Finish Strong

A Real Pro Retires from Triune

It’s been my treat for over 10 years now to call J. Emerson Hartzler my client, then colleague, and finally friend (for life). He is one of the most principled and disciplined men I’ve ever met. He invested in me deeply — and for this I doubt I’ll ever be able to re-pay him.

My dear friend Cindy introduced me to Emerson in late 2004. At the time, Emerson was COO of the largest cardiology group in Kansas City; indeed, among the 20 largest similar practices in America. Apparently, one of their Physicians had come to him questioning investment performance and expenses of their retirement plan — he had enlisted Cindy to help him address the issues. Cindy solicited my assistance, for which I will be forever grateful.

Emerson and I hit it off immediately: I found him to be thoughtful, considerate, intelligent and worldly (I imagine he found me to be immature). Initially, we had a marriage of convenience — we both had something each other needed. I was able to answer technical questions and provide less expensive, better performing options; Emerson offered access to one of the more sought-after physician groups in Kansas City. It was classic “You scratch my back, I,ll scratch yours.”

But Emerson was far more interested in me, and my development as a professional, than I could have ever dreamt at the time. He taught me how to organize and lead a Committee meeting (stay calm). No multiple-page handouts: one-pagers, no more! “If you can’t get it on one page, you don’t know it.” He reminded me that my vision didn’t always matter. I remember explaining in painstaking detail how we would come on-site to his firm to conduct wonderful workshops for his employees. He gently reminded me, “Geoff, that’s great, but just so you know, even if the Pope rolls through town, we don’t stop seeing patients.” And ultimately, “You will know you have succeeded when they know your name.”


Turns out Emerson and my partner Jim Mullinix had met at church 30 years prior. And when they re-connected in 2005, Emerson shared with Jim his vision for the next chapter of his career. You see, he did not believe that retirement meant an easy chair and daily golf, but additionally he was driven to help regular folks make better financial decisions. This meant revolutionary notions like living within your means, spending less than you earn, saving money systematically, setting goals, giving generously and tracking your progress. He believed Triune should believe this, too.

Emerson, Mr. Principled & Disciplined, had already thought this out. He wanted to help others, with literally no regard for himself or his own personal gain. Thus, Triune’s pro-bono practice was born. As a result of Emerson’s influence, we have and will continue to serve clients without regard to their ability to pay us. Thanks to Emerson, we recognize we have no choice but do so — it’s the right thing to do. As Emerson departs, we’re committed to this important part of our company.

Emerson Hartzler, don’t be a stranger. We will miss you too much — and so we may be forced to let the air out of your bicycle tires.

If you’d like to send Emerson warm wishes on his retirement, you’re welcome to send them tothe Triune office. He’ll always be part of the Triune family.

Customer Service and Market Volatility

The recent market volatility has probably caught your attention and left you wondering, “What does Triune think about this?”

Let’s start with an analogy involving a recent family vacation. I inadvertently left my cell phone in my rental car as we returned it. We had been on the shuttle to LAX from the rental lot for less than 10 minutes when I realized it. I immediately borrowed my wife’s phone and called the rental company, hoping someone could help. After all, I had just left there and knew exactly where my phone was. I could identify the car, I knew where it was and could hopefully nip this in the bud with just a little help from the rental office.

To my frustration and dismay, I ended up getting terrible customer service. I remember thinking multiple times, “Why doesn’t anyone care as much as I do?” I knew I was the one who made the mistake, so I wasn’t blaming them. But in my efforts to correct the situation, all I wanted was to feel like someone there cared just a little bit. Getting no response from them did NOT make me feel very good.

So let’s connect the analogy to what’s going on today.

At Triune, we take the planning and management of your money very seriously. Our money, as well as that of our families, is invested in the same investments that we’ve recommended to you. We know from experience that volatility and endless media reports of how much worse it could get can leave you with lots of questions and worries about if we are doing the right thing. You simply want to know that we care as much as you do and that Triune is on top of it.

Short-term volatility is a natural part of long-term investment process. While it is no fun to wait through, it’s precisely the reason that stocks have outperformed other asset classes over long periods of time. We’ve based our approach on more than 100 years of collective experience, objective, Nobel Prize-winning academic research and experience in managing through multiple periods of volatility. So we know that, given the intentional approach we employed well before this week, reacting to the volatility is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Consider these interesting stats:

History of S&P 500* Declines 1928-2014

History of S&P 500* Declines 1928-2014

You’ve heard us quote him before, but it bears repeating. Warren Buffett said, “The market has a very efficient way of taking monies from the impatient investors and giving it to the patient ones.”

Know that we have carefully thought through your allocation in relation to your goals, objectives and time frames. While it doesn’t prevent short term declines in a portfolio, it does put the odds of long-term success in your favor.

Most importantly, we’re here to converse with you. We welcome your calls and want to talk through all the reasons why we think the path we are on together is still the best one, and still the path that is in YOUR best interest.

What does CARFAX mean for your 401(k)?

Do you remember CARFAX being around when you bought your first used car as a teenager? Probably not, since the company didn’t exist until 1984 — and only served automobile dealers (not the general public) until December 1996. Today, it would be unthinkable to consider a used car purchase without first requesting the CARFAX report, which contains important data about the car you are considering — like its title history, whether it’s been wrecked, flooded or salvaged, odometer readings, and certain accident and service records.

“Let the sleeping dog lie.” “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Some call this conventional wisdom — but that’s not smart when it comes to your 401(k). Because in the world of 401(k) plans, what you don’t know really can hurt you. And for the overwhelming majority of Americans, their 401(k) plan balance will grow to become the largest single asset — and by far their most significant retirement account. So, inspired by CARFAX, Triune now offers its 401(k) Accountability Report.

We offer this report as a FREE service, to help you benchmark four key areas of your 401(k) plan:

Expenses: Do you know how much your 401(k) REALLY costs? Not just the investments — but ALSO the expenses for plan record-keeping, administration, brokerage fees, commissions, etc.? How does this all-in cost compare with what that cost SHOULD BE in today’s marketplace?

Employee Advising: How many people on your team are on-track to retire with dignity someday? Does each of them know if they are on-track? Do you know?

Performance: How do your funds stack up? Are high fund fees unnecessarily dragging down plan balances? Is everyone on your team in a diversified mix of funds that is right for them?

Plan Design & Service: Do you get mileage from your plan’s Roth provision? Do you review your written Investment Policy Statement at least annually? If your plan were audited, could you document that you’ve had regular, meaningful plan reviews?


Inertia is a powerful force in the 401(k) universe, so continuing with a poor performing or costly 401(k) may lead to very disappointing outcomes. Our vision is to come alongside you, to help you be intentional about benchmarking the four elements of your 401(k) that matter the most. To learn more, contact me, Geoff Huber, today at finishstrong@triunefp.comor 913-825-6100.