If you’re considering working with a financial planner, it’s good to do some research before deciding who to work with. There are plenty of good lists of questions to ask out there if you google ‘questions to ask financial advisors’. Here’s one example from Nerdwallet.
My answers to the questions are below.
Are you a fiduciary?
Yes! Acting as a fiduciary means I have both an ethical and legal obligation to always put your interests first. I sign an agreement acknowledging fiduciary status with all clients.
How do you get paid?
I am a fee-only advisor, which means all payments come directly from clients. I don’t sell insurance products, earn commissions, or get referral bonuses for making recommendations.
I charge an ongoing planning fee starting at $310/month for individuals and $415/month for couples. There’s no lock-in or commitment period, so you can cancel anytime and for a full refund of the last month.
Investment management is included in the Planning Fee for up to $500k of invested assets for couples and $400k for individuals. Above that level, a 1% investment fee replaces the Financial Planning Fee. More details on services and pricing at the bottom of this post.
What are my all-in costs?
In addition to the above costs, all investments come with a cost known as an expense ratio. I typically use low-cost, diversified investments for clients. This costs roughly 0.05% in expenses each year, or $0.50 for every $1,000 invested.
What are your qualifications?
I am a CFP® Professional, which means I’ve satisfied extensive education and competency requirements and am held to the ethical standards laid out by the CFP® board. I earned a Certificate in Financial Planning from the Howard University School of Business, which includes the following courses: Fundamentals of Financial Planning, Insurance Planning, Investment Planning, Tax Planning, Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits, Estate Planning, and a Capstone Course. I passed the CFP® exam and the Series 65 Uniform Investment Advisor Law Exam. My firm is a Registered Investment Advisory Firm in Washington, DC.
I’m a member of XY Planning Network, a professional community of fee-only, fiduciary advisors. I meet regularly with groups of other advisors for continuing education and coaching around Financial Planning concepts, and consistently read journals, articles, and attend webinars related to tax, estate planning, investment, behavioral finance, and insurance planning strategies. In today’s ever-changing environment, I also devote time to staying up to date on new laws and how they affect taxes, student loans, and employee benefits. I’m a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and Fee Only Network. As a CFP® and NAPFA member, I complete at least 30 hours of Continuing Education per year in Financial Planning and Ethics topics.
I’ve completed Heather Jarvis’ Student Loans for Advisors Course and College Aid Pro’s Education Planning for Advisors course which focuses on planning to pay for college.
How will our relationship work?
If we decide we’re a good fit to work together, we’ll spend the first 2-3 months building your Financial Plan over the course of four meetings. Once we’ve reviewed your Plan and decided what action steps to take, we’ll have structured check-ins and meet as needed to continue your financial progress.
I reach out proactively throughout the year to stay ahead of things like retirement contributions, tax filing and end of year tax planning, open enrollment, credit score maintenance, insurance planning, and estate planning. You can also reach out as often as you like for support because things change throughout the year.
What’s your investment philosophy and what asset allocation will you use?
To build your investment plan, we’ll first take a look at your current situation and what it will take for you to reach your goals. I’ll ask you to take a Risk Profile Questionnaire, then we’ll have a meeting focused on building an investment portfolio tailored to your goals and needs.
I generally believe in well-diversified, low-cost investments that will give you exposure to global equity and fixed income markets, then optimizing where you hold investments for tax efficiency. I typically use Vanguard Exchange Traded Funds to construct portfolios. Your asset allocation will depend on a combination of what you need to reach your goals and what level of risk you are comfortable with.
Who are your typical clients?
I work with educators and city government employees in the Washington, DC area including Maryland and Virginia. I have particular expertise in dealing with DC Public Schools, DC Government, Federal Government, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County benefits and retirement plans. I also work with small business owners, and couples in their 30s to mid 50s in other parts of the country. While I love my 72 year old parents, I don’t typically work with retirees or folks within a couple of years of retirement.
I strive to build a practice that advances justice, equity, and antiracism. The economic system in the US has disproportionately benefited white people like me for centuries, and made it more difficult for so many people to access resources like financial planning. If we are a good fit to work together and you identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or a Person of Color, and are concerned about paying the fee, please let me know and I will work to be helpful to you at no cost.
What investment benchmarks do you use?
US Equity – CRSP US Total Market Index
International and Emerging Market Equity – FTSE Global All Cap ex US Index
Who is your custodian?
TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab. You’ll have online access and receive statements and tax forms for no additional fees.
If you decide to use me for investment management, I’ll work directly with the support team at TD/Schwab to handle the majority of the administrative work around form completion, updating information, waiting on hold, etc.
What tax hit do I face if I invest with you?
Taxes are a key piece of any comprehensive financial planning process. We’ll discuss Tax Planning in depth and consider the tax implications of all decisions, including those around investing, student loans, retirement planning, etc.
We’ll use multi-year projections, consider current and future income levels, potential capital gains taxes, where we hold different types of assets, and coordinate with your tax preparer as needed to lower your lifetime tax bill as much as possible.