Wealthwhile℠: A Case Study in Business Exit Planning

In family financial planning, sensitivity is just as important as practicality and calculations. After all, many families need help making important, objective decisions, and financial planners can often overlook family dynamics which can help develop better, more informed financial strategies.

That emphasis on relationships drives Deerfield’s Wealthwhile planning model. We believe families can set themselves up for financial success by understanding how their decisions affect multiple generations.

Here’s a real-life case study demonstrating how the Wealthwhile model guides clients through major transitions in the family business.

An Unexpected Buyer

A married couple with a family business were long-time Deerfield clients. They sought our help in selling the business so they could begin planning their retirement.

Having worked with this couple for many years, we were familiar with their family on a personal level. While evaluating prospective buyers, one candidate came to mind: their son. Our clients hadn’t considered that option. However, as we reviewed their business fundamentals and weighed their various choices, it became apparent that their son had the raw resources to move the business forward while keeping it in the family.


The parents were intrigued by Deerfield’s idea. Understandably, though, they had some concerns about how it would affect the family dynamic.

For one thing, they were uncertain about whether their son was ready to take over. They wanted the deal to be fair to him, and they weren’t sure how their other children would react to the idea. Could they support the transition without straining the family relationship?

The couple also had to think about their own situation. Would they get enough money from the sale? Would they be able to maintain a reliable income stream after the transaction? And how would it affect their tax situation as they headed toward retirement?

Applying the Wealthwhile℠ Method

This kind of situation shows why Deerfield’s Wealthwhile approach was developed. Our plans focus on linking clients’ material and personal resources with their goals and aspirations. They must follow their passions and the causes they care about, just as they must build financial stability and independence.

Knowing this family well, it was important to us to come up with an arrangement that preserved their relationship and their financial well-being.

The Solution

Once we confirmed that their son was the best buyer, we worked to create a fair and accurate valuation for the business. We sought to formulate a plan that benefitted all parties, collaborating with the family’s CPA to develop a tax-advantageous sale plan.

We reached an agreement specifying that the son would pay after-taxes on the sale proceeds. The parents, meanwhile, would be responsible for the capital gains tax. They decided to defer their compensation so they could maintain income from the business. They also remitted income taxes on the payments, but the son had the option to deduct those payments.

At the same time, we reached out to other family members to initiate conversations about how they would handle the sale. Together, we considered how their relationship would evolve and how they could keep their business dealings separate from their personal relationships.

The Successful Result

In this instance, the solution was more than merely “workable”—it spelled success for all involved. The parents maintained regular income throughout retirement to meet all their living needs while giving their son a tax-advantaged legacy.

The son became a Deerfield client himself. Our Wealthwhile method helped him grow his wealth, invest in his children’s education and future, and focus on his family. He also focused on community involvement and having fun pursuing it.

What’s more, the family was so happy and confident about the outcome that they referred other family members to Deerfield. One of the referrals had critical needs in settling their estate and managing their portfolio to set up a legacy of charitable giving.

This kind of top-to-bottom success story is what drives Deerfield to find innovative, personal financial strategies for our clients. To learn more about how Wealthwhile can better your finances, call (317) 469-2455 or email ssteel@t8j.01f.mywebsitetransfer.com.

About Susie

Susie Steel is COO, Wealth Manager, and Senior Shareholder at Deerfield Financial Advisors, a fee-only financial services and wealth management firm with offices in Indianapolis and Chicago. With over three decades of experience in financial planning, Susie’s approach has always been rooted in a spirit of service, treating each client as an extension of her own family. She simplifies the complex for clients, with the goal of creating a calm, trusting, and nurturing environment. Her unwavering commitment to the principle of “To whom much is given, much will be required” serves as the driving force behind her dedication, diligence, and empathy. 

Susie obtained a business management degree from Ball State University, holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, and held the Accredited Estate Planner (AEP®) designation from the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC) from 2013 to 2018. Susie is actively involved with an extensive list of professional organizations, including NAPFA (The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors), a premier association of fee-only financial advisors, and has served on multiple boards, committees, and councils. Her consistent recognition as one of Indianapolis Monthly’s “Five Star Wealth Managers” for the past decade attests to her outstanding accomplishments (2009-2023).

Outside the professional realm, Susie gives back to her community through her involvement in the Financial Center First Credit Union (FCFCU) to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum Planned Giving Council and Kiwanis Club of Northwest Indianapolis to Junior Achievement. She mentors women through the CFP® Board’s “WIN-to-WIN” program, embodies the spirit of Rotary Club of Carmel, advocates for Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN), and actively serves on the board of the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center (MRNC).
Susie and her husband, Kevin, reside in Carmel, Indiana, where they raised their three children. Outside the office, her focus centers around family, spirituality, and fostering meaningful connections. Embracing the concept of the body as a temple, her personal growth is nurtured through practices like strength training, yoga, and meditation. In her leisure time, she enjoys strolls with her dog, Lulu, and indulges in movies, podcasts, books, and the theater. To learn more about Susie, connect with her on LinkedIn.


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