H. Jude Boudreaux, founder of Upperline Financial Planning, LLC, based in New Orleans, was two years into establishing his own firm focusing on the financial needs of medical professionals when the unthinkable rocked his family’s world. His two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia in September, 2012. Neither the timing nor the situation could have been worse.
Starting a new business venture is never an easy proposition – even when the cards are stacked in your favor. In 2010, Boudreaux already had several years of experience in many aspects of financial planning before deciding to hang out his own shingle. He had even been the director of financial planning for another wealth management planning firm in New Orleans for five years before making the move to start his own firm.
Yet the founding of his own firm was in his own words, “far more difficult” than he ever imagined.
“Everything is going to take longer and cost more than you expect that it will,” he said. “There are a lot of things you cannot plan for. There are so many moving parts in the business and so many moving parts in your own life outside of the business. It is tough to manage it all.”
For Boudreaux those “moving parts” revolved around his daughter’s illness. He and his wife found themselves immersed in the medical world of IVs, endless tests, prognosis and an uncertain future – all the while maintaining a cheering section for their young, brave daughter. Boudreaux already had “head knowledge” of the financial challenges facing medical professionals. He was already advising many as their professional financial planner. But through the end of 2012 and the first half of 2013, he quickly gained “heart knowledge” as he interacted personally on a daily basis with the doctors, nurses and technicians providing his daughter’s care. He saw the strain of long work days and heard their stories of crushing student loan debt.
“After seeing everything they put in to the work they do to take care of people, it has become a real passion of mine to help. I want to help those who give their lives to take care of us,” he explained.
It’s a common, but highly inaccurate misconception, that all medical professionals are well-heeled. It can take years – even decades – just to pay off educational debt, let alone the costs of establishing a medical practice.
Boudreaux said he was somewhat astonished when he started looking at the individual financial picture of some medical professionals. Although it has little to do with stocks and portfolios, one of the first areas he checks is their auto coverage.
“For physicians in particular, the riskiest thing they do outside of working in hospitals is to drive their car after a very long day. And yet a lot of them have poor auto insurance,” Boudreaux points out. That is only one example where asset protection may not be as high as is needed. He often recommends increasing liability coverage limits as a relatively inexpensive way to mitigate possible asset losses in the event of an auto accident. It’s a pretty easy convince to medical professionals who see the trauma of auto collisions on a daily basis.
Boudreaux is putting the finishing touches on a book focused solely on steps medical professionals in Louisiana can take to improve their financial situation and improve their asset protection. He hopes to have it completed by year’s end.
As far as the business model he follows, Boudreaux believes that this trend toward boutique-styled, personally-customized planning is one that will remain. Each person, each family’s financial situation is unique, requiring an approach tailored specifically to their needs. “This is really about building a deep personal relationship with them – and yes, we are working with them on their financial issues, but it really goes far beyond that. This is about taking care of families.”
To that end, he works on a fee-basis only, without commissions. He is a “big fan” of Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) because he likes the price transparency these funds give his customers as well as the flexible tax options they offer. ETFs give Boudreaux flexible entrance for his clients: “We don’t have to deal with any of the minimums. They are just easy to deal with.” This is particularly helpful when working with young physicians who have decent incomes but also substantial debt and expenses.
He’d like to see a national uniform law addressing fiduciary standards within the financial planning industry. As a planner working on a fee-only basis only, he already views his relationship with his clients as a fiduciary, prudently advising them and managing their assets. He reads and hears the discussion from Wall Street as players in the commissions-based segment of the financial planning community decry this summer’s suggestion by the SEC that broker-dealers be held to the same level of fiduciary standards that currently apply to investment advisers. He isn’t holding his breath that changes will indeed occur. “Too many firms have financial interests in seeing that not happen.”
For now, Boudreaux remains focused on helping his medical clients create a healthy financial future. His methods must be working, too. Boudreaux made “Medical Economics Magazine's” Fall list of top financial advisers in 2011 and 2012. His insights regarding financial planning are often sought by “Wall Street Journal” and “US News and World Report” writers. Although these accolades are nice, he does not emphasize them. “My goal is to have clients continue to save well and be smart about what they invest in for their financial future.”
For more information, visit: www.upperlinefinancial.com
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