Gretchen Behnke, CFP®, MBA Pearl Financial Planning LLC

Contact this advisor

About Gretchen Behnke, CFP®, MBA, RLP

I’m Gretchen, the founder of Pearl Financial Planning, a boutique financial planning firm for independent professional women who want a holistic life planning approach to align their money and their lives.

As a Registered Life Planner, I want to uncover your most essential goals for a fulfilled life before formulating your financial plan, so your finances can fully support those goals.

Life Planning starts with a process for discovering (or remembering) the full life you want to live. Once we have your vision vividly painted, we do a comprehensive financial plan. And that plan is much more tailored, meaningful, and exciting because we built it within the broader context of your ideal life.

Investments are a critical part of your financial plan, and I will manage your investments and advise on your 401(k). But I believe your life shouldn’t be all about your investment portfolio; rather, your investment portfolio should be in service to all the things you want to do with your life.

I don’t like the idea of advising on hundreds of thousands of dollars without really knowing my client. Ours will be a collaborative relationship where you are fully heard and seen, and treated with respect and empathy.

I was a client of a fee-only financial planner for nearly 10 years before I started Pearl. It made a huge difference in my life. Now, I’m doing that for you, with a twist: I trained extensively in Life Planning to add that skill to my technical expertise in comprehensive financial planning.

Often financial planning is comprehensive, in that, it gives you a robust plan to succeed at the life you are living now. But what if the life you are living now is out of sync with the life you want to be living? That’s where Life Planning comes in.

For a financial plan to be most beneficial to you, we need to align it with your life. Your best life. Your ideal life. Schedule a free consultation to start your exploration.

Contact this advisor

Recently Published

How one woman found the power to manifest her hidden dream

May 7, 2021

When Anna sat down for her first meeting with a financial planner, she had no idea that in six months she would be living her biggest dream.

Anna had just turned 44 and went seeking a financial planner for investment advice for excess savings, to make sure she’s saving properly for retirement, and to develop a relationship with a planner. She wanted to take control of her finances in a way her parents never did.

She went into the initial consultation ready to talk about her income, savings, investment accounts, 401(k), mortgage — all things related to her money and finances. It was unexpected when this advisor only spent about 10 minutes on those things before moving on. This person wanted to know about her life.

What’s important to you

“What’s important to you?” the advisor asked.

Anna thought about it and gave some financial-adjacent answers, keeping it short, expecting to get back to the numbers at any moment. But soon it became clear that the advisor really wanted to know. This advisor truly wanted to hear about Anna’s ideal life; what she wants out of life; what’s most important to her. And through the video conference, Anna could sense that the advisor was ready to listen.

So Anna started talking. She was enjoying the interaction. She talked for half an hour about small frustrations with her work and her love of travel and that she wishes she could do more volunteering and how she loves spending time with her nieces and nephews.

The advisor kept listening. Even through a long silent moment …

Which ended when Anna, wide-eyed, surprised both of them by blurting out: I want to fly. I want to learn to fly a plane.

At last, the hidden dream came up from the depths and into the light.

Once it was out there, Anna was hit by anxiety, thinking, “This is a crazy notion I might do ‘someday’ but what am I doing telling this person today? Where did that come from?” Yet, the reaction from the advisor was only shared enthusiasm and positive regard. She felt supported and free to continue.

After Anna said all she had to say about her dream of flying — which wasn’t just a notion but a long-time private longing — and the other pieces of her ideal life, they wrapped up the meeting and scheduled the next 3 meetings during which they would develop her Financial Life Plan.

A dream grounded in financial reality

Over the next few weeks, Anna kept thinking about that blurt. All at once it felt like a distant dream and something of urgent importance. She thought how her advisor had shown nothing but excitement and support for the idea, and had actually helped to show her a vision of what her life could be with flying in it.

When the Financial Life Plan was complete, its charts and numbers added a groundedness to Anna’s goals. The advisor walked her through the comprehensive plan, highlighting that the investment plan and savings plan showed room in the budget to do the thing she always wanted to do. With that, she had the full realization: there’s no good reason to keep putting off my dream.

She started to agree that she should be able to have this for herself … now. How could she get this into her life today?

Security, confidence and a vision realized

Three months passed, and Anna was really looking forward to her check-in meeting with her advisor. She had never felt more secure and confident about her financial life. She felt like she had a plan that put all her life priorities in order. And her advisor was an active partner — helping her make decisions and overseeing her plan and investments — as well as someone who shared in the joy of her accomplishments. 

So she couldn’t wait to share her news. In some ways it felt like a small addition — a small thing that made a huge difference. She had done her research, found the right place, and started taking lessons. She was flying.

About the Author

About the Author

Gretchen Behnke, CFP®, is a fiduciary woman financial planner in Plano, TX. Pearl Financial Planning is a fee-only firm providing full financial planning and investment management services to independent professional women and couples. Serving local clients in-person or virtually, and virtual meetings for clients across the country. Tap to learn more.

Read the full post →

Why super-smart people still need financial advice

April 29, 2021

I mostly work with people in their 40s, so why was I featured in an article about Social Security mistakes people make? Because the story I told applies to all of us.

Although my specialty is advising independent professional women in their 40s and 50s, I have worked with many retirees over the years. When I had a chance to share a cautionary tale with ThinkAdvisor about Social Security, I felt it was important to try to make a bigger point.

Here’s the point: Even super-smart people need good financial advice

When the reporter asked me, “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen a person make regarding Social Security?” here was my response: “Not applying until age 75! And missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Full disclosure: That person was my dad.

Before you judge my chops, two important notes:

1) This happened 14 years ago, when personal finance was a hobby for me, before I became a CFP Professional, and

2) We didn’t talk about money in my family. Why did Dad decide to share this particular detail with me? Perhaps because it was such a big mistake that it was almost comical. If you didn’t laugh, you would cry.

How a smart person makes money mistakes

We were sitting in the restaurant booth when he told me. Him with his endless cup of coffee, me probably thinking this lunch is going on a bit too long. Dad was a tenured university professor, actually, a Distinguished Professor, which is a whole other level of prestige. At age 75, his career was still on an upward trajectory. Retirement was something he’d only recently begun to contemplate.

A little more background: My grandparents were immigrants with about a 6th grade education, and my dad was born during the Great Depression. The combination of these facts means the only education he got about money during his upbringing was: Work hard and save all you can.

Which is exactly what he did: Got a PhD, worked hard, lived frugally, saved the rest.

The problem is, that’s all he did. He did not invest, he did not educate himself on financial principles, and he didn’t ask for help. He didn’t have a financial advisor. (No, I’m not counting the time my ex-brother-in-law, the stockbroker, sold him some inappropriate funds to earn a commission. Stockbrokers are not financial advisors; they are salespeople.)

So I’m very sure Dad didn’t know the rules for Social Security. For example: There is a great financial advantage to waiting until age 70 to start taking it, but after that, you’re just leaving money on the table.

Back to the restaurant booth: He told me he had just applied for Social Security, at age 75, and the representative told him he had missed out on nearly $500,000. Then Dad looked at me and laughed in a “Aren’t I a dope?” kind of way. I mean, what else could he do at that point. 

What to do instead: Make educated financial choices

We could argue about whether he needed the money but that’s a separate issue. What I want to focus on here is the idea of making educated, purposeful financial decisions.  

My dad wasn’t struggling financially, but he worried — in the same way so many clients who come to me are worried. It’s common to feel a nagging uncertainty about whether there’s going to be enough money to last through retirement. Maybe a child born in the Depression can never totally get over the worry, but the best way to lessen it: Make educated decisions on purpose; don’t just wing it and hope for the best.

Taking these steps early-on will help you be more financially secure and feel more optimistic

1) Invest extra savings in broadly diversified mutual funds during working years.

2) Have a comprehensive financial plan, ideally one that’s continually updated and adjusted so you know you’re on-track for retirement.

3) Take Social Security at age 70 and invest that, too, especially if you keep working like my dad did.

What you can learn from this cautionary tale

My dad was a super-smart guy. He had a PhD. He was a Distinguished Professor. He was No. 5 in the world in the field of speech anxiety research. He was a member of Mensa.

But he didn’t know about money. He didn’t care to know. He lived in the world of ideas.

And you know what? I’m totally fine with that. Not everyone is interested in money; in fact, most people aren’t. That’s why my job exists.

What I’m not fine with is ignoring it. I know it’s hard to ask for help, especially when you’re used to being the smartest person in the room. But we can’t be experts at everything. Offer help in your field of expertise and accept help in other areas. Think of it as a way to take care of yourself and your loved ones. You can be a super-smart person and have a professional financial advisor helping you with your money.

About the Author

About the Author

Gretchen Behnke, CFP®, is a fiduciary woman financial planner in Plano, TX. Pearl Financial Planning is a fee-only firm providing full financial planning and investment management services to independent professional women and couples. Serving local clients in-person or virtually, and virtual meetings for clients across the country. Tap to learn more.

Read the full post →

In the world of financial advice, where does Life Planning fit?

February 13, 2021

You’ve heard about Financial Life Planning, but how is it different from other financial advice offerings out there? Hopefully, the image of concentric circles conveys the relationships at a glance. Life Planning includes Comprehensive Financial Planning, which includes Investment Advice.

Let’s examine in more detail what you can expect to get from each of these three levels of financial advice and where Life Planning fits.

Tiny Circle: The narrowest service is investment advice

Standalone investment advice is most of what goes on in the world of financial advice. The advisor typically finds out a little bit about your assets, age, and tolerance for investment risk. With this limited information, they make a recommendation about how to invest your savings or retirement money. 

Giving investment advice alone is a perfectly legitimate service. It’s just that it’s very narrow. The advisor has little to go on when making a recommendation. In my view, even with the very best intention to do the best job for the client, it’s difficult to make an excellent recommendation without seeing the bigger picture. It’s like the advisor is looking through a keyhole into the room that is your financial life. They only see a tiny portion of what’s going on.

Middle Circle: Comprehensive financial planning is a robust service

Comprehensive financial planning starts with your advisor learning a lot more about you. So when they give investment advice, it’s likely to be more dialed-in to the precise needs of you and your family. But the real point here is that comprehensive financial planning includes so much more than investment advice.

The planner requests, and you provide, information on the whole picture of your financial life. In addition to your investments, they analyze information on income and compensation, budgeting and spending, employer retirement plans, employee benefits, life insurance, disability insurance, home mortgages, social security benefits, income taxes, and more.

A good financial planner also talks to you about your goals. Maybe you have an early retirement goal, or a college savings goal, or you love the idea of being mortgage-free. These will all be built into the plan. And when it comes to investments, a comprehensive financial planner will advise you on how to best use your employer retirement plan versus an individual investment account.

These are all things that are outside that tiny circle of investment advice.

The Fullest Circle: Financial life planning

You may be thinking that comprehensive financial planning pretty much covers everything. What could possibly be in this largest circle?

For a financial plan to be most beneficial to you, we need another layer. We need to align the plan with your life. Your best life. Your ideal life.

Often financial planning is comprehensive, in that, it gives you an excellent plan to succeed at the life you are living now. But what if the life you are living now is out of sync with the life you want to be living?

Here’s where Life Planning comes in.

Life Planning starts with a process for discovering (or remembering) the full life you want to live. Then, we align your money with this vision and work toward making it happen, no matter where you are starting from.

As a Life Planner, I want to first discover your most essential goals for a fulfilled life before formulating your financial plan, so your finances can fully support those goals.

Once we have your vision vividly painted, we do a comprehensive financial plan. And that plan is much more tailored, meaningful, and exciting because we built it within the broader context of your ideal life.

We call it Life Planning because what’s really important is your life, not your money.

Life planning is financial planning done right

Some people are fine with giving or receiving investment advice alone. Not me. I don’t like the idea of advising on hundreds of thousands of dollars without really knowing my client. And I don’t think anybody wants their life to be all about owning an investment portfolio. Rather, the investment portfolio should be in service to all the things you want to do with your life.

About the Author

About the Author

Gretchen Behnke, CFP®, is a fiduciary woman financial planner in Plano, TX. Pearl Financial Planning is a fee-only firm providing full financial planning and investment management services to independent professional women and couples. Serving local clients in-person or virtually, and virtual meetings for clients across the country. Tap to learn more.

Read the full post →

Visit the blog →

Ideal Clients

  • Gen X
  • Holistic Financial Planning
  • Single Women
  • Women Professionals

Ways Advisor Charges

  • Monthly Fee
  • Flat Fee

Fee Options

  • Monthly Fee: $295/mo + $2000 upfront
  • Flat Fee: $4000/engagement

SEC Records

Loading...