Common questions from our clients about our financial planning services

What is the financial planning process?

Financial planning is a process, not an event. This multi-step process provides you with two important things:
1. An in-depth review of your current financial situation by a CFP®
2. A blueprint that shows you how to achieve your goals and objectives for the future.

Our process consists of seven steps and is completely client-centered. Our focus is 100 percent on YOUR financial goals. The purpose of a financial plan and the process through which it is developed is to match your financial actions and resources with your goals.

How do you create a financial plan?

We begin by focusing on your goals, objectives, priorities and values. Your goals may be short- or long-term.

For example, we have helped our clients achieve the following common goals:

• Saving money on current or future income taxes;
• Buying a first home;
• Providing children or grandchildren a high-quality education;
• Reaching full retirement by a certain age;
• Enjoying worry-free financial independence;
• Leaving a legacy for loved ones or a cause important to you.

Whether you are just starting out, are on the road to achieving your goals, or need a new strategy, you can benefit from the professional advice provided by our fee-only financial planners.

Next, our CFP®s complete an in-depth review of your current financial situation. We determine how you can best achieve or continue working towards your financial goals. By focusing on cash flow, investments, taxes, pensions and retirement plans, estate planning, insurance coverage, savings opportunities and other general financial matters, we design a customized financial plan for you.

Finally, to achieve the intended results, we can help you implement and monitor your plan.

How much work is involved in a financial plan?

Initially, the work on your end involves providing our financial planning team with some financial data and information about yourself, including your goals, dreams, or challenges. From there, through a series of checkpoints, a CFP® advisor will develop and present you with your financial plan. We’re a client-focused business and work hard to make the process as easy as possible for you. In addition to providing you with professional advice on your most important financial concerns, we can also provide implementation support and monitoring if needed.

Who can benefit most from your services?

Any person seeking financial piece of mind or looking to match his or her financial actions and resources with personal goals can benefit from our services.

We provide financial planning and advice to clients from all income levels.

Retirement: When will I be financially independent? How much will I need and how do I get there?

Taxes: How can I reduce my taxes?

College: What is the best way to save for college? How much should I save?

Budget: How can I reduce debt or save more?

Insurance: Do I need life, disability or long-term care insurance? If so, how much and for how long?

Investments: What are the best investments for me?

Estate Planning: How can I make sure my estate is handled the way I would like?

Special Goals: What is the best way to financially plan for and finance that new home, special trip, gift or other goal?

Financial Check-Ups: How is my plan proceeding? Do I need to make any changes?

Do you require that clients sign asset management contracts?

Unlike many financial planning firms, MainStreet does not require that our clients sign asset management contracts. Whether you have $1,000 or a $1 million, our fees do not change.

We offer financial planning services on a fee-only basis to people of all income levels. Clients are offered the flexibility to work with us on either a one-time, as-needed basis, or ongoing basis. While we specialize in providing clients with comprehensive financial planning, we welcome clients who simply need a one-time financial consultation or a second opinion.

Does Mainstreet provide comprehensive financial planning only?

No. While we feel very strongly that you have the appropriate savings plans, investments, insurance coverage, tax strategies and estate plans for your particular situation (goals, return needs and risk tolerance), it is not necessary that we review and make recommendations on all these issues.

We can limit our services to your specific needs and provide hourly rates, such as cash management, budgeting, investment analysis or college education funding. Hourly rates vary by advisor.

What is Fee-Only financial planning and why should that matter to me?

Fee-Only means no compensation or commissions are derived from third parties. We do not sell financial products and work solely for our clients. This helps assure objectivity in the financial planning process.

Because MainStreet is a fee-only financial planner, we follow the Fiduciary Standard: we act solely in the client’s best interest when offering personalized financial advice.

Be aware of the differences you’ll find amongst financial planners. Fee-Based planners charge a fee and also commissions on product sales. Many find the term is misleading. Other financial planners charge fees based on the total of your investable assets (Assets Under Management or AUM). Whichever type of financial advisor you choose, please take time to fully understand these terms and the long-term impact they can have on your financial future.

What is a CFP?

A certified financial planner (CFP) is an individual that has received a formal designation from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

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Are you a Registered Investment Advisor?

MainStreet Financial Planning, Inc. is a Registered Investment Adviser in California, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and New York. As such, we comply with a host of government regulations designed to protect the consumer.

One important question you should always ask when considering a financial planner’s services is:

“May I please have a copy of your ADV Part II?”

This document contains important information about the planner’s qualifications, fiduciary duties, and history of any past violations, etc.

A copy of the MainStreet Form ADV, Part II is available under the section titled “Disclosures”. It is provided to you before you become a client. If a firm does not offer a ADV, ask for details on any and all charges you are likely to incur at inception and annually thereafter.

Are you a fiduciary and what exactly is a fiduciary?

MainStreet Financial Planning is a fiduciary to its clients.

A fiduciary is someone in a position of trust and confidence that must place the interests of those he or she serves ahead of their own. In fact, an important question you may ask when considering a financial planner’s services is: Do you follow the fiduciary standard?

The answer to that question can provide insight into the planner’s approach to clients. While the law is not entirely settled on whether a financial planner must serve in a fiduciary capacity, MainStreet believes they should. Our CFP® financial advisors embrace this role and the responsibility of always placing the client first.

I understand the benefits of working with a fee-only financial planner, but I might need to obtain financial products. How will I be able to do that?

While MainStreet does not sell financial products, we often recommend low cost, no-load investment vehicles, insurance carriers, attorneys, estate planners, and other financial-related vendors and service providers that may be appropriate for you. So, if you need to obtain an insurance policy or a new mortgage, invest in a portfolio of mutual funds, find an individual securities investment manager, reach out to an estate-planning attorney or tax professional, we do recommend these resources or provide you a list of questions to use in discovering providers on your own.

Whether you follow these resource recommendations is entirely up to you. Either way, as a fee-only financial planner, MainStreet generates no compensation or commissions from these recommendations.

My spouse and I are just beginning to build for our financial future. There is so much to learn! We need help and guidance to get started. Will you accept us as clients?

Yes. Unlike many firms, we do not have income level or net worth minimums.
We realize that everyone has financial needs. We think there should be an objective resource where people can get answers to their financial questions without having to turn over management of their assets or meet minimum requirements.

We are proud to work with people from all income levels, and all walks of life. There is no better time to get started than today.

Please explain how you protect our information including documents we supply.

Here is our explanation of client document and information protection. Understand that no system is perfect, but we and our vendors employ the latest techniques. (PDF)

I have already accumulated substantial assets and think I am doing quite well. But I want to be sure I am on track. Can you help me?

Yes. People who need more sophisticated financial planning or advice will find MainStreet’s services appealing and beneficial. If you are looking to simplify your financial affairs, obtain a professional review or second opinion, monitor your progress, or manage your portfolio(s) towards your goals, our team of CFP®s can help.

What types of securities do you provide advice for?

We provide advice for all types of securities, including:

Commission or no commission:

  • Stocks
  • Real Estate
  • Bonds
  • Investment Trusts
  • Money Market funds
  • Tax Managed Accounts

MainStreet also provides advice on mortgages, budgeting and cash flow issues, 401(k), 403(b) and other retirement programs, stock options, life and disability insurance, college savings plans, and other investment vehicles.

If it has to do with your finances, we can provide counseling, guidance and/or resources for you. This includes income producing real estate.
If someone with different skills could better meet your particular concern, we will candidly say so and can help you find a professional with the necessary expertise.

Clients are particularly encouraged to call when they have a major life event, such as a new job, a baby, a marriage or divorce, if they are planning to buy a new home, or starting a business.

We also encourage our clients to call with more common everyday questions, such as:

  • How should I invest within my 401(k) or 403(b) plan?
  • How can I reduce my taxes?
  • What advice can you offer on refinancing my home?
If I use Main Street Financial Planning to develop a financial plan, am I obligated to purchase the recommended products?

No. We will offer recommendations that in our professional opinion will meet your needs and objectives, but you are under no obligation to purchase them.

In today’s competitive market, it makes sense to shop around for the best available product or service. For example, if you need to obtain life or disability insurance, we will suggest the kind of policy, which riders and what amounts may be best for you, and direct you to a company or selection of companies that can provide a quality product at competitive prices for you. If you wish, we can supervise your purchase of investments and/or assist with the set up your accounts with a third-party custodian such as a discount broker.

Tell me about your investment philosophy.

As a financial planner and investment consultant, MainStreet believes in the following fundamental principles with regard to designing an investment portfolio and making specific recommendations:

  • Purpose: The purpose of a client’s investment portfolio is to fund current and/or future financial objectives. In short, to achieve a goal or goals.
  • Design: The design of the portfolio must take into account the client’s financial objectives, tolerance for risk, time horizon, income needs, liquidity needs, and special considerations such as income and estate taxes.
  • Future: No one can predict the future. It is “difference of opinion” that makes a market. Investment and economic experts provided with the same information often come to different conclusions. We do not suggest that we can, or that any of the money or mutual fund managers that we recommend, will make the correct decision every time. We do believe, however, that studying the historic trends and relationships of investment classes, and the philosophies and approaches of successful investment managers, can provide valuable insight.
  • Allocation: The appropriate allocation of investment assets for your goals and risk tolerance is the most important component in developing an investment portfolio. We believe that having a diversified, well-balanced portfolio, following long-term buy-and-hold strategies, and having patience will increase the likelihood that you will achieve your long-term financial objectives.
How do you select investments for a client?

Before we recommend any investment, we consider the current economic conditions, the outlook for that asset class or type of security, and how this investment fits the goal of your portfolio given your objectives, tolerance for risk, time horizon, income needs, liquidity needs, and tax considerations.

For equity investments, we focus primarily on the philosophies, fees, experience, and track record of the management team or the financial condition and future growth of a company. With fixed income investments, we concentrate on the best yield, lowest fees, and track record for a given quality of security.

As a fiduciary to our clients, we strive to obtain the most appropriate investment vehicles to meet your objectives, with a concern for total expenses and risk exposure.

How do you price your financial planning services?

Fees for Financial Planning are based on the actual time involved in meeting with you in person or online, researching and analyzing your current situation, and providing specific recommendations and implementation assistance (if appropriate).

Many of our prospective clients chose to use one of our Initial Service programs for a flat fee. More complex situations may be billed at an hourly rate. You will receive an estimate at the conclusion of the initial meeting.

How much will my financial plan cost?

Financial planning fees are determined on an hourly or project basis using our fixed or hourly rates. The total fee for a financial plan varies depending on the specific needs and complexity of your situation.

During our initial meeting, you are given a fee estimate for different recommended services or selection of one of our Initial Services programs for a flat fee. At that point, based on the services you actually choose, the estimated fee amount is written into a service contract and is based on the estimated number of hours required.

Holistic financial plans usually fall in the $4,400 to $7,500 range.

Once my financial plan is completed, will our relationship end?

That is entirely up to you. MainStreet can provide assistance implementing your plan or simply provide services on an as-needed basis as determined by you. Most of our products give you access to a CFP® for a one year period.

Because financial planning is a process, not an event, we offer Follow-On Services: periodic or annual reviews and day-to-day consultation as requested or needed.

How can I get started?

You can get started by clicking on the Get Started button at the top of the page or by calling 1-888-897-6743. We will be happy to answer any questions you have about financial planning or MainStreet’s services, fees or philosophy and how these might serve your needs.

At our Initial Meeting, we can discuss your priority goals and current financial situation, our background and services, whether our services could provide you with a plan to meet your goals and the cost of these services. This meeting will also provide you with an opportunity to ask any other questions you may have.

Most clients find the financial planning process to be stimulating and enlightening. The end result, of course, is greater peace of mind. We look forward to helping you reach for your financial goals.

Why do I need to complete a questionnaire?

MainStreet asks all new and prospective clients to complete an online questionnaire as an important first step in the financial planning process. The questionnaire gives our team a snapshot of your financial picture, including goals and risk tolerance. All responses are kept 100% confidential.

Your responses help our team and you prepare for the Initial Meeting. This meeting provides a review of your goals and current financial situation. We will determine whether our services will give you a plan to meet your goals and the cost of these services. This meeting will also provide you with an opportunity to ask any other questions you may have.

Still Have Questions?

Contact us and we’ll work with you to find the answers.