Holistic Financial Planning

January 2024 |

In-depth planning can make or break your financial future. Here’s how to get started.

It’s so crucial to set aside time to focus, make key decisions and get plans and processes in place to help your money grow.

That’s where Darby Affeldt, DVM, RICP, financial advisor, partner at North Star Resource Group, comes in. A DVM herself, Affeldt knows the nuances of the business of veterinary medicine and can help guide your decisions. We asked her to walk us through the big picture of holistic financial planning.

Q: Why did you go into the financial industry?
A: I have always been fascinated with the business of vet med. I recognized a real need and have a deep passion to help my colleagues to comprehensively integrate the many complicated aspects of their financial lives. I was not always a financial advisor; I was a practicing DVM and practice owner, and at the time, I did not realize how complicated the financial world is. Today, having been on both sides, I recognize the need is even greater than I imagined.

Q: Why is cohesive financial planning so important?
A: With over 3,000 DVM clients from new grads to associates to practice owners to those who have exited and are into retirement, I have a unique vantage point. Many veterinarians have never worked with a professional financial advisor, they are doing it themselves or relying on advice that has been patched together over the years by a variety of advisors. This means their overall picture is not cohesive. I also commonly find people may be working with someone who doesn’t work comprehensively, leaving gaps and missed opportunities or not checking in often enough.

Q: Why do you practice holistic financial planning?
A: Because it addresses the big picture. For example, an advisor may have put in a Simple IRA or a 401(k) plan for the practice, or may be managing assets. But if they don’t plan holistically, they may put the client’s finances at risk. While a well-managed investment portfolio is one part of a bigger plan, it’s not the entire plan.

Disability Insurance
A good financial plan should include disability insurance. Studies show that 1 in 4 people will become disabled before the age of 65, and the average disability lasts for 2.5 years. If income suddenly stops, it can be financially devastating. Not all disability policies are equal at all; there are generally more than 60 pages of complicated fine print that must be taken into consideration by a product-neutral disability expert to help find the right product for an individual.

Retirement Plans
A practice owner might have a retirement plan in place at the practice, but nobody has helped them assessed a potential long-term care event. Seven out of 10 people will have a long-term care event—the average age is around 78 and the average event lasts for 2.8 years. The cost of long-term care varies across the country, of course, but if we look out to someone’s age 80 and it could potentially completely wipe out a portfolio for a survivor, it is critical to plan for this.

I am not an accountant, but I do collaborative tax planning with my clients/practice owners and their accountants to ensure that they are as tax efficient as possible. Many people are missing out on invaluable tax planning opportunities.

Many practice owners have not put in a retirement plan at their own practice, or if they have, they’ve outgrown it. Or maybe it hasn’t been reassessed in years or they are not maximizing contributions for themselves. There are so many new 401(k) plan types due to new and exciting legislation, lower fees, etc. A plan needs to be revisited.

Goal Planning
The importance of goal planning cannot be overstated. Perhaps a portfolio is well-positioned—but that house remodel, college planning, early retirement, practice exit or the need to financially help a family member hasn’t been considered? Goals should be revisited and integrated as our financial lives always evolve and change.

The bottom line is that it is critically important to put our own financial lives on the exam table annually. Our financial health and wellness deserve the same attention we recommend our veterinary clients provide their animals.  It is important to get a second set of eyes on the financial strategies, products, portfolios and goals to be sure everything is holistically integrated, current and on track.

Q: What should PSIvet members consider?
A: I can now say this confidently with years of experience to back it up: I used to be a practicing DVM with an advisor I hardly ever heard from, and accountant and separate insurance agents who didn’t communicate, and I had no financial map. I wish now that I’d realized the value of a comprehensive, product-neutral advisor (not incentivized to sell any one carrier’s products) who worked like I did as a veterinarian: full service and collaboratively.  What happened to me in 2008 is a painful story, but it’s why I went into the financial industry to do things differently for my veterinary colleagues.

I am fiercely passionate about holistic financial planning, I’m staunchly product neutral, and I believe in integrating practice and personal planning. From cash flow, retirement readiness, risk management and goal planning to tax and estate planning, I work with my clients to pull it all together. 

For more information, contact:
Darby Affeldt, DVM, RICP, Financial Advisor, Partner, North Star Resource Group
501 South Cherry Street Office #1102, Denver, CO 80246

Investment advisor representative of Cetera Advisor Networks, LLC. Securities offered through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC (doing insur-ance business in CA as CFGAN Insurance Agency LLC, CA Insurance Lic # 0644976), member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory Services offered through Cetera Investment Advisers LLC, a registered investment adviser. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity.