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Anyone who has ever attended networking events has probably participated in the common practice of introducing themselves to the other people in the room. You’re asked to stand up, say your name (as well as your business’s name), and—in a sentence or two—explain what you do. This is where my challenge begins. I am an independent, fee-only financial planner. This title has a specific meaning, which most people don’t appreciate. And the industry hasn’t done anything to clear up the confusion.

Titles like “financial advisor,” “investment advisor,” “financial planner,” “registered representative,” “wealth manager,” etc., are thrown around with little regard for the real meaning of those terms. They are not only used by people who do what I do, but are actually more prevalently—and inappropriately—used by insurance agents, annuity salespeople and stockbrokers. No wonder the public is confused. So when I say that I am a financial planner, I know that—in the listener’s mind—I am being lumped in with all of the hungry stockbrokers and insurance agents out there who hope to sell you a product that will pay them a commission.

First, I tell my clients right up front what I’m going to charge them, and I do that before I even begin to do any work. When people know about the hidden fees associated with so many other financial products, they genuinely appreciate my full disclosure. My fee only sounds “unpleasant” to people who believe a commission-hungry agent/advisor’s sales pitch, and don’t see their product’s hidden fees.

I only charge clients for my service and research-based advice. I review their financial situation, recommend a clear plan of action, and then I work to gradually educate them in the process. Sometimes the plan of action can be simple, and sometimes it can be complicated. But it is always up-front, honest and transparent.

Before I offend anyone too severely, let me be clear that there are many well-intentioned commission-based financial advisors out there. The ones I have a problem with are those who take advantage of—and push unnecessary products on—unwitting women who don’t understand what they’re buying or aren’t provided all of the information. I resent advisors who don’t care how a particular product fits (or doesn’t) into their client’s broader financial situation, or whether it’s really the right investment for her. That simply is not right, and it’s NOT what I do.

John Oliver, on a recent episode of his HBO show Last Week Tonight, did a great job explaining much of what I’m talking about, albeit it in a more off-color way. If you don’t mind a little cursing here and there, I strongly encourage you to watch it here. http://lifewiseadvisors.com/your-life/john-oliver-revealed-financial-services-industry/?utm_content=buffer565fc&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

  • I’m a big fan of getting organized. I’m not always great at doing it around my house, but it sure feels good once it’s done. Getting your financial accounts organized feels every bit as good. So my recommendation today, is to get a notepad and make a list of each of your accounts: savings, checking, 401(k), pension, IRA, brokerage, etc. Get the latest statement for each (you should have online access to all of them), and then write down the balance next to the name on the list you’ve just compiled. You have just created the asset side of your personal balance sheet, and you can now see your total portfolio in a glance.
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