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Kutscher, Benner Barsness & Stevens brings clarity, organization and direction to your finances and investments. Our broad-spectrum expertise and independent, candid advice guide you through the complex, technical and often emotional aspects of long-term investing. Our team works with you to develop, implement, monitor and adapt a financial plan to sustain success in the long term and build a position of strength from which to address challenges as they arise.

Financial Planning

Financial security doesn't mean just having someone manage whatever liquid assets are at hand. Real security requires careful attention to all the features of your financial life now and throughout the years to come. Adhering to a sensible, well-implemented plan can keep good investment management from being undermined by inadequate savings, protect a comfortable retirement from overspending, and prevent a healthy portfolio from being diminished by poor tax planning. In sum, financial success requires thoughtful planning and a commitment to one's goals.

Conduct an in-depth review

From the outset, we review the many important details of your financial life that require proper attention for financial success. These usually include your cash flow, taxes, investment assets, mortgage and other debts, career stage and trajectory, retirement goals, insurance and estate planning. We also explore your experience investing, your need for investment returns and your ability to tolerate financial market volatility.

Distill a written plan

Financial success is defined differently for each individual. We distill our review into a written comprehensive plan that reflects your financial situation and identifies reasonable, practical goals, in other words, your financial "personal best." We make sure that important issues aren’t missed, key concepts are explained and you gain power to make timely and informed choices about your finances. Your plan provides a context for our investment management work and summarizes our recommendations to address your particular planning issues. These recommendations may include, for example, steps to prepare for retirement, ease your cash flow, reduce taxes, cover insurance gaps or improve your estate plan.

Annual review of the plan

Financial planning is a continuous project that nurtures success. At least once per year, and more often as your situation changes, we revisit your cash flow, taxes and other financial details and review developments that affect your finances. This review is important for adapting your investments and making sure that issues are not missed. Presented as an annual report, it includes investment performance reporting, investment market analysis and adjustments to your investment allocation.

Investment Management

If you're reading this site, you're probably looking for someone to manage your investments. The experiences of the past decade have reminded many investors of the risks in choosing advisors based on their stock selections or success with a past market move. Based on our years of practical experience, we recommend that you focus on finding an advisor who will help you build a portfolio that is suitable to your needs, commit to a process for staying invested, and make tactical adjustments through all kinds of financial markets.

Establish a sure foundation

Our first job is to understand you as an investor. People differ in their needs for investment returns and their abilities to withstand market movements. The greatest factor in determining how your portfolio will perform is your investment policy, that is, the fundamental mix between stocks, bonds, cash and other investments. Getting this foundation right is essential so that you can stay invested, especially considering the destructive nature of moving in and out of financial markets due to fear or an untimely need for cash.

Combine investment silos

Most investors have tax-deferred retirement accounts through their present and past employers or companies. If these accounts are part of an employer's plan, they often have limited investment options. An important aspect of our investment management work is that we consider all your accounts and investment assets, including 401(k) plans and private assets such as investment real estate. We manage your overall portfolio so that your investment policy is reflected in the aggregate; we take advantage of the best investment options available in tax-deferred accounts and use their tax-deferred nature to manage taxation arising from your investments.

Broadly diversify

We all know the saying "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." Consequently, investors almost instinctively know they shouldn't own only one or a few stocks. As the linked "return quilt" quickly illustrates, the decision to diversify is much more meaningful than specific stock picks, important though that is. However, the real challenge lies in knowing how to diversify and manage assets in uncertain times.

Quite often, either by their own choice or by hiring more of a stock picker than a real financial advisor, investors buy stocks that are much the same, such as all large-capitalization U.S. stocks. As a result, when those stocks decline, the investor may suffer a deeper decline than if their investments were diversified across a greater number of asset classes.

Relying on extensive data and insights derived from years of experience, we seek to diversify client portfolios broadly across both asset classes and underlying managers. Client portfolios typically include U.S. large-cap stocks, small-cap stocks, developed international stocks, emerging market stocks, commodities, real estate investment trusts, hedged equities core bonds, multi-sector bonds and emerging market bonds.

The relative weight of each asset class in your portfolio reflects your investment policy and our judgment as to where value is best found in the investment universe.

Report and adjust

At least annually (and, if necessary, more often) we review your portfolio and make recommendations for adjustments as changes in the investment environment and your financial circumstances warrant. At that time and as part of your annual report, we compare the performance of your account to well-known benchmarks so that the benefit of our investment management work can be seen.

Problem Solving

The plan we prepare for you is designed to help you achieve the "financial fitness" required for making good decisions, particularly when faced with unexpected developments. As your financial fitness coaches, we know the context in which you address challenges and opportunities and we are always ready with candid, objective advice to help you make reasonable, practical choices. In addition, you can be sure that we will contact you with planning opportunities we identify that are appropriate for your financial goals.

Problem-solving work is a large portion of our overall service for clients. Here are some planning situations that often arise in our practice.

Common Planning Situations

Job changes

I recently left my company where I had a 401(k) account. What should I do with that account now?

My new job entitles me to participate in a nonqualified deferred compensation plan. What is the best mix of investment and payout options that I should choose?

I lost my job earlier this year. What steps should I take to with my portfolio to make use of the lower income tax rate I'll be in this year?


I know I can't retire now, but I'd like to take a couple of years off from work before looking for my next employment opportunity. How will that affect my portfolio?

I'm going to retire in the next year. I need help understanding what do with my company retirement accounts, how my portfolio will generate cash for me to live, when to start drawing Social Security benefits and which medical insurance to buy.

I recently retired and have most of my savings in IRA accounts. What can I do to reduce income taxes from future IRA withdrawals?

Liquidity events

The sale of my company brought significant new cash to my portfolio. Can I afford to retire now? How do you recommend that I invest the sale proceeds?

I have a lot of taxable income this year from the sale of my company. I want to reduce my tax burden and contribute some cash to charity, but I haven't firmed up my plans. What should I do?

My company is going public and I need a strategy for exercising my stock options and investing the proceeds.


With the birth of our new child, I'm thinking about putting money away for her education. What is the best way of doing so?

My children have chosen careers that aren't well paying and I want to help them get started investing. What is the best approach?


My mother is going into a nursing home. What do I need to know or do to help diminish the financial burden this may eventually place on me?

My last parent died and left me a significant sum of money. Some of it is in an IRA. What do I need to do to make it part of my portfolio?


This website is intended to provide information about our services, methods, philosophy and how we approach financial planning. It is not a complete description of services. It is not intended to be used or relied upon by persons doing their own planning or investing. To the extent we discuss performance, we do so to illustrate aspects of financial theory, and we do not promise returns. Similarly we do not warrant or guarantee the timeliness or accuracy of the information throughout this site, whether charts, articles, or any other statement or statements regarding market or other financial information, even though obtained from sources which we and our suppliers believe reliable. Nothing on this web-site should be interpreted to state or imply that past results are an indication of future performance.

There are no warranties, expressed or implied, as to accuracy, completeness, or results obtained from any information posted on this or any linked website. Kutscher Benner Barsness & Stevens Inc. is registered with and regulated by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Washington, D.C.