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Common Questions

Commonly Asked Questions

Misty Dock

Here are some typical questions about working with a financial planner:

I don't understand everything about my financial situation. Can I still work with a financial planner?

Yes.  Very few people understand all the complexities of their situation today.  Actually, most people have a very limited understanding.  You are busy, you have other interests, and the financial, tax, legal, and regulatory environment is constantly changing.  A financial planner will help organize your situation, and help you understand it. 

I'm a little embarrassed about my financial situation. Should I straighten things out before working with a financial planner?

No.  Nearly everyone has made financial decisions they wish they had done differently.  (Even Warren Buffett, who named his company after one of his worst business decisions!)  A good financial planner will not be judgmental, but will help you start from your present situation and move forward, based on your goals.  A financial planner will bring experience and knowledge that will help you achieve your goals more effectively.

I see free retirement planning tools on the web. Why pay for a retirement plan?

All retirement planning tools must make assumptions and projections about the future.  What assumptions are right for you?  Often tools take a one-size-fits all approach.  Or, a free tool has a bias because the company providing the tool is selling financial products.  Free tools often have simplistic recommendations.  A good financial planner will help you understand how to prepare for retirement and how changes now will affect your next phase of life.  With that understanding, you’ll be more motivated.  And a good financial planner will look for ways you can maximize your employer benefits or optimize your tax situation. 

How much time does it take to do a retirement plan?

A typical retirement plan consists of three meetings, spaced about a week apart.  We ask that you prepare by providing needed information, statements and data.  It will take you one to four hours to prepare, using our checklist.

Isn't an investment advisor just for very wealthy people?

An investment advisor can help middle income and higher income people.  In fact, one could argue that higher income people need an advisor less than others even though they tend to use advisors more.

An investment advisor seems expensive. Why can't I do this myself?

The mechanical aspects of investing are easy, but creating a strategy that is right for you and pursuing it in a disciplined way is hard.  The results of your investments can have a big impact on your life over time — both bad and good results.  It’s not the best candidate for a do-it-yourself activity, although a lot of free financial advice is available (some questionable) and commercials on TV show that even a baby can invest.  A competent investment advisor will construct a portfolio that is customized to your risk tolerance, time horizon, goals, and tax situation.  It is a complex activity, taking time, expertise, and discipline. A good advisor brings those skills. And you have other things to do with your time and energy!

How do I know an investment advisor isn't just profiting at my expense?

Consider a fee-only, independent Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), who does not receive compensation or commission from third parties. By law, an RIA must act in your best interest — a fiduciary duty.  An RIA will use a brokerage firm to hold your account and make investment decisions only — not gain access to funds.

I have a tax preparer. Why is tax planning necessary?

If your only interaction with your tax preparer is at tax time, she probably doesn’t have time to help you with forward-looking strategy and planning.  At tax time, preparers are looking backward and focused on the details of what already happened.  The purpose of tax planning is to gain perspective on your tax situation and look forward over several years to find ways to take better advantage of the tax code.

Why have a financial planner review my risks and insurance coverage? I already have an agent.

Financial planners who do not sell insurance bring an unbiased perspective and can help you understand the risks you face, whether your current insurance coverage is adequate or possibly more than you need.  Insurance agents typically specialize in one category of insurance, but a financial planner will look across a wide variety of risks, including disability, life, long term care, personal liability, property and casualty. Often, insurance coverage that was set up many years ago is still in place, and hasn’t been reviewed lately for adequacy and need.

Is estate planning important for people who are younger or middle income?

Yes.  If you have a bank account, have a retirement account, own property, have children, or are married, then estate planning is important for you.  If you want to be sure your wishes for your medical care are carried out, or that someone could continue to pay your bills if you become temporarily unable to do it yourself, then estate planning is important.  An estate plan is written for your situation now, and it can and should be changed when your situation changes over the years.

Isn't it hard to think about an estate plan that won't be needed for twenty or thirty years?

Some parts of an estate plan are needed now, and it can be very reassuring (for you and other family members) to know that a plan is in place if something unexpected does happen.

Do financial planners do estate plans?

Yes.  A financial planner can help you understand the concepts in estate planning, help you think about options, help with a family discussion, document the assets in your plan, and identify implementation steps.  Some steps do not involve an estate attorney, but you will need an attorney to create legal documents and advise you on legal questions.  A financial planner will not give legal advice. 

How much do these services cost?

Please see our All Services page for more information.

 

To discuss your needs or to arrange a low-key, free initial meeting, please contact us.

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Please see important disclosures and information in our Form ADV Part 2.


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