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: one, an in-depth review of your current financial situation; and two, a blueprint that shows you how to achieve your goals and objectives for the future. Our process consists of seven steps (see 7 Steps download) and is completely client-centered. Our focus is 100 percent on your 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 this blueprint?

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

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

• Saving money on current or future income taxes.
• Providing your children or grandchildren a high quality education.
• Enjoying worry-free financial independence.
• Leaving a legacy for your loved ones or a cause important to you.

Whether you are just starting out, are on the road to achieving your goals, or are meeting these objectives but need a new strategy, professional insight, or a check-up, you can benefit from hourly, fee-only financial planning. Everyone needs a periodic assessment of where they are on the road to meeting their financial goals.

Next, we complete an in-depth review of your current financial situation.We then turn to determining 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 issues, savings opportunities and other general financial matters, we design a customized financial plan for you.

Finally, to achieve the intended results, you must implement and monitor your plan, or if you wish we can assist you.

How much work is involved?

Initially, the work on your end involves providing me with some financial data and some information about yourself and your goals, dreams, or questions. Afterwards, the ball is in our court to develop and present to you your financial plan. Implementation of the plan is then up to you. Although this crucial step may seem like quite a bit of work, the good news is that if you follow your plan and maintain a disciplined approach, you can rest well knowing you can reach your stated goals.We try 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, if appropriate for your needs.

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 retainer or asset management contracts?

Unlike many financial planning firms, we do not require that our clients sign retainer contracts or asset management contracts.

We offer Financial Planning on an hourly, 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 an ongoing basis. We welcome clients who simply need a one-time financial consultation or a second opinion, as well as those who need comprehensive financial planning.

Does MSFP provide comprehensive financial planning only?

No. While it is important that you ensure you have the appropriate savings plans, investments, insurance coverage’s, 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, such as cash management, budgeting, investment analysis or college education funding.

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

Hourly and Fee-Only mean the same thing. The planning is done strictly on an hourly basis. This helps assure objectivity in the financial planning process.

Hourly, Fee-Only means no compensation or commissions are derived from third parties. Fee-Only planners are not salesmen. We sell no products and work solely for our clients.

Because MSFP is an hourly financial planner, all conflicts of interest regarding compensation are removed. There are no third-party relationships or outside influences to color our thinking and financial recommendations.

By contrast a slight change in wording is significant. Fee Based planners charge a fee and also commissions. The term is misleading, please be wary and fully understand these terms and the long-term impact they can make on your investments.

Is MSFP a Registered Investment Advisor?

MSFP is a Registered Investment Adviser in California, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and New York. We must 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 MSFP 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 a breakdown sheet detailing all charges you are likely to incur at inception of investment vehicles and yearly thereafter.

Is MSFP a fiduciary and what exactly is a fiduciary?

MSFP is a fiduciary to its clients.

A fiduciary is someone in a position of trust and confidence that must place the interests of those she serves ahead of her own. In fact, an important question you may ask when considering a financial planner’s services is: Are you a fiduciary to your clients?

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 serves in a fiduciary capacity, We believe they do and should. MSFP embraces 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 MSFP does not sell financial products, we often recommend low cost, no-load investment vehicles. MSFP will offer specific recommendations and opinions regarding various financial products 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, find an estate-planning attorney or tax professional, we can recommend these resources or provide you a list of questions to use in discovering providers on your own. We make a habit of suggesting no commission products and can help you fill out forms, or conference call with a mutual fund company, if requested. We are here to help you with implementation if you desire our assistance.

If appropriate, we can also help you implement your plan and set up your accounts.

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 levels or net worth minimums.

We realize that everyone has financial needs. We think there should be an objective resource where people can obtain the answers to their financial questions without having to turn over management of their assets or meet such 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.

I have already accumulated substantial assets and think I am doing quite well. But as I progress and build for the future, things seem to be getting more complicated. I want to be sure I am on track, but I don’t always have the time or inclination to manage the myriad details by myself. Can you help me?

Yes. People who need more sophisticated financial planning or advice will find MSFP’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, we can help.

What types of securities do you provide advice for?

We provide advice for all types of securities, including:

Commission or no commission:

  • Stock Funds
  • Real Estate
  • Bond Fund
  • Investment Trusts
  • Money Market funds
  • Tax Managed Accounts

MSFP also provides advice on mortgages, budgeting and cash flow issues, 401(k), 403(b) and other retirement programs, stock options, life and disability insurance, etc.

If it has to do with money and finances, we can provide counseling, guidance and/or resources for you. This includes income producing real estate.

MSFP clients can call on us with any and all of their financial concerns. 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, or if they are planning to buy a new home or start their own 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, we believe in the following fundamental principals 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 over the phone, researching and analyzing your current situation, and providing specific recommendations and implementation assistance (if appropriate).

Many of our prospective clients chose to use on of our Initial Service programs for a flat fee. More complex situations may be based on a job rate per hour. You will receive an estimate at the conclusion of the initial interview.

For general information, our fee range for Holistic Financial Planning is $2,100 to $7,500 range, for an initial year’s worth of services.

Our lowest fee is $800 since a certain amount of documentation is required no matter how small the engagement.

How much will my financial plan cost?

Financial planning fees are determined on an hourly or project basis using our 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 to a contract and is based on the estimated number of hours required.

Holistic Financial plans usually fall in the $2,100 to $7,500 range.

Are your fees tax deductible?

Yes. Section 212 of the Internal Revenue Code permits an itemized deduction for tax and/or investment advice in the miscellaneous section of Schedule A. It is subject to a 2% floor of the adjusted gross income on a personal tax return.

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

That is entirely up to you. MSFP can provide assistance actually implementing your plan or simply provide services on an as needed basis as determined by you. We offer several different levels of ongoing service. These are explained on the Services page under Follow On Programs.

Because financial planning is a process, not an event, we offer ongoing services, periodic reviews 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 MSFP’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.

Have you (MSFP) answered questions posed by Garret Planning Network (GPN) and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) to help consumers select a financial advisor?

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