Frequently Asked Questions
What is financial planning exactly?
Financial planning is an ongoing, dynamic process involving: goal-setting, "cash-flow" planning (what $ are going where), risk management, investing, tax strategy, estate planning (wills/trusts, proper beneficiaries), and debt management.
At least that's the academic definition. I take it a step further and practice what's called financial life planning, which integrates the financial topics above with what matters in your life and what's important to you. Discovering your values, your views about money, and what inspires you is part of the process to make sure the financial plan aligns with what really matters.
After all, nobody has ever wanted their life to be just about owning a diversified portfolio or saving up a few million dollars. Rather, a diversified portfolio or the money we've saved makes possible the things we want to do with our lives, and that is what should be at the center of any true financial plan.
What can I expect in our first meeting?
You can expect me to do a lot of listening. You won't be pitched, pressured, or asked to make any commitment at all. In addition to financial questions, I may ask others such as:
"What matters to you, and why?"
“If you had more time or money, what would you do?”
“What do you want to accomplish or attain so you will feel that you’ve had a life well-lived?”
“What moves, or inspires you?”
It's important to discover what really matters to you and what needs to be at the "heart" of a financial plan. You are of course welcome to ask any questions you have to see how you feel about working together and make sure it's a good fit.
Why should I work with you instead of another financial professional?
To be totally upfront, I don’t know for certain if you should.
My practice is designed for those who are looking for comprehensive financial advice and desire a long-term relationship with an experienced financial planner. Rather than just opening an investment account and checking in once a year, I enjoy building relationships with my clients and helping them design a plan that integrates their finances with what matters most to them in life.
If that sounds like what you’re looking for then I might be the right fit for you. And if not, I can help you find someone who is a better match.
Do I need to invest a certain amount of money to work with you?
Not at all!
One of my goals was to make financial advice more accessible, instead of just to those who have money available to invest. Many of my clients are mid or late career and may have most of their money invested in their 401k, pension, or other retirement plans, and some have their net worth tied up in real estate or businesses.
That’s why I created a flat-fee planning structure so more people can get the advice they need without having to meet an investment minimum.
I don't live in the area, do you work virtually?
I have clients who live all over Pennsylvania and in various parts of the U.S., and we work very well together through email, Zoom video, or phone. I even have some local clients who just prefer using Zoom since they have busy schedules and find it difficult to meet in person. With the convenience of modern technology, geographical location is no longer an obstacle to getting the quality financial advice you need.
Do you just do investments?
Nope! I do investments and a whole lot more.
A big misconception about financial planning is that it consists of just opening investment accounts and picking out stocks or mutual funds.
In reality, investment management is just one part of the comprehensive financial planning picture. Tax planning, retirement analysis, risk management, optimizing employer plans (401k, etc.), and financial coaching are other areas that are just as critical.
How are you compensated? How much will I be charged?
The best part of being an independent financial planner is I am paid only by my clients. I receive no compensation from anyone other than you, and have no incentive to recommend any particular investment or strategy over another.
For those who need investment management, I charge an annual fee that ranges from 0.50%-1.35% on assets that I manage, billed quarterly (fee varies depending on asset size and financial plan complexity).
I also do flat-fee financial planning for those who may not have investable assets, have assets held in employer plans or businesses, or who prefer to manage their investments elsewhere. Comprehensive financial planning fees can range from $3,500-$8,500 annually depending on the complexity and time involved.
I prefer to use the above structure, as I feel this helps provide you with objective advice, gives different options, and allows me to focus on the entire financial planning picture instead of just investment transactions. This way you're paying for advice and guidance and not just being sold a product.
What’s the difference between a financial advisor and a Certified Financial Planner™?
The way the financial industry is regulated, just about anyone with a license to sell financial products can use the title “financial advisor”. It’s a very generic term that doesn’t give much insight into that individual's experience or competence level.
A Certified Financial Planner™ is someone who has met strict education and ethical requirements and does much more than just help you with an investment account. A CFP® professional is there to help put the pieces together to create a comprehensive plan - this includes investment management in addition to tax planning, risk management, retirement planning, and more.
Why do I need a financial planner?
If you have the time, interest, and expertise to devote to finances, then maybe you don't.
The reality is most people don’t usually have all three of those elements. Some may have the interest, but lack the time (or vice versa), and it’s rare to have the proper expertise if you haven't spent time in the industry.
While it’s difficult to picture the benefits of having a financial planner if you haven't worked with one before, the long-term peace of mind knowing your finances are being taken care of by an experienced professional can be worth the cost in itself. In fact, the most positive feedback I get from clients are from those who feel that just having an accountability partner to help them take action has made the biggest difference in their financial lives.
There was also a widely-published study by Vanguard that shows investors who have a financial planner average around 3% more in annual net returns over the long term than investors who don’t use one.
In today's world, tax laws, financial laws, and regulations are changing all the time (just like your life & financial picture) so it's important to have someone in the know to avoid making costly mistakes.