Michael Glowacki

Meet Michael Glowacki

Resolve to set your vision for the new year

Every January, many Americans resolve to achieve certain goals. And like any cultural custom, it can be a practice of repetition. If we didn’t reach our goals last year, no worries. The slate is wiped clean, and we’ll try again (maybe just a little harder) this year.

Aspiriant Principal Michael Glowacki, a director of wealth management and certified life coach, looks at New Year’s resolutions a little differently.

“I like the word ‘vision’ better than ‘goals,’” Michael says. “In my personal experience, whatever I can see, I can accomplish. Whenever I wanted something, I would visualize it.”

When Michael and his wife wanted to do an extensive remodel of their home three years ago, they spent a year piecing together their visions of what it would look like before approaching an architect.

That same focus on the big picture guided Michael through a decades-long career in financial services, going from an accountant and life coach to founding his own wealth management firm, which eventually merged with Aspiriant.

Michael started his career as a certified public accountant at Grant Thornton in Chicago auditing private and public companies. He moved to Southern California about 30 years ago working in various roles of publicly traded companies, including audit, treasury and SEC reporting. He was a regional controller of a national real estate development firm before he started to run a family office.

“That was when I took a look at things and decided rather than continue the corporate route, I wanted to help families make a difference in their lives,” Michael reflected. “Affluent families need a chief financial officer to coordinate the needs of the family and simplify their lives.”

To prepare for this specialization, Michael went back to school and earned a master’s in Business Taxation and became a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®). Still, he felt his education was missing something.

“It dawned on me, as a CFP, the first step in the financial planning process is setting goals for a client. However, no one teaches goal-setting,” he recalled. He had heard of a new concept called “life coaching” and became certified in the practice at the Hudson Institute of Coaching in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Most people spend more time reflecting on their failures than their successes.

In 1998, Michael formed a company in Los Angeles with a partner that coordinated financial services including tax, retirement planning, investments and business plans for wealthy individuals. Five years later, he broke away and formed The Glowacki Group.

At his new firm, Michael created The Capital Confidant ApproachTM, a consulting process for working with affluent clients that combines coaching and advising. In 13 years, the Glowacki Group grew to over $350 million in assets. Its nine employees served 70 clients in Los Angeles. With similar business practices, company culture and philosophy toward serving clients, Glowacki saw a partner in Aspiriant, and the two firms joined forces in March.

His approach to financial planning has been widely recognized and applauded. His peers elected him to be the first president of the Financial Planning Association of Los Angeles, and Worth magazine has repeatedly recognized him as a top wealth manager.

Michael continues to both coach and advise clients, and shares how you, too, can create and realize your vision for success in 2017.

Q. Explain life coaching in relation to financial management.

A: My prior firm had the tagline: Come in for the answers, stay for the questions. We first ask clients to think about the purpose of their money. Some clients will give you a strange look because they never think about that. But actually money should have a purpose.

When I got started, an advisor equated it to a picture puzzle. What’s the most important piece? It’s the picture on the box. If you can’t see what you are trying to create, how can you put the pieces together?

When it comes to what they want in life, the clients have all the answers, they just need the right questions to pull the answers out of them. Through an interview process, we help them clarify their visions for the future, then we can set up an action plan to help them realize those dreams.

Q. Can you give an example of how it works in practice?

A: The biggest applications for coaching very wealthy clients, other than creating a financial plan, are in estate planning and philanthropy. For many of these clients, they have more than enough money to meet their lifestyle goals. The question comes down to what to do with the excess capital. Typically, they are giving it to heirs or to charity. This brings up the more complex questions: What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to help or empower the next generation? What do you want to change or preserve in the world? Most people need guidance finding the answers to those questions.

As the answers come, then we can put dollar amounts on the names of each heir and go to the next level: How do you see this heir using that money? One of the things we have learned from our inheritor clients is that they wish their benefactors had shared their visions for the use of the money.

For funds to be directed at philanthropy, we find it meaningful to find out what clients are grateful for, want to change, or want to preserve in their community, society or the world. Then we help clients craft mission statements for their philanthropy that memorialize the purpose and help establish guidelines for their giving.

Now that we have a clear vision of the client’s legacy, through bequests, gifting or philanthropy, we can shift toward developing the income and estate tax strategies that are most effective to achieve the client’s intentions.

Q. As people start making their New Year’s resolutions, how do you suggest they focus on their vision?

A: I suggest making a list of the top 20 things that you accomplished last year. I find myself going through my Outlook calendar month by month to recall what I did. Pick the top five that gave you the most excitement. What was it about those accomplishments that gave you energy? Most people spend more time reflecting on their failures than their successes. However, your accomplishments are what give you the confidence you need to set goals and achieve them.

Now use that confidence in yourself to dream big. What would you do with your life if you had all the money in the world? Write down the details of your vision in a journal. Put it aside for a week. Read it again. Does it still get you excited? Highlight those goals that give you the most energy and give yourself permission to discard those that don’t move you. Refine it every three months in the same manor. In 12 months, have you moved closer to your vision?

As you piece together the ever changing puzzle of your life, what does the picture on the box look like for you? Have you shared it with your financial advisor lately? If not, maybe that should be your first New Year’s resolution.