How to Design a Financial Plan

Life isn’t simple, and creating a detailed financial roadmap for your clients isn’t either.  Here is a guide to help make the process a little more streamlined.

1. Get the facts

Obviously, a financial plan is only as good as the information that is provided.  All the basic information is essential – family members, income, expenses, assets, liabilities, insurance policies.  But we can’t gloss over the smaller details – exactly how many years are left on the mortgage; the interest rate; the breakdown of property taxes versus insurance costs.  Each nuance has an impact on overall plan development.  We need to know precisely when cash flow will change.  We need to know which costs (like property taxes) will rise with inflation and which will not (the mortgage itself).  

Equally as important is understanding where free cash flow is being directed.  Whether your client is contributing to a traditional vs. Roth 401(k), and the presence or lack thereof of a company match, will dramatically alter the outlook towards future goals.

And how do we deal with monthly expenses? It is extremely unrealistic that a majority of your clients will be able to account for every dollar that goes out the door.  But it is very important to be able to get round figures that can be put into different categories.  Inflation will substantially increase pure dollar spending on groceries over the years, but their term insurance premiums may be locked in for the next 30 years.  

This may be the most vital component of the data gathering to fact check together with your client.  After entering in all the numbers based on the clients’ estimated spending habits, you will be left with a number representing free cash flow that could be invested for the future.  When presented with this number, clients will often get a good laugh, as it is significantly higher than they ever actually have left over at the end of the month.  It is clear that they have underestimated their spending in a major fashion.  Ultimately, we are going to see if accumulated savings will cover the clients’ lifestyle expenses in retirement – so if we underestimate the expenses from the get go, we will create wildly unrealistic measurements of progress and chances of success.

2. Get the feelings

The clients’ goals and priorities set the parameters for the financial plan.  The most common conversations will be around partial and full retirement ages, college education planning, buying a home, travel, and creating funds for children’s weddings or a general legacy to leave behind.

Of course, no one can predict the exact timing of when their children will get married, whether or not a scholarship will be awarded for secondary education, or if their child will ask for help with something like law or medical school.  With the volatility of the housing market and interest rates, we cannot know precisely what a starter home will be worth in 7 years and what the final accepted offer will look like for moving into a bigger property.  A client may tell you they want to retire the very first day they are financially able, without any knowledge of when that could be.  But the bottom line is, we will need to work with clients to get our best possible estimates so that we can actually apply the data to come up with an assessment of current progress and develop recommendations.

3. Take the snapshot

After gathering the facts, figures, and objectives from the client, it is possible to provide a snapshot of where the client is in relation to accomplishing these goals.  With all of the variables that occur within financial planning, and within life, simple back of the napkin math cannot provide real value in assessing one’s progress.  Even some of the calculators found on 401(k) websites that ask “am I on track for retirement?” are quite simplistic and do not take into account a number of unique factors to each individual’s situation.

A full scale, comprehensive financial planning software program will account for factors such as inflation, taxes, risk/reward of various investment profiles, changing cash flows, and career changes.  It can take each goal and assess probability of success.

One commonly used tool is a Monte-Carlo analysis, which will run 1000+ different scenarios to assess the probability of a clients’ assets lasting as long as their projected lifespan.  It can often be ran quickly using different parameters (i.e changing the retirement date, current savings amount, or expenses in retirement).

This picture can be a good ‘snapshot’ of where the client stands in relation to their goals.

4. Perform the stress test

The snapshot performed already can provide valuable insight if all assumptions of the plan are met.  But of course, that is not how life works.  Most financial planning software allows for an additional level of stress testing that can show how the client’s probability of success would be affected by changing assumptions.

Some of the common stress test functions include the impact of: a large market drop in year one of retirement, overall tax rate increases, social security benefits decreasing, longevity past life expectancy, higher than expected inflation, increased health care expenses, or lower returns in the investment portfolio.

Seeing the degree of impact from each of these factors can reveal where the points of weakness and opportunity are in one’s current financial plan.

5. Provide options and make recommendations

With the combined output of a snapshot and stress test, it will be easier to pinpoint elements of a financial plan that should be addressed.  Being particularly susceptible to a market drop might suggest a portfolio’s risk needs to be readjusted.  Extreme negative results from tax increases might highlight opportunities to diversify the tax structure of the current portfolio.  Seeing probabilities diminish with longer longevity might encourage one to increase savings.

Utilizing the analysis of a comprehensive financial plan helps advisors position themselves as educators over salespeople.  This level of collaboration can lead to greater clarity of purpose and a stronger professional relationship, while making a significant positive impact on the life of your clients. 







Jonathan Self

Field Administrative Associate

Jonathan Self has been a part of the financial services industry for an extensive period of time. Ever since Jonathan could remember, he had always wanted to be involved in financial services. He credits this to his family roots and father’s involvement in the business 40+ years ago. Jonathan built a successful practice before transitioning into leadership. Jonathan’s experience building his practice allows him to truly understand what it takes to be a successful financial professional. He is a passionate advocate for the life insurance industry and currently holds his series 6, 7, 63, and 24. Jonathan is currently living in North Carolina with his wife and three daughters. They enjoy traveling and spending time outdoors skiing.

Karen Murray

VP of Operations                        

Karen is the VP of Operations at Empire Wealth Strategies, bringing years of experience in the industry as an Office Manager, Recruiting Coordinator and Administrative Assistant. She has extensive experience in issue resolution, process improvement, relationship building, and office administration. She is a NYS Certified Paralegal, Notary Public and holds the Customer Experience Essentials Certificate from LOMA.

When she’s not working, Karen enjoys spending time with her two grown children and her dog, Bailey.

Vanessa Vigilante

Field Administrative Associate

With more than 20 years of experience working in various industries as an Administrative Assistant, Vanessa has a strong ability to streamline processes, maximize efficiency, and foster professional relationships within organizations. Vanessa’s philosophy centers around what role she can play in helping others find solutions. She is committed to excellence in service. She predicts the needs of others and always practices personal accountability in the workplace.

Michael Kane

CEO/Managing Partner

Michael Kane With over 10 years of experience in the financial services industry, Michael Kane has dedicated his career to building an elite team of Financial Services Representatives in the New York market. Michael has a track record of developing teams comprised of both highly productive, experienced representatives who are driving to take their career to new heights, as well as a host of young professionals who are eager to learn from them.

Michael’s passion for the financial services industry is driven

Chris Andrews

Director of Sales and Recruiting

Chris Andrews joined Empire Wealth Strategies as Director of Business Development in August of 2019 after 7 years serving as a financial advisor. Chris is involved in all aspects of Empire’s growth and national expansion. His key role is to identify talent and align strategic partnerships that lead to symbiotic growth. He is passionate in his work to empower the voices and success of the right leaders in the financial advisory and insurance industry. With a marketing degree and background, Chris enables the leaders of our profession who are passionate in serving a specific target market to align the right resources, support and partnerships to expand their businesses exponentially.

Outside of work, Chris is a family man, a socialite, and an avid outdoorsman. He likes spending his free time with his wife, family and friends, running, hiking and biking, reading and traveling as much as he can. He’s traveled to over 15 countries around the world between Asia, Europe, Africa, North, South and Central America. When he’s not hopping on planes, you can find him at his home in Astoria, Queens with his wife, Morgan.

Zach Bloemen

Director of Sales and Recruiting

Zach Bloemen is a fierce leader at Empire Wealth Strategies helping to serve new and existing clients and evaluate potential partnerships with other financial advisors around the country. With nearly a decade of experience as an advisor he is authentically familiar with the importance of partnerships, access to decision makers and the ease of doing business in order to deliver prudent financial planning to individuals, families and business owners.

Zach relates to advisors who seek growth and sustainability through all market cycles in true business owner fashion and understands the importance of surrounding the right leaders with right resources in an effective team environment. While motivated to scale his own business to a transferable enterprise in the future, Zach is passionate in helping other financial professionals do the same. With a multitude of experienced advisors searching for more independence, support, marketing flexibility, control and ownership of their books of business, Zach believes there is no better time than now to partner with a firm that promotes the growth of your business your way.

With extensive leadership experience in Marine Special Operations, sports and business, Zach aims to empower other leaders, learn from them, support them and celebrate their success in partnership with EWS.

Zach is a Colorado native married to Dawn his middle school sweetheart. Together they have three children, Noah, Reagan and Jaxon who all enjoy the outdoors, camping, hunting, fishing, sports, exercise and good food. Zach instills accountability in himself each morning by telling his kids to “Be a Leader!”

Scott Francis

Vice President of Sales

My role at the agency is to partner with each of the departments that make the day to day operation run well. By partnering with the teams recruiters I am able to share my experience as both a leader and as a former financial advisor to help attract top industry talent. I also work closely with both the internal sales desk and internal coaching team to provide the type of support necessary for our financial professionals. There are also times where we will work with outside experts as well to enhance the experience for the financial professionals. With a background in operations from when I entered the industry I will spend time each day working with the agency internal team as well as the home office team to facilitate Life New Business and Broker Dealer operations. This has been useful to tie the sales and operations side of the agency together and work towards our common goal of growth. Finally I am constantly thinking and working with the agency experience team to make sure all of the team members are top of mind and doing business with ease. Most of my day is spent solving problems for our financial professionals.

If there is one thing that I believe is important it would be service. I make it a point to put myself in the shoes of the person I am trying to help. When problems occur I find that communication is critical. I also am always working on proactive items to tackle issues before they arise. My goal is to grow our agency with quality people both in sales and on our leadership team. I am very proud of what the agency has accomplished in the past 5 years.

I hold a series 7, 65, 63 and 24 as well as Life and Health.

When I am not working I am usually at a field with one of my 3 children or watching some type of sport.

Linda Vescio

Director of Business Development

Linda began running her family business in 2013. Through that experience she has gained an aptitude for being process driven and results oriented. Her knowledge of marketing and experience has developed throughout her tenure as a business owner in addition to what she has accomplished at Empire Wealth Strategies.

Since joining the agency in 2017 Linda has developed into one of the front line leaders. In her previous role as the Vice President of agency operations Linda lead a team of 7 and developed workflow and efficiency parameters that propelled the agency into doubling in size in only 5 years.

In her current role Lin has taken new hires and their teams to the next level of business potential. Starting with transition support and moving into Brand, Logo and website creation Lin uses her past experience and creativity to help agents fulfill their vision. In addition Lin has also put together a team of marketing and practice management support including some leaders in the industry.

Lin is always up to a new challenge and welcomes the opportunity to work with new advisors and new ideas. Her main objective is to stay on the cutting edge of technology and industry standards.

Angelina weeks

Director of Coaching

Angelina Weeks is a certified business coach with 16 years experience in the financial services industry. She has mastered the art of coaching financial advisors and learned to be the best resource possible to help them breakthrough and elevate their business. As a business development coach, she offers guidance, unique strategies and tools to level up your business. With an outside perspective from someone you can trust, you are offered ideas and advice to help you capitalize on growth opportunities. Angelina shares, “Your business is similar to that of an elite athlete. You may have the drive, the skills and the vision, but there are times when you need support to ensure you stay on the right path to reach your goals.”

Through well-designed tools and systems, Angelina will help track and measure your performance allowing you to break through barriers that level up your performance and business. Most everyone knows or has heard the phrase that “motivation is temporary” and it’s true. We all get excited to start something and at some point while pushing through the hard work, the excitement wears off. As your coach, Angelina is what’s on the other side when the motivation and excitement loses its energy. Every advisor has the potential to breakthrough and perform at a higher level; it’s all about having the right people on your team supporting you to get you there.


Director of Advanced Sales

Jim Cooney, as the Director of Advanced Sales, is dedicated to supporting the growth of your business. As a CFP, ChFC, CLU, and FSCP, he has committed to maintaining an extensive knowledge of the industry and the ability to create unique financial solutions to bring to your clients. He offers a wide range of case design support offerings, from fact find analysis, inforce insurance audits, investment allocation analysis, Monte Carlo and cash flow planning, to ‘in the field’ support for joint case work. Jim also has experience in aiding financial professionals expand their practices utilizing concepts such as premium financing, executive compensation planning, and business insurance strategies. He can offer book of business reviews to help discover new opportunities to assist your existing client base with these advanced concepts.

Areas of Expertise

  • Premium Financing
  • Monte Carlo Analysis & Retirement Projections
  • Business Insurance Strategies
  • Executive Compensation Strategies
  • Cash Flow Analysis & Tax Advantaged Investing