truly comprehensive, strictly fee only financial planning
Many large financial services firms now offer personal financial planning components. Sound, thoughtful and experienced financial planning is certainly extremely important in an uncertain world. Still, searching for a trusted, unbiased and dedicated professional financial planner to serve as a guide in making complex, layered, and interwoven financial and investment decisions can be an arduous process.
For most large institutions careful and attentive personal financial planning is neither a key revenue driver nor a core competency. Planning is not the primary purpose of these firms. It is not the reason for their existence. Most banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies, large investment advisory firms, national accounting firms, and others now provide financial planning services in one form or another. Nonetheless, in virtually all cases, these firms are in the primary business of providing something else: countless products and services relating to banking and credit, brokerage, insurance, investment management, tax and accounting, etc.
In such firms, personal financial planning is regarded internally as something of a loss leader. For them, the real impetus behind offering financial planning is to provide an opening to sell other, far more lucrative products and services. Moreover, once customers have been sold multiple accounts with corresponding debit and credit cards, online bill payment services, mortgage loans, lines of credit, brokerage and investment management accounts, etc., moving becomes exponentially more difficult. Customers become lifetime recurring revenue streams.
Smart consumers are becoming increasingly resistant to such strategies. And for good reason. For long enough, they have been trapped by default. They are deciding to lose the weight - the weight of never-ending fees and middlemen. They are discovering the many benefits of fiscal as well as physical fitness.
How best to travel lightly? How to handle one's personal finances and investments without all of the financial industry's excess baggage? One might attempt to educate oneself and go it alone. The challenge is in staying current on a wide range of issues. Many people have busy careers and families not to mention other outside interests. Finding a small, independent and reliable source for personal financial and investment advice on an as-needed basis may present an attractive alternative. While not common, small, highly qualified firms do exist that do not have asset minimums and do not require ongoing asset management fees.
Choosing the right financial planner
A good financial planner will generally have at least a decade of experience in advising others in important matters involving personal financial planning and investments. The best planners are also excellent listeners. A professional background in law, accounting, finance or engineering is helpful but not essential. Practices vary, but many top practitioners are fee only Certified Financial Planners® with one or more professional degrees. Financial planning for these individuals is both a passion and a core competency. It is what they do best. All or a substantial portion of their firms' revenues are generated by financial planning, whether on an hourly or flat (fixed) fee basis.
Fee only financial planners are true fiduciaries. They are professionals who are obligated to act in their clients' best interests. Careful, attentive, individualized financial planning is hard work. It is time consuming. It does not lend itself particularly well to scale.
Commerce-buying and selling-does help make the world go around. Smart consumers, however, are jumping off what increasingly seems to be less merry-go-round-and more just plain runaround. Like-minded fee only professional financial planners are true and trusted fiduciaries with no competing sales goals or directives. They are there if, as and when needed to help with a wide range of issues relating to personal finance and investing. For these planners, financial planning is akin to a religious calling.
No hidden agendas. No lurking product sales. No commissions or ongoing asset management fees. Just an unswerving commitment to helping you manage, protect and grow your resources while living life to its fullest.