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What You'll Learn In Today's Episode
  • Admit to yourself out loud: Clients aren’t coming to you for information. They’re coming to you for execution.
  • Write down 3-4 whiteboard ideas. Set a date and commit to getting some if you haven’t already.
  • Ask every prospect/client for their tax returns. Set expectations ahead of time (that you’re not doing a full assessment). Nevertheless, make it clear that this will help you understand their situation. You can pull 3-4 items out to share.
  • Practice your whiteboard ideas. Try them with your team, with a friend, with another advisor... whomever you can. Everybody needs a sounding board.

Executive Summary


Welcome to the Value Wednesday edition of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast! Steven’s guest for the previous episode was Sten Morgan of Legacy Investment Planning. This episode builds on that discussion with whiteboard tips.

Sten shared his approach to prospecting: He asks a few questions—and then picks up a marker. Next, he presents strategies suggested by the potential client’s data.

Believe it or not, he’s been extremely successful this way. Today, Steven has material to inspire whiteboard ideas of your own.

Income Bucket Basics

It’s easier to impress prospects who understand the specifics. Most passersby have heard terms like “IRA” and “401K.” However, they often lack a firm grasp of various income sources’ tax status.

Steven recommends describing the source types as 4 buckets: The 1st represents ordinary income (taxed 0-39%), the 2nd is tax-deferred income (taxed at ordinary rates upon taking distributions), the 3rd is capital gains (taxed 0-25%), and the 4th is tax-free (Roth retirement contributions).

If you can draw 4 buckets on a whiteboard and label them, you can do this. It takes very little time, it clearly illustrates their options, and it creates a reference point for later.

Winning, Whiteboard-style

Some prospects struggle with potential investment returns. The results may be identical (assuming tax rates are the same in both situations). Nevertheless, people get confused between Roth and traditional IRA contributions.

Try this analogy: The prospect is a farmer with 4 bags of seed. Each bag can be used for one field of crops. For simplicity, say the IRS taxes farmers at a rate of 25%.

Under traditional IRA contributions, the client to-be keeps all 4 bags. They plant the 4 fields and the IRS takes 25%. In other words, the IRS gets one field, leaving them the other 3.

With Roth contributions, the IRS collects 25% upfront. The client starts with 3 bags to use on 3 fields. If tax rates don’t change, the outcome is the same, either way.

However, if a prospect fears tax rate increases (e.g. to 50%), the Roth advantage shines: By paying their single bag of seed now, they avoid paying higher taxes later. Put another way, they pay 25%—and no more.

Draw squares for seed bags, diamonds for fields, label them, and you’re done. A minute’s effort at the whiteboard will make this far more memorable than a million discussions could alone.

Make sure your questions are open-ended (eliciting more than “yes” or “no”). Tailor them to the individual to provide maximum value.


Your Action Items

  • Admit to yourself out loud: Clients aren’t coming to you for information. They’re coming to you for execution.
  • Write down 3-4 whiteboard ideas. Set a date and commit to getting some if you haven’t already.
  • Ask every prospect/client for their tax returns.Set expectations ahead of time (that you’re not doing a full assessment). Nevertheless, make it clear that this will help you understand their situation. You can pull 3-4 items out to share.
  • Practice your whiteboard ideas.Try them with your team, with a friend, with another advisor… whomever you can. Everybody needs a sounding board.

Steven has more on winning clients at the whiteboard in this edition of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast. If you enjoy it, please feel free to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening from.

Do you have suggestions? Would you like to share a retirement tax planning experience on the podcast? Drop us a line at

Thank you for listening.


Hello everyone and welcome to the next episode of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast: Financial Professionals Edition, I am your host Steven Jarvis CPA and I teach financial advisors how to deliver massive value to their clients through retirement tax planning. On today’s episode we are going to explore one of the recommendations that Sten Morgan made on our last episode, if you missed that episode I definitely encourage you to go back and listen to it. Sten is a very successful advisor with his own practice and the founder of the Elite Advisor Network. Through the Elite Advisor Networks Sten works with other advisors to share his experiences and expertise to help advisors deliver unmatched value to their clients.

Sten Morgan’s Approach To A Successful Prospect Meeting [1:14]

On that episode Sten shared his approach to prospecting, which has been hugely successful for him, to give away value early and often in the prospecting process. In his prospect meetings he dives right into real strategies, specific to the prospect he’s meeting with before he gets any commitment for the prospect to pay him. What Sten has found is that the more he gives away and the better he quantifies the value of the ideas he is giving away the more often prospects become clients. As Sten described his approach, one of the things he hit on was having 3 to 4, what he called ‘whiteboard ideas’. These are planning ideas that Sten has rehearsed and gone through so many times that he feels comfortable getting up, and sketching these out on the whiteboard in front of the prospect. This isn’t listing out generic areas an advisor can cover. Sten is diving into the details to the point that if a prospect wanted to, they could walk out and implement the strategy themselves or take it to someone else. Now, in Sten’s experience it is very rare that that actually happens, that someone takes those ideas and takes them to someone else or tries doing them themselves. Instead his experience is that the better job he does demonstrating that value upfront, the more likely it is that a prospect turns into a client. He isn’t just teasing highlights of potential strategies and asking a prospect to trust him.

So with that background for today’s episode we are going to talk about some of the things you can use as your whiteboard ideas related to taxes and as I go through this if you have examples similar to this on tax topics, feel free to send them to me at I would love to highlight your examples in a future episode and of course give you credit for them.

The Bucket Method For Illustrating The Tax Status of Income Sources [2:52]

One area every advisor should have an example for, on lockdown is related to the different tax statuses of various income sources. Nearly everyone has heard the terms IRA and 401(k), a lot of people have heard of Roth accounts or tax deferred savings. But that doesn’t mean clients understand what these things mean in practice, so when it comes to types of income I like an example an advisor gave to me talking about these as buckets. Example goes like this: we can think of income as falling into one of four buckets:

The first bucket is ordinary income which is taxed anywhere from 0-39% currently. This bucket includes things like W2 wages, rental income, interest and dividends and business income from some type of businesses. When income goes through this bucket the IRS is going to take their piece and we get what’s left. So this is our least favoured bucket.
The next bucket is our tax deferred bucket. This bucket is contributions to retirement accounts such as a 401(k), IRA, 403(b), TSP account, etc. These contributions grow tax-deferred, meaning the IRS will wait to take their piece. This is one of the only times the IRS shows any patience but ultimately that income will move into our ordinary tax bucket when it’s distributed to us and we will pay whatever ordinary tax rates are in place when we take the distribution. Oh and by the way, based on current rules at age 72 we will be forced to start taking distributions from this bucket because the IRS is only so patient.

The third bucket is our capital gains bucket, which is currently taxed between 0% and 25%. This bucket gets filled by things like long term capital gains on stock or other asset sales, like the sale from a rental property. This bucket has a lot of potential because it is at lower rates depending on our income and the year when we recognise the gains. For married, family joint tax payers you can have up to almost $81,000 and still pay 0% tax on capital gains in 2021.

Saving the best for last, the final bucket is the tax-free bucket. This bucket is made up of Roth retirement contributions and while we had to use income that already went through the ordinary tax bucket to fill this bucket we do not have any future tax associated with this bucket. Unlike the tax-deferred bucket that eventually gets dumped back into our ordinary income, this bucket won’t be taxed and included in taxable income in any future years which can also impact what our marginal and capital gains tax rates might be at a given year. So, obviously this is a podcast so you can’t see how I would draw this out but this is a great one for the white board.

Anyone can easily draw four buckets or four quadrants, make a box or a chart on the white board, label the top of each: ordinary income, tax-deferred, capital gains and tax-free and list these examples as you give them as you’re going through this conversation with the prospect. This only takes a couple of minutes and clearly illustrates options available and gives you something to refer back to throughout your relationship with the prospect as they become clients.

To make this more powerful and get to Sten’s point about trying to quantify the examples you’re giving as you go through this with a prospect you could be asking great opening questions to understand their circumstances and start suggesting possible opportunities for them. So you know what buckets they already have assets in or they have income in or where they might have opportunities to add to the different buckets because we want to keep coming back to where Sten has found success in giving as much away as you can and quantifying it to make it valuable so the prospect see what the benefit is to them and then wants to work with you to execute those strategies. So having an example like this prepared and ready to go in a prospect meeting can completely change the dynamic of that meeting, instead of being like every other advisor who says things like ‘we maximise your retirement strategies by taking advantage of tax-deferred income sources or other things about being a fiduciary and comprehensive planning and hoping the prospect is wowed by your five-dollar words, you can walk them through exactly why taking advantage of these different opportunities will be impactful to them as they plan for and get into retirement.

The Bag Of Seeds Analogy For Returns on Roth vs Traditional IRA Contributions [7:00]

Okay, so let’s go through another example, a different question I hear from advisors as they work with their clients and prospects relates to the potential investment returns on Roth versus traditional IRA contributions. Some advisors struggle to get the point across that investment results are exactly the same in either situation if tax rates remain the same. As you all know the real advantage to Roth is removing tax uncertainty addressing concerns that tax rates may go up in the future whether from increased income or tax law changes, and like we talked about with the buckets creating greater planning flexibility in the future. Rather than go through a bunch of scenarios proving that math works out every single time here’s a great example an advisor I know uses with their clients and prospects.

Let’s say that you’re a farmer with four bags of seed and each bag of seed can be used to grow one field of crops and for our purposes let’s say that the IRS taxes farmers a 25%. Under traditional IRA contributions you would keep all four bags of feed right now, plant your four fields of crops and when you harvested the fields the IRS would take their 25% or one field of crops. Meaning you would get to keep the other three fields. If you make Roth contributions on the other hand the IRS would take their 25% upfront, meaning you would only have three bags of seed to plant, which would turn into three fields of crops you would harvest but you would keep all three fields because the IRS took their share upfront. In both scenarios you end up with three fields of crops that you get to keep. The only time these scenarios would be different is if the tax rate changed at some point during the process. So if for example the IRS currently collects 25% of the bags of seed, or fields, but you were worried that at some point they might collect 50% instead; making Roth contributions you could pay your one bag of seed now and not two fields of crops later. Again this example only takes a minute and it’s something you can easily illustrate on a whiteboard or pad of paper or with a little bit of practice you could probably even doodle it virtually and have your farm, fields and bags of seeds. Personally I am a terrible artist but don’t let that hold you back, I am fantastic at Pictionary. This isn’t about winning art awards, this is about getting a point across and making it memorable for the client or prospect.

Set Expectations And Ask The Right Questions [9:17]

Those are just two examples you can use to follow Sten’s advice in having whiteboard ideas. There are plenty of others and you want to make sure you have one’s that you’re comfortable with, that you’re confident delivering and that are relevant to the niche you’re focusing on. So, the other piece I really want to reiterate from Sten’s experience which I’ve touched on briefly is that you need to make sure you were asking great open ended questions so you’re learning about the prospect and using your whiteboard ideas that are relevant to them and customising them as you go through to make them as specific as possible. The point of having these ideas ready-to-go is not to have a scripted presentation you use with every person that sits across the table from you. You want to make sure that you’re giving away value that they care about and the only way you’re going to learn what they care about is asking great questions. Yes or no questions are not great questions. The other way you can make sure you’re giving away great relevant information is to ask your prospects to bring in their tax returns.

Now make sure you set expectations ahead of time, you’re not asking them to bring in the return so you can do a full assessment while they sit there and identify every possible planning opportunity or a potential mistake. Let them know that their tax return is a great way from you to understand their current situation and potential areas that you can add value. Then, make sure you come ready to pull three or four things out of their return to share with them on the spot. So, Sten’s point, don’t worry about whether they’re going to become clients, give this information away to demonstrate your value to them and they will be so much more likely to want to work with you to move forward on the strategies you’re sharing. Those three to four things can be the exact same for every single prospect, by the way, especially if you’ve really narrowed down your niche. If one of the line items you focus on is not relevant in a particular year or prospect situation, you can still call it out and let them know as something you monitor for all of your clients, every year and that you’ll be ready to discuss the opportunity with them, if and when they do become applicable.

Steven’s Action Items For Advisors Looking To Apply Sten’s Method [11:16]

Alright, time for action items. First action item is to admit to yourself out loud that your clients are not coming to you for information, they’re coming to you for execution. Follow Sten’s lead and freely give away your strategies, most of that information can be found or googled anyways. Stop holding back, so your prospects know exactly what it is that you are going to be able to offer them. Show them that you can take complex ideas and explain them simply, don’t ask them to just trust you. The next action item: write down your 3 to 4 white board ideas, if you don’t have whiteboard ideas you don’t already use, set a date and commit to having them done and add some kind of accountability to that. If you do already have those ideas that you really like and are comfortable with. Even if you call them something other than whiteboard ideas, ask yourself how you can give away more value in explaining those concepts. What are questions you can ask to learn about the prospect and make it applicable to them? What are ways you can better quantify the value of that strategy? The next action item is to ask all of your prospects and clients for their tax returns. There’s just too much value you can deliver to skip this step. Yes, having the tax return can make the discovery process with a prospect faster and more accurate, but ultimately you’re getting it so that you can more effectively add value for the prospect and eventual client. The last action item is to practice your whiteboard ideas. Practise them with your team, with a friend, with another advisor. If you aren’t sure who to practice with, send me an email at and I’ll make time for the first five advisors who reach out to me, to be a sounding board for their ideas. Alright that’s all for today’s episode. Thank you so much for listening and please be sure to give us a five star review on whatever platform you use to listen to podcasts. Good luck out there and remember to tip your server not the IRS!


The information on this site is for education only and should not be considered tax advice. Retirement Tax Services is not affiliated with Shilanski & Associates, Jarvis Financial Services or any other financial services firms.

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