FINANCIAL CORNERSTONE GROUP WORKS TO BUILD LASTING FOUNDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE.
Beth Courtney didn’t know it at the time, but her start in financial planning happened at age 17. Courtney was a bank teller at the time before working her way through installment lending, trust services and insurances.
Years later, just after a move from Indiana to Florida, a happenstance lunch conversation raised a question that she could only answer with a yes: Why aren’t you a financial planner?
“I had done everything else that’s involved with financial planning,” she said.
So, Courtney made the leap, becoming a financial adviser with UBS, a global firm with operations in more than 50 countries. About five years later, in 2011, always with entrepreneurship on her mind, she began her move toward business independence, ultimately establishing Financial Cornerstone Group.
Today, Financial Cornerstone is a pillar of the community, not just in name only, with its new main location in Rockledge, where a building purchased over the summer was christened in early October. Also, there’s a satellite presence in Palm Bay.
Consisting of eight “holistic” advisers with widespread backgrounds and six support staffers, the firm specializes in A-to-Z financial planning or, rather, from B as in budgeting and E as in estate plans to R as in retirement plans, and almost everything in between.
“We’re kind of a diverse group,” Courtney said. “Typically, one of us will have experience in an area even if the other doesn’t. So, we’ll bring each other in when needed.”
Among the uncommon specialties is 403(b) plan, a retirement account for certain employees of public schools and tax-exempt organizations.
Clients include baby boomers and millennials, multigenerational families, business owners, widows and divorcees, engineers and rocket scientists, teachers and administrators, and federal employees and retirees. The firm is licensed in multiple states, sometimes “moving with” clients if they relocate out of state.
“We have life insurance specialists, long-term care specialists, specialists for young families. … We each kind of have our niche, and then we serve across a broad scope of people,” she continued.
Courtney, who resides in Indian Harbour Beach, spends much of her time serving people who are in or nearing retirement, and women who are navigating life changes such as divorce or the death of their spouse. She also works with young adults, as well as entrepreneurs. Notably, her background is uniquely suited to such clients — she is the daughter of a twice-widowed mother, and she is a self-described serial entrepreneur.
Most of all, the firm emphasizes a holistic approach to planning, focusing on the entire needs of client instead of piecemeal tactics.
“We really don’t believe that it’s fair to try to make a recommendation to someone unless we truly understand their financial life,” Courtney said. “We might start with budgeting and then move into other areas of financial planning. We get to know [clients] pretty well.
“We are dedicated to developing lasting relationships with all of our clients. We believe in helping you assess your entire lifestyle picture, which includes your financial goals, and to participate in the management of your finances.”
Often, Courtney added, the planning strategies are steered by “tax efficiency.”
“It’s great if we can help you cross whatever your goal is — $1 million, $2 million or whatever. But if you have to give back $300,000 or $400,000 to Uncle Sam in the process, then we really didn’t do our job,” she said. “What we care about for the client is the net experience after taxes. We do a ton of research, collaborating with CPAs and attorneys.”
And, with the firm being “faith-based,” client fees vary. “Fundamentally, we believe that you do the right thing, and it will come back to you. It might sound cheesy, but it’s truly how all of us operate,” Courtney said. “And it’s proven itself over time. We help people, and more often than not it turns into a client relationship. Or, they’ll recommend us.”
Similarly, community service is a big deal, with nearly everyone at the firm involved in some form of service to area nonprofit organization. They range from the Brevard Achievement Center and the Children’s Hunger Project to Helping Seniors of Brevard.
In addition, the firm works to enhance general financial literacy at schools, with an impact to date of more than 1,000 students, Courtney estimated. And several staffers teach lessons to adults from the popular Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University.
Courtney concluded that the ultimate goal, of course, is to “help lead people to financial peace and success.” Yet, she also would like the Financial Cornerstone Group for more than money.
Her words: “I want us to be known as caring people with the heart of teachers who served and made a difference.”