Nick Foulks is an advisor and Director of Communications Strategy and Client Engagement for Great Waters Financial, a financial planning firm located throughout Minnesota that specializes in providing holistic financial planning and strategic retirement solutions to pre-retirees and retirees.  As a seasoned leader and communicator, Nick develops and enhances the firm’s client experience and with a focus on education, he prides himself on helping his clients create retirement roadmaps in order to provide peace of mind in good, bad, and even ugly economic times.

Russ Alan Prince: In a time when interest rates, inflation, and the general economic outlook are less than stellar, your firm has chosen to redefine the retirement planning experience. Tell me about your firm and why you decided to make this shift in the way you approach retirement planning with your clients.

Nick Foulks: At Great Waters Financial, we specialize in serving people who are in or nearing retirement, working to create financial plans that focus on the major transition people experience when they move from their working careers into whatever they envision for retirement. 

Historically traditional planning firms primarily focus on the technical aspects of creating a financial plan, which is a necessity and continues to provide great value today. However, over the past decade, we have learned today’s retirement planning landscape is much different and retirees are experiencing changes far greater than simply whom their paycheck comes from. 

We have spent years listening to our clients to better understand their perspective as these changes happen in real-time, and through countless conversations, we have discovered multiple areas of life that can be uprooted or impacted when someone leaves their working career. We have also seen how someone’s trust in their financial plan to carry them through good, bad, and ugly times directly correlates to their confidence and ability to engage with all areas of life.

Through these discoveries, we have shifted—or redefined—the way we approach retirement planning. While our first order of business is always to create a solid financial plan for our clients, we go beyond just the numbers and begin the process of helping them create definitions around the significance of this next season of life. Our goal here is to help them to see retirement not as the end of something, but rather as the beginning of something extraordinary. It is our goal to help our clients not just retire from something but rather aspire to something. By redefining what retirement planning means and by addressing more areas of their life, we can better serve our clients in their best interest.

Prince: How does the “redefine” experience go beyond the typical financial plan that most advisors create? What “non-financial” areas are you addressing with clients to ensure their retirement plan truly is comprehensive?

Foulks: We set the tone of our planning approach right away by first asking clients: “What is the money truly for?” Our goal is to help clients look beyond covering their monthly expenses and into the ocean of opportunity before them. 

As their advisor, understanding what money means to them creates far greater context around their transition into retirement. The accounts that our clients have built over their lifetimes are more than just a dollar amount; they are symbolic of sacrifice, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They are the reflection of countless hours traded over a working career. While it is our duty to take the emotion out of financial planning, it is our responsibility as fiduciaries to understand how a loss on a financial account is not just a reduction in a client’s balance, but also a direct impact on their vision for the future. By taking this step back to see the bigger picture, we can help bring a clearer definition to a client’s personal vision for the future. 

We look at several key areas that experience a shift during this time and talk about how to redirect finances to the areas of life that matter—areas such as health, family relationships, values, and so much more. As an advisor, it may seem difficult to broach subjects such as family and relationships but we have found educating pre-retirees on the life changes they are about to experience can significantly help. 

As an example, on average we as individuals spend approximately 2,400 hours a year away from some of the most significant relationships in our lives. When our clients enter retirement that time is rewarded back to them. The question becomes how will they utilize that time and how will their finances help them do so.

We speak often with our clients about putting their money where their values are. Many people struggle with the idea of spending when they have spent a lifetime saving. The mental transition necessary truly takes the careful evaluation of what matters most and how your finances can be utilized to express that.

Prince: Do you believe this type of approach will become an industry-standard in the future? Will consumers come to expect this level of service from their advisor?

Foulks: There’s been a shift in society as more people are questioning how they spend their time —especially as they approach retirement. As careers wind down, we believe more and more people are trying to answer the question: “Why did I trade away hours of my life for income?” 

In the search for a more meaningful life, clients want to have a detailed plan that will provide fulfillment and sense of purpose. The value of a financial advisor is not simply the strategy that they provide from a technical aspect, but rather the human care. We believe that clients need more than calculations; they need coaching and therefore, we believe consumers will come to expect this level of guidance from their advisor.  

RUSS ALAN PRINCE is the Executive Director of Private Wealth magazine ( and Chief Content Officer for High-Net-Worth Genius ( He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs, and select professionals.