Putting the Pieces Together
Financial planning is less puzzling with Patti Brennan of Key Financial
by Sharon A. Shaw


Ask people what the most important piece of a 200-piece puzzle is, and many will reply: “the corners.”  Not so, says Patti Brennan, founder of Key Financial Inc.: “It’s the picture on the box.” As a Certified Financial Planner, Brennan helps her clients clarify what their picture should look like, using the pieces that are personally important to them. “We take the pieces to create the picture, put it in writing and take action,” she says. “Money is a means to an end; the first step is to define what that looks like for each person, and only then can we develop strategies to get them there.”


A graduate of Georgetown University, Brennan majored in nursing and worked in intensive care for three years, but it was a financial planning course she took in her last semester that changed her life. After becoming a CFP in 1985, Brennan started Key Financial in 1990. Since that time she has been chosen as one of the Top 1000 in the nation by Barron’s. Brennan was only one of 40 advisors—and the only woman—chosen in the state of Pennsylvania. Key Financial has also been honored by Philadelphia magazine, The Philadelphia Business Journal, Fortune and Worth magazine. She is also on the Board of Trustees for Chester County Hospital, the Chester County Economic Development Council and Cuddle My Kids. All are experiences she calls among the most rewarding things she has ever done.


Key Financial offers what Brennan calls “true wealth management.” In addition to portfolio management, the company provides income tax planning, cash flow management, college and retirement planning, and estate planning. It can be difficult for an individual to stay on top of all these aspects of their financial life, but Brennan and her team strive to do it all the time. They understand the tax laws, are well informed about changes, can anticipate the outcome and be proactive. She cautions, however, that this is not the same as predicting the markets. “That is impossible. It’s like predicting the weather; we know what the seasons look like, but can’t guarantee what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week or next month. But we know what we want to accomplish and what needs to get done, and to keep an umbrella handy.”


Brennan believes it is important for people consider their financial plan whenever there is a life-changing event. “Hoping is a verb, not a strategy,” she says. One of her favorite quotes comes from U.S. General Douglas MacArthur: “Every failure in military conflict can be described in two words: Too late.” When it comes to your money, she believes it is always better to be early than late.


She suggests that people find an advisor using the Financial Planning Association, an independent organization that can be found at www.fpanet.org. “There are many good advisors; talk to several and see if there is a connection. Make sure they are competent, know the rules of the game on tax law, taxes and cash flow, and not only about investments. Most importantly, make sure your advisor listens to you, and talks with you in terms you can understand.”   


Brennan is an independent advisor and notes that this in an important distinction. “As an independent I am not an employee of a firm, there are no quotas and no proprietary products to recommend. No one is standing over my shoulder; we can recommend what is in the best interest of my clients. In other words, we work for clients, not a bank or broker/dealer.”


The first consultation with Key Financial is free, and Brennan considers this a working meeting, where she can give feedback on questions people come in with. “To me the most important question is whether we can make a difference, and we won’t know that until we get a sense of where they are, what they’ve done to that point, and what’s most important to them. Then I look for chemistry. We want to make sure it’s a good fit for everyone, because once we begin working, we are all in.” 


Having a medical background has also helped her in her financial career. Brennan uses a lot of the same skills in financial planning that she did as an ICU nurse, including empathy, clear communication and, to a certain degree, thinking on her feet.  Brennan says these skills are as important to people’s money as they are to their health. “Assessing issues and explaining potential solutions in terms people can really understand is key. They feel listened to, are comfortable and can act with confidence.”


She often hears from people outside her firm that they feel like they are being “talked at,” and “watching financial characters on TV is even worse! I’m not sure how people can feel confident without understanding what their options might be, the pros and cons of each, and the implications both short and long term. We have a wonderful software system that supports our findings, lays out the before and after, and is simple and easy to understand.”


Perhaps being the mother of four children is a plus. “It doesn’t matter if someone has just so much money or is very wealthy,” she says. “It’s important to have an understanding of what tends to keep people up at night, and that each family has their own set of concerns, hopes for their family and dynamics.


“It is a privilege that people trust me enough to share important things about their kids, their jobs, their hopes for the future. Sometimes they cry, but we laugh a lot, too. It’s so much fun when we can see potential results on paper and realize that once it’s pulled together, important objectives are achievable. Sometimes we help people achieve significance not just personally, but for the community as well. The scattered puzzle pieces that once lay on a table in disarray ultimately create a family masterpiece.” 


Felicia Perretti is a freelance photographer based in Philadelphia.


Key Financial Inc.

1560 McDaniel Drive

West Chester, PA 19380

Phone: 610-429-9050
Web: www.keyfinancialinc.com


Securities offered through Royal Alliance Associates, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Insurance services offered through Patricia Brennan are independent of Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. Advisory services offered through Key Financial, Inc., a registered investment advisor not affiliated with Royal Alliance Associates, Inc.


 The “Barron’s Top 1000” is a select group of individuals who are screened on a number of different criteria. Among the factors that advisors are assessed include their assets under management, revenues, the quality of service provided to clients, and their adherence to high standards of industry regulatory compliance. Portfolio performance is not a factor. Please see http://online.barrons.com/report/top-financial-advisors for more information. Third-party rankings and recognitions are no guarantee of future investment success and do not ensure that a client or prospective client will experience a higher level of performance or results. These ratings should not be construed as an endorsement of the advisor by any client nor are they representative of any one client’s evaluation.