand point, people flock to their local grocery store buying all the bread and milk they possibly can (which I’ve never understood). From an investment perspective, you may be tempted to “get out of the cold” and sell when a market “polar vortex” comes.
Rather than slog away in stressful, high pressure careers well into their 60s, many younger employees are checking out early once they have amassed a comfortable nest egg, then living frugally – extremely frugally in some cases – off annual investment earnings.
Just like in football, there are no shortage of predictions every year about the stock market. Trying to predict a short-term outcome has historically proven to be extremely difficult.
I was recently talking with a good friend and mentor of mine about family and parenting. My friend has four children who are all very mature, responsible and hard working. I look at his kids and think he’s figured out the secret to parenting…..and I want to know what it is!
Just as LeBron is weighing his future options, investors are also trying to digest all of the recent economic data and geopolitical events to determine the future for financial markets.
The Roth IRA has been around for about two decades now and if you are closing in on your retirement date then it may be time to rediscover its benefits. I shared some thoughts on Roth IRA planning with reporter Rebecca Lake for an article in US News & World Report.