Frequently Asked Questions
What is a CFP®?
CFP stands for Certified Financial Planner. Just about anyone can use the title “financial planner.” Only those that have fulfilled the CFP Board’s rigorous requirements may call themselves a CFP® professional.To obtain the certification, applicants must undergo a comprehensive financial planning curriculum at an approved college or university. Their curriculum includes the financial planning process, tax planning, employee benefits, and retirement planning, estate planning, investment management, and insurance. Afterward, they must pass the 10-hour CFP® Certification Exam. The exam is designed to ensure that the applicant is highly qualified to develop a plan for your finances. CFP® applicants must then gain several years of experience delivering financial planning services to clients.
Certified Financial Planners™ must adhere to the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism, and diligence.
What is a fiduciary? Are you fiduciaries?
A fiduciary is a person who acts on behalf of another to manage assets. The fiduciary standard of care is the highest legal duty of one party to another. It requires that the fiduciary place the interests of the client above their own interests. As Certified Financial Planner™ professionals, we operate under this fiduciary standard of care for our clients.
Not all financial advisors operate under the fiduciary standard. Many are only required to operate under what is called the suitability standard. This dictates that a financial professional can only recommend investments that are suitable for their clients. However, unlike the fiduciary standard, the suitability standard does not require professionals to put the needs of the client ahead of their own. This means that the advisor can recommend investments that pay higher commissions and fees regardless of whether it is in the best interest of their client or not.
Why do I need a financial planner?
The easy answer is to help you manage your finances. However, a financial planner can provide much more than meets the eye. Sure we will help you sort out your finances, save for retirement, set up your company’s 401(k) plan, etc. Further, we will walk beside you and help provide you peace of mind about what can be a complex and frustrating area of many people’s lives. Our goal is to not only help you reach your goals, but create a plan for your situation that will help you sleep at night. We want to turn each of our clients into a more educated investor and provide you guidance on your way to financial independence. We can be the voice of reason during all of the noise that surrounds market events and help you make the decisions that are best for your financial future.
What is your investment philosophy?
We take an evidence-based approach to investing. This means that we rely upon decades of market history when building our portfolios rather than trying to predict the future. No-one has a crystal ball, no matter how educated they are. Academic research has consistently shown that trying to time the market does not work. While you cannot control nor predict the future, you can control risk, asset allocation, expenses, and taxes.
Risk can be reduced through diversification. This is more than just having a lot of holdings. A diversified portfolio is globally invested, contains companies of different sizes and sectors of the economy, and has the right mix of stocks vs. bonds. While you cannot eliminate investment risk, you can minimize it through diversification.
We seek to minimize expenses by using low-cost mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. High costs can drag down the return of any portfolio, no matter how diversified it is.
Taxes are also a major component of any investment strategy. While you can rarely eliminate taxes, you can minimize them. An efficient investment strategy always considers the tax implications.
The most important thing to control is your behavior. No amount of risk management, asset allocation, expense reduction, nor tax savings will make up for behavioral pitfalls. Many different psychological factors can lead you to make investment mistakes. It’s part of our job to prevent you from making those mistakes.
What should I expect in the financial planning process?
Many people have only known financial planners to be product salespeople. Not us. Our process from start to finish is centered around providing comprehensive, objective advice. Here is what you can expect when you reach out to us:
FIRST MEETING: Our process always begins with listening ears. In the first meeting, we seek to gain a clear understanding of who you are and your current financial situation. We will mutually determine if our services are the right fit for your situation. At the end of this meeting, we will set a follow-up date for us to get back together. Between the first and second meeting, we will conduct a thorough analysis and review of your situation. We will put together recommendations based upon your goals and the scope of our agreement.
FOLLOW-UP MEETING: The goal of this meeting is for us to deliver our recommendations to you. We will explain every recommendation and give you time to ask questions. You will come away from this meeting with clear, actionable insights to improve your financial situation.
ONGOING: If you decide to work with us on an ongoing basis, we will set up reviews at a minimum once per year. During this review, we will update your financial plan and review our investment strategy.
What makes your client experience unique?
We build a unique portfolio for each individual and business that we serve. These portfolios are framed around your specific goals, risk level, and time horizon. We don’t just put people into models that are used by a mass group of clients. We also strive to provide excellent customer service to clients. We make a point to always promptly return phone calls and emails. We also periodically review plans and adjust them to fit your current situation. Life changes happen, and we want to make sure your plan updates as those come. Lastly, we hope to have a relationship with each client that extends beyond just their finances. For this reason, over time, our clients often become friends.
Where is my money held?
We use a third-party custodian for safely holding all client assets. The custodian produces monthly and quarterly statements and delivers them directly to you. On those statements, you see holdings, transactions, fees, and other details.
Can you work with clients remotely?
Yes, for states in which we are licensed, we can conduct meetings virtually. We utilize software that allows us to video chat, share screens, as well as annotate documents and presentations together. Even some local clients prefer these meetings for their convenience and ease.
How do you select investments for clients?
Our portfolios are carefully constructed with best-in-class research. We are evidence-based investors, meaning we make our investment allocations and decisions based upon pure data, not emotion or speculation.
Our portfolios are primarily comprised of low-cost exchange-traded funds(ETFs) and mutual funds. We look to invest in the lowest-cost solution that will achieve the appropriate level of risk and long-term returns for our clients.
How do you measure success?
We measure success differently for each client that walks in the door. We focus it around your specific goals and needs. We feel that if we can help you accomplish your goals and needs then we have had a successful relationship. We want to guide you toward wiser, better decisions with your money. That is what we consider success. This can be done by anything from preventing a bad financial decision to placing your assets and money in the most efficient vehicle. Ultimate success for us is to help you be a good steward of the resources that the Lord has provided you.
What should I expect from you, as a client?
If you’ll refer to “What should I expect in the financial planning process?” above, it will give you a view of the structure of our client meetings. If you decide to work with us, we promise that you can ALWAYS expect the following:
HONESTY from us
CONFIDENTIALITY with all of your information
PRIORITY, we will always put your interest ahead of ours
PROFESSIONALISM in our work for you
EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE each time you interact with our office
Should you engage us as your financial advisor, you should expect a working relationship. We want to meet with you regularly to make sure any plans are adjusted to fit with your current life situation.
I don’t have a lot of money to invest. Can you help me?
The short answer is yes. Over the 26 years we’ve had in this business, some of our best current customers were once people who started with $50-$100 a month. A large home is still built one brick at a time. So, with any customer, we will help you start laying bricks on your house (or maybe you want a mansion).
I’d like to learn more. What’s my next step?
We would love to get in touch with you. Fill out our “Contact Us” form. One of our advisors will get back to you to discuss your situation and set up a free consultation to see if our services align with your goals.
What should I bring to my first meeting?
Come as you are.
Like a first date, the first meeting can seem overwhelming. We won’t send you a long set of required documents and information before our first meeting. We want our first meeting with you to be as relaxed and informal as possible. Our goal in this first meeting is to get a good feel for who you are and what you’re looking for. A big part of what we do is helping you get your financial life organized. We don’t expect you to have everything put together before you walk in the door.
Naturally, the more information we have, the better, so bring what you can. Throughout the meeting we will determine which remaining items are pertinent to our discussion and scope of planning as we move forward.