Unfortunately, anyone can call himself, or herself, a financial planner. The meaning of the term has been diluted by everyone in the financial services industry, from bankers to lenders, insurance agents to investment brokers, accountants to attorneys. So who really is financial planner? I guess, to some extent, each person in the financial services industry could use the term, but it can be very misleading. What many so-called planners do, in most cases, does not involve the entire financial plan of an individual. Additionally, just because someone calls himself/herself a financial planner, doesn’t mean they are qualified to give financial planning advice. How can you be sure you are getting a real financial planner?
I am a Certified Financial Plannertm. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what that means. What it means is that I have obtained the required education from an accredited university (Utah State University, to be exact – Go Aggies!), have the required experience, and have proven my knowledge in the entire financial planning arena by taking and passing the CFP Board Exam. I have been a practicing Certified Financial Planner since 2003. My total financial planning experience dates back to 1999. I have met with and worked with hundreds of individuals, in various financial circumstances, ranging from people who earn more than $1,000,000 per year, to people who earn less than $50,000 per year. I have worked with people just starting in their professions, people who are well into their careers, and current retirees. I work with business owners and employees. One of the reasons I can work with people in such a large range of income and assets is because I do not charge fees for the time I spend working with them. I have yet to have someone complain that I didn’t charge them a fee. Contrary to what fee-based planners would have you believe, fees do not make a planner “unbiased”. Of course every planner is biased. I have my biases, and so does every other planner. The key for you, as a potential client, is making sure you know what your advisor’s biases are. I am very clear about my biases in the world of financial planning.
My process is Unique. No one else in the world has my exact process for planning. This process is very comprehensive. Most people that I work with have never been asked to gather as much information as they do in order to meet with me. What I require of my clients is to complete the Comprehensive Questionnaire, and gather all of the financial documents that pertain to their situation. The planning process begins with a step I call “Elements”. I call it “Elements”, because elements are what we have to work with. During the first meeting, I find out what those elements are. The next step in the process is called “Strategic Evaluation”. During this meeting we evaluate a person’s saving, protection, and debt elimination strategies. We look at what the client is doing currently, and compare that to what they could be doing. In many cases, we can improve a person’s plan significantly, without increasing their overall expenses. The next step in the process is called “Coordination”. During this meeting we evaluate a person’s current life insurance and liquidity strategies. We compare their current strategies with strategies that improve efficiency and effectiveness. The last step in the process is called “Discovery”. It is in this meeting that we evaluate the client’s current wealth building strategies and discover other strategies that are specific to each individual, and in line with the Three Rules for Investing (introduced in the planning process). Once the initial planning phase is over, we continue to meet at least once per year, to make sure things are going the way the client wants them to go. Adjustments have to be made, because life happens, everybody’s situation changes, their abilities to save and protect change over time, their health and their income changes over time. What they feel is important changes over time. Because of these changes, their plans need to change as well. Great planning is not done by setting a product or strategy in motion, and then leaving it alone for the next twenty to thirty years. In fact, that’s a recipe for guaranteed failure. Finances require much more attention in order to succeed. Like everything in life that is worthwhile, success in finances requires effort, and nothing is for free.